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Singapore Well On Its Way To A Nationwide Information Infrastructure


Singapore will be among the first countries in the world to have a national information infrastructure (NII). The NII is a major component of the IT2000 masterplan to transform Singapore into an Intelligent Island. It will be a pervasive ...

Singapore will be among the first countries in the world to have a national information infrastructure (NII). The NII is a major component of the IT2000 masterplan to transform Singapore into an Intelligent Island. It will be a pervasive network interconnecting computers in virtually every home, office, school and factory. Singaporeans will be able to access electronic government services, a wide range of exciting multimedia applications or conduct business transactions from their homes or offices through a wide range of information appliances such as computers, wireless devices and public kiosks.

The NCB, with the support of the industry and other government agencies, has seeded various initiatives in evolving the NII. These initiatives are centred on putting in place the physical infrastructure plus common services to support applications and services. In addition, the NCB will maintain common standards and guidelines to give technology providers and application developers a clearer picture of what will be available in the current and future information infrastructure in Singapore, to ensure that their efforts are on track with the IT2000 vision.

Paving the Information Highway

Internetwork Hub (I-Hub)

All major networks including government networks, Internet service providers, wireless networks, Value-Added Networks (VANs) such as SNS, NETS and Libserv are now linked via the Internetwork Hub (I-Hub). With the physical infrastructure in place, it now remains for the individual network providers to open up their services to other users in the various networks to enable the ready exchange of information and services carried by the different networks.

Singapore ONE

Development of Phase 1 of the Singapore ONE network is underway. This phase, which spans 1996 to 2001, will start with the selective deployment of a pilot core broadband network. The pilot network will comprise several broadband ATM switches linked to offices, public places and homes via existing local access networks.

By June 1997, 300 homes will pilot the following services on Singapore ONE:

- Access to school curriculum and other educational content from homes;
- Access to digital library services from homes;
- High speed Internet access from homes;
- Commercial services for homes;
- Electronic government services.

The pilot could be scaled up to over 5,000 homes with many more applications by the end of 1997. As part of Singapore ONE, the NCB and the Singapore Cable Vision is conducting a joint trial involving HDB households to deliver interactive multimedia applications over the SCVs cable network. The NCB and SCV has just signed a memorandum of understanding with some 13 service providers which will be participating in the trial. (Please refer to press release on Cable Modem Trial with first batch of service providers.) Under the MOU, these service providers are committed to offer a wide range of interactive applications and services to households taking part in the cable modem trial.

Promoting New Media

The NCB is also working on projects to explore new media, or new ways of delivering information services. In September this year, many new media such as Internet TVs, Internet Kiosks, wireless handheld devices were piloted at the Information Superhighway Summit Asia 96.

Common Services & Applications

The NII backbone will expedite the provision of common services and applications to the public. Common services are a set of essential services that users will need when undertaking on-line communications and transactions. Examples of common services include electronic identification, secure services, national directory service and payment services. These services deployed on the NII will enable various IT services and applications to be delivered to all Singaporeans. When the common services are in place, the NII will be much more secure and will fully support electronic commerce. In addition, users will find it more convenient to locate on-line information deployed on the various networks.

The NCB has embarked on various initiatives to develop and deploy these nation-wide common services. These initiatives are: a pilot project to establish an Infrastructure for Electronic Identification, an Electronic Commerce Hotbed programme, and Content Hosting Programme. The latest initiative is a pilot project on National Contact Information Service.

National Contact Information Service

The NCB will launch a pilot of the National Contact Information Service (NCIS) by March 97. The NCIS aims to be the starting point for the public to find people, organisations, products and services. It will serve as a comprehensive online source of basic contact information by bringing many directory publishers together. NCIS will also be a directory of directories - it will tell the user which directories provide the detailed information and services he needs. The pilot project will kick off with more than one million directory entries from at least 10 participating directories belonging to the industry, government, and corporate organisations. More details will be announced next year.

Common Standards and Guidelines

A blueprint of the NII, on what is available today and how the NII will evolve over the next few years, has been completed. It will be made available to industry early next year to help them plan the deployment of applications and services. An NII Technical Committee has been formed under the auspices of the National IT Standards Committee. The goal of this committee is to ensure that systems and applications deployed on the NII are compatible and interoperable. The committee will also be the rallying point for organisations to bring together their requirements and concerns for inter-organisational efforts.

On-line Industry Development

The Online Technologies Consortium (OTC) was formed to accelerate the development of the on-line service industry in Singapore and to help local companies pool their resources to compete more effectively in the regional market. The OTC currently has eight sponsors and some 75 subscribers.

Building the NII requires the close collaboration of many players including government agencies and the IT industry, among them, IT companies, network and service providers, technology providers and application developers. To date, the NCB has worked with more than 100 industry partners in its NII development initiatives.

Background Information:

1. Internetwork Hub (I-Hub)

Built on the existing narrowband Singapore Internet Backbone, the I-Hub is a converging point for all the key networks and communications infrastructures in Singapore. These various networks include Internet service providers, commercial network service providers and government networks. The I-Hub facilitates the exchange of information carried by participating networks. It introduces a new set of services providing greater reliability, security and better response time to both users and service providers. Under the I-Hub initiative, network infrastructures will have the bandwidth of their connections doubled. With the industry, plans are being put in place to bring about a T3 connection to I-Hub and to run a bandwidth reservation trial.

2. Singapore ONE

The government is investing $82 million to seed the development of the Singapore ONE network, a multimedia broadband initiative launched in June 1996. A multi-agency effort by the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS), National Science and Technology Board (NSTB) and the NCB, Singapore ONE will enable a potentially unlimited range of multimedia services to be delivered to the workplace, the home and the school.

3. I-Hub and Singapore ONE

The I-Hub will make it more convenient for users and service providers to tap on information-based services using current technologies. Eventually, the I-Hub will become a key node on Singapore ONE, feeding into the Singapore ONE infrastructure when it is ready and bringing along its users and applications.

Common Services:

4. Infrastructure for Electronic Identification (IEI)

A pilot project to issue electronic identifications (IDs) to the public will be deployed by March next year. The Infrastructure for Electronic Identification (IEI) is a nationwide system for establishing and authenticating the identities of users communicating in an open network environment such as the Internet. The IEI pilot will incorporate the necessary protection from electronic imposters as well as allow the secure exchange of confidential and private information. The IEI will be used for both government and private sector applications such as electronic form submission systems, electronic procurement systems, electronic information systems, and electronic shopping and commerce, where the user needs to be identified to the system. If successful, the project will be extended to provide electronic IDs to all Singaporeans.

5. Electronic Commerce Hotbed

The NCB launched the Electronic Commerce Hotbed (ECH) programme in August this year to pilot electronic commerce applications and to address the security, legal and regulatory issues facing practitioners involved in electronic commerce.

The ECH brought together all the key players including financial institutions such as banks, VISA and NETS, technology and infrastructure providers, application providers and users in an environment where they can leverage on one another. Currently more than 60 participants have joined the Hotbed programme. In the short time since its launch, the ECH has launched a web page that highlight some 30 applications from its participants. Some of these applications can fully support electronic payment. These applications are: The Ascott and Palm Courtt Collection that offers on-line bookings and confirmation for its chain of serviced apartments worldwide; CyberMart, a virtual shopping mall with over 300 popular local and overseas magazine title and Small, a mall with stores for flowers, teddy bears, watches and pottery. Other applications include digital shopping malls, travel reservation services, and electronic newspapers The ECH is a major step towards Singapore's efforts to become an electronic commerce hub for the region. The ECH Home Page can be accessed at

6. Content Hosting Programme

The NCB has launched a Content Hosting Programme to encourage more companies to set up Internet mirror sites in Singapore. This will bring abour faster access and richer content and services on the Internet for Singaporeans. A quick start environment will be established by March 1997 to enable content to be hosted in Singapore. There will also be incentives for content providers to host their content here.