Behind-the-scenes of the group photo of the SG:Digital Cloud Community taken with Minister for Communications and Information, Mr S Iswaran, at IMDA's most recent SG:D Industry Day.
Minister for Communications and Information, Mr S Iswaran.
By Billy Teo
The future of services in Singapore took centrestage at the second Singapore Digital (SG:D) Industry Day event on 22 Nov 2018. Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, announced the launch of the new Services and Digital Economy (SDE) Technology Roadmap, and IMDA’s new push for Services 4.0 and Cloud Native Architecture.
A quick background: The first SG:D Industry Day in May 2018 saw the launch of the Digital Economy Framework for Action, which complements the 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) that will revitalise the various industry sectors in Singapore.
The Framework helps to guide IMDA’s industry development plans for the infocomm media (ICM) sector – as well as regulatory approaches.
Here’s what you need to know about the hot topics announced at SG:D Industry Day:
Mr Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive of IMDA sharing his thoughts during the SG:D Industry Day keynote.
1. Tech Roadmap to guide the future
The SDE Tech Roadmap is an important part of the Digital Economy Framework for Action. Developed in conjunction with both local and international industry participants, the Roadmap provides a scan of the digital technology landscape up to the next 3 to 5 years, identifying the impact of key shifts and technology trends.
Mr Iswaran said the Road Map outlines the Government’s response “to help Singapore capture opportunities created by emerging technological trends.”
With the SDE Tech Roadmap in hand, companies across the major industry sectors can harness emerging technologies and innovate, while equipping their workers with new skills.
In his keynote speech, Mr Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive of IMDA said that the Road Map steering committee and over 120 contributors studied and discussed, over six months, the “key trends that are relevant to Singapore, and the areas in which we can invest R&D resources in.”
For more details, read the executive summary of the SDE Tech Roadmap report.
Mr S Iswaran visiting the exhibition area at SG:D Industry Day.
2. Industry 4.0, meet Services 4.0
The vision of Services 4.0 was identified in the SDE TechRoad a potential engine of growth for Singapore’s digital economy.
But what exactly is Services 4.0? It is nothing less than the evolutionary future of services as transformed by cutting-edge emergent technologies.
Just as Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution occurring in the manufacturing industry, with help from emerging tech like big data, robotics and AI, Services 4.0 describes a quantum leap in how services are delivered.
Minister Iswaran said: “The next generation of service providers must be able to anticipate and empathise with the customer, and take proactive, automated actions to enable the customer to seamlessly fulfil their needs in one platform.”
In other words, we can expect intelligent services that are end-to-end, frictionless, anticipatory and emphatic to our needs.
One of the dozens of breakout sessions during SG:D Industry Day which included a panel discussion of experts covering a variety of topics, such as Services 4.0, AI and Innovation.
Mr Tan added that Services 4.0 requires a paradigm shift to be more customer centric, which means “building our products and services to focus on both internal and external customers”.
As a services hub, it is imperative that Singapore steps up its game and become a launchpad for Services 4.0 – one in which companies, workers and the wider ICM ecosystem are active contributors.
Some quick numbers: The Services sector contributes almost 70% to Singapore’s GDP, and employs up to 75% of the workforce. As a key enabler of the economy, the services sector ‘holds much promise in terms of our future growth’, said Minister Iswaran.
3. Going Cloud Native
One key question for SMEs new to digital transformation: What does it mean to go Cloud Native, or to adopt Cloud Native Architecture?
At a fundamental level, it is about how companies can build and run cloud-based applications that use flexible modular components, instead of the traditional monolithic, legacy systems that were built to run on specific hardware infrastructure.
One killer advantage of going cloud native is that companies can amend their applications quickly, and the apps can even scale up and down on demand.
Industry partners and event attendees having a quick discussion on the SG:D Industry Day exhibition floor.
Mr Tan gave the example of cross-border logistics startup Janio, which adopted a cloud native approach. Using cloud services, the company used connected multiple microservices – think of them as the modular building blocks of a large application – to build a flexible platform that managed to connect multiple partners across Asia, mostly on the cloud, within two weeks
It is no problem for Janio to scale up its capacity, for example, to process orders that jumped overnight to a few thousands. Mr Mohamed Afiq, Co-founder and CTO of Janil, said: “We can increase computing capacity within three clicks.”
Companies get easier access to emerging technologies when they adopt Cloud Native Architecture, which makes it cost-effective and scalable. And as seen in Janios’ example, they can scale up to meet the changing demands of customers in a highly agile way.
There is good news for startups and SMEs looking for help – they can join the fledging SG:Digital Cloud Community, which already has 30 companies and associations onboard, pledging to promote Cloud Native Architecture!
4. How IMDA is helping companies
On the exhibition floor, there was great interest in IMDA's programmes that help the various industry sectors.
Mr Tan highlighted several IMDA-led initiatives to help local companies to thrive in the digital economy – and even to prep for the Servcies 4.0 era. One successful initiative, the in-market Launchpad started with IMDA leading local SMEs and startups to Chongqing in China in early 2018. It will now expand to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in 2019.
Another success story: More than 3000 SMEs have benefitted from the 110 solutions pre-approved by IMDA under the SMEsGoDigital programme.
2018 also saw the launch of six Industry Digital Plans (IDPs) for the retail, security, wholesale, logistics, environmental services, and food services sectors. Other notable events that benefit local companies include the launch of the nationwide e-invoicing framework using the European PEPPOL standard that will go live in early 2019; the launch of the SGQR Code for e-payments, and the launch of the Federated Lockers trials in Bukit Panjang and Punggol (branded as Locker Alliance).
On the skills front, Mr Tan noted that since the launch of the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) programme, more than 50,000 training places have taken up, with more than 3,500 are in deep technical skills in areas such as AI, cybersecurity, data science, and UI/UX.
He added: “These are the future skills that our workforce needs in the Services 4.0 vision.”
To make Services 4.0 a reality for companies IMDA has started projects such as GoCloud for ICT SMEs, which will help ICT SMEs to adopt Cloud Native Architecture, through funding support and hands-on training from expert coaches or consultants. There is also the new Digital Services Lab, two-year programme to bring together industry players, research partners and end users to solve industry-wide challenges.
Finally, IMDA’s PIXEL will open up its shared facilities to support companies in learning four new capabilities: Design Thinking, User Interface/User Experience, Immersive Experiences and Digital Storytelling. There will also be a new Immersive Experience Lab and a User Testing Lab that companies can tap on.
This collaborative approaches will strengthen the ICM Ecosystem, which will in turn promote “Singapore as the default go-to place to develop these new services, creating new opportunities for our companies and workforce.”
Mr Tan added: “Everyone will play a part, and we will find new ways of working together.”