Mr Fabio Colasanti, President of the International Institute of Communications,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to join you this morning at the opening of the International Institute of Communications (IIC) Annual Conference. The IIC has created an important platform for regulators and industry leaders to discuss trends in global communications and consider digital policies for tomorrow’s needs and aspirations.
2. I am happy to note that most of the discussion topics at this Conference are framed within the context of the converged communications environment. This is indeed a profound transformation that is taking place, and it is timely for policy makers to anticipate the issues brought about by a converged landscape.
UNLEASHING GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES
3. Singapore is considered one of the world’s most connected nations, as evidenced by the pervasive usage of infocomm by both businesses and individuals. Since 2006, 7,500 public wi-fi hotspots have been used by 2.1 million subscribers1 . Household broadband penetration reached 85 per cent last year with each household owning at least one computer2 . Mobile penetration stands at 152 per cent.3
4. Given such high usage of wireless technology, Singapore has been actively reviewing its radio frequency spectrum planning and allocation policies to meet the industry’s needs while keeping pace with telecommunication developments. In January last year, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) clarified that existing spectrum rights allocated for cellular mobile and wireless broadband access services can also be used to deploy 4G services. Since then, mobile operators have launched commercial long term evolution (LTE) services in Singapore. Some have plans for extensive LTE network coverage by this year. IDA is currently reviewing the responses to its public consultation on its proposed framework to allocate spectrum for 4G services, and plans to hold the 4G spectrum auction sometime next year.
PROTECTING PUBLIC INTEREST
5. While policy makers have an important role in promoting innovation and new business models brought about by convergence, we also need to study its wide ranging impact on society and continue to protect the interests of consumers.
6. With growing concerns on easy access to illegal content and increasingly harmful conduct on the Internet, Singapore has adopted a multi-pronged approach to enable a safe and enriching online experience for our people, especially for our young. First, there are laws in place that can deal with those with criminal intent. However, legislation alone is not enough. Users need to be empowered to be discerning recipients and creators of information. Hence, the second prong is to promote online safety awareness through public education.
7. In 2011, Singapore had the highest Internet penetration rate in Southeast Asia, with 67 out of every 100 people using the internet4 . Singapore’s digital consumers also spent the most time with online media – as much as 25 hours per week - compared to our regional neighbours. The Media Development Authority as well as the National Library Board have thus rolled out many programmes that aim to equip students as well as the broader adult population with the skills to evaluate the accuracy and reliability of the information they receive, and to use information responsibly and ethically.
8. To spearhead public education on media literacy and cyber wellness, and advise the government on the appropriate policy response, Singapore established the Media Literacy Council (Council) in August this year. I understand that on 5 February next year, the Council will join more than 90 countries across the world to commemorate Safer Internet Day with activities to raise public awareness on the responsible use of online and mobile technology.
9. Lastly, we also encourage the industry to self-regulate, for example to develop Industry Codes of Practice which can be used to promote greater industry self-regulation and complement existing Internet content regulations, and the roll-out of services like family access networks. Such proactive efforts on the part of the industry ensure a high level of credibility and quality for Internet services, and help to establish confidence in and encourage wider use of the Internet.
10. Moving on specifically to convergence in the media space, this is a phenomenon enabled by the digitisation of media content, widespread availability of high-speed broadband connections, and proliferation of Internet-enabled devices. All of this has fundamentally transformed the way media content is distributed and consumed. Consumers can now access media content across geographic boundaries, anytime, anywhere, and through a wide range of devices and services. This presents many opportunities for businesses to offer innovative services and products to win the consumer dollar. Content creators are looking into interactive content that transverse multiple platforms. Distributors are re-evaluating the timeframes to release content and the best methods of engaging viewers.
11. Regulators are also grappling with the various dimensions of this fast-changing communications and digital media landscape. For example, we have to ask ourselves whether today’s content regulation and licensing frameworks will remain relevant in ensuring that the media industry continues to grow while the public interest is protected and promoted? Do we need to re-examine how we regulate traditional broadcasting vis-à-vis new Internet media services?
12. To this end, a Media Convergence Review Panel was formed in March this year to study issues relating to content regulation, local content, copyright and digital piracy issues, and licensing frameworks. The government will take in the Panel’s recommendations in reviewing Singapore’s existing policy and regulatory framework to ensure their adequacy and efficacy in the new multiplatform and interactive environment.
13. Some countries, including Australia, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom, are already familiar with the complex issues of media convergence and have initiated their own reviews. Others may have just started considering the coming impact on existing business and regulatory models. I hope that conference delegates will seize this opportunity to learn from each others’ views, experiences, and best practices on this matter.
14. In conclusion, close engagement between policy makers, regulators, businesses, and the public are a must in the current hyper-connected world of sophisticated technology and borderless media. Given Singapore’s highly connected and media-savvy society, we are on the cusp of these changes. And, we intend to grasp the opportunity to work closely with businesses in exploring new and creative ways to reach the consumer, while safeguarding public interest.
15. On this note, I wish you an engaging and thought-provoking discussion, and hope you will have an enjoyable time in Singapore. Thank you.
4Source from Nielsen’s Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report 2011