Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for Communications Speech - Joint Opening Ceremony for CommunicAsia/ MobilecommAsia '96 & NetworkAsia '96
Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for Communications
Speech - Joint Opening Ceremony for CommunicAsia/ MobilecommAsia '96 & NetworkAsia '96
Singapore, 3 June 1996
Distinguised Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The 21st century seems set to herald more changes and phenomenal growth in the area of telecommunications. This is especially so in the Asian continent, where for so long telecommunications infrastructure and services have lagged far behind those in the developed nations. However, things are beginning to change very rapidly. Today, without exception, Asian countries are either planning or are implementing cutting edge technologies which not only serve to keep pace with their own economic development but in many cases, will enable them to leap-frog ahead of more developed nations.
Such momentous changes are no doubt making Asia an attractive prospect for telecommunications investors and operators from near and far. This is manifested in the overwhelming demand for space in this exhibition. The high turnout for CommunicAsia, a key regional telecommunications show, is a reflection of the strong interest in the Asian telecommunications markets.
Focus in Asia
Despite the recent phenomenal rate of growth experienced by Asia's telecommunications markets, the demand for more and better telecommunications infrastructure and services remain unquenched. For example, in 1995, despite an estimated 21.7 million cellular telephone users, Asia still has a year-on-year increase of 87 per cent for handphone services. With the continued economic growth in Asian countries seemingly unabated, the outlook for the telecommunications industry will continue to be buoyant and will be a key contributor to Asia's development and its economic competitiveness.
Asia's future competitive edge hinges on its continued receptiveness to technological changes, its strong commitment to infrastructure development and its rapid introduction of new, relevant info-communication services.
Singapore believes that its telecommunications infrastructure has been a key component in maintaining our economic competitiveness. With increasing competition, incremental improvements are no longer sufficient for Singapore. There is a need for a fresh, new strategic approach to develop an info-communication infrastructure that can serve our long-term national objectives.
The next century will witness an increasing reliance on information and knowledge as "engines of growth" for the new economy. The presence of high performance info-communication resources will provide the basic foundation in preparation for Singapore's move to an intellectually creative society in the near future.
Rapid technological advances in recent years, coupled with the convergence of the telecommunications, computing and broadcasting industries, have resulted in the advent of new leading industries based on high performance multimedia communication. The multimedia industry alone is envisaged to grow and become the leading industry in the 21st century. Singapore must nurture this industry now as it will form the heart of the new industrial structure.
The Network of the Future
Regardless of services offered, the future network will possess three intrinsic elements. First, the network will be digital. Digitalisation enables the information infrastructures to carry and route a mix of voice, data, graphics and video.
Second, network capacity will be abundant. The obstacle of scarcity which plagued network architectures to date will be largely overcome. Data compression technologies, high capacity fibre-based networks and digitalised transmission will solve capacity constraints in transfer of information over networks.
Third, the services offered will be personalised. Personal computers, personal mobile communications and personalised interactive services like electronic commerce and video-on-demand focus on customised usage. Technology will enable the network to be tailored to suit individual bandwidth or speed requirements.
These three characteristics indicate to us that the future network must be of high-speed, high-capacity and able to seamlessly handle high volumes of voice, data, image and video information. In other words, it has to be a multimedia broadband network.
We believe that it is critical that the deployment of such a multimedia broadband network is not delayed. By prolonging network development, Singapore's ability to maintain our world-class telecommunications infrastructure and our competitiveness in the global economy would be adversely impacted.
Singapore ONE: Our Future Network
To accelerate the building of a nation-wide multimedia broadband infrastructure, the Government will "jump-start" the process. In this regard, I am pleased to announce that the Government has initiated the development of a Multimedia Broadband Network Project to be named "Singapore ONE".
Singapore O-N-E, or ONE, stands for Singapore ONE NETWORK for EVERYONE. As its name suggests, this multimedia broadband network unites and connects the whole of Singapore in one open network where all Singaporeans can communicate easily and speedily.
The objective of the Singapore ONE project is to develop an infrastructure with a core broadband network that will connect several local access networks - effectively becoming ONE network linking up the island. With it in place, we can envision a society in which every person can electronically retrieve information and communicate with each other quickly, easily, safely and inexpensively across time and space.
The Singapore ONE is a part of the Government's IT 2000 vision. It will allow a wide variety of commercial and governmental services like video-conferencing, high-speed Internet, teleshopping, entertainment-on-demand and electronic libraries to be accessed and transacted at the convenience of the user from the comfort of home.
The implementation of this multi-million dollar project is led by a multi-agency team comprising the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore (TAS), the National Computer Board (NCB) and the National Science and Technology Board (NSTB).
The infrastructural development of Singapore ONE is spearheaded by TAS while the development of applications on the network will be driven by NCB with active participation from user-sponsors in various government ministries. NSTB and its funded research institutes such as the Institute of System Science (ISS) and the Information Technology Institute (ITI) will provide technical leadership in the network architecture and the development of advanced multimedia applications.
The project will be implemented in two overlapping phases. Phase I from 1996 to 2001, will see the deployment of a core broadband network with a number of services/applications from government agencies. In this pilot phase, the focus is on promoting the use of Singapore ONE in four important areas - government, education, home and business.
In the area of government applications and as part of the Public Service in the 21st Century (PS21) effort, the objective is to bring public services from the Government closer to the people through full-function distributed government offices using video-conferencing and interactive technology. These virtual government offices, which can be reached through interactive kiosks, will enable users to carry out multiple transactions like applying for various permits, paying bills or enquiring about CPF schemes at one location. What distinguishes this system from present telephone enquiry or transaction is its ability to allow visual response as well. For example, HDB applicants may be able to 'walk' through the apartments they are applying for.
In the pilot phase, these one-stop government offices will be located at high human traffic areas like Raffles Place, Jurong East, Ang Mo Kio and Tampines. Users will be able to interact live with government service representatives without having to physically visit their offices. Eventually, such services could be brought to the home.
In education, a high quality multimedia educational application called the Student's and Teacher's Workbench (STW) has been developed for our schools. With Singapore ONE, the STW would be made available on-line to schools and could be extended to the home.
For the home, Singapore ONE will serve as a very important social infrastructure. Singaporeans will no longer be just passive receivers of information but interactive users of information that are available any time and from anywhere. This network allows interactive broadband services such as high-speed Internet access, LAN emulation for telecommuting, travel services, virtual bookshops and CD stores, household services, multimedia information services and electronic libraries. For a start, Singapore ONE is to provide 300 homes with high speed Internet and access to Singapore's first digital libraries.
For the businessman, Singapore ONE will mean better corporate communication and coordination. The high-speed multimedia network can also provide new channels for buying and selling, fuel electronic commerce and boost the local electronic media industry.
In Phase II of the project, which will start from 1999, we will see the network grow in capacity and coverage with increased commercial interactive multimedia application services on board.
The Government will further strengthen collaboration between the public and private sectors on the issue of network development. Key industry players are encouraged to actively participate in the building and operation of Singapore ONE. It will also stimulate the growth of commercial services such as teleshopping, electronic commerce and other services like telemedicine by providing secure transaction facilities.
As an indication of the Government's firm commitment to Singapore ONE, the three organisations will fund a substantial portion of the initial project costs for Singapore ONE. An initial $32 million for Phase I will be committed and an additional $50 million has been earmarked for Phase II. To provide public sector services in its most complete form, anywhere anytime, Ministries and government agencies will be the anchor tenant of Singapore ONE.
However, the Government's initiative and support to develop, nurture and use Singapore ONE alone are not good enough. To be successful, the industry players must take on an active role of introducing cutting edge technologies and providing innovative applications and services. Only then will Singapore ONE realise its full potential as a foundation for the industry and end-users to create applications which can improve business efficiency and enrich Singaporeans' quality of life.
There are industry players who share our vision for Singapore ONE and have expressed keen interest in joining the effort. We welcome them and would invite others to participate in this project.
Exhibitions and shows are good opportunities to update ourselves on the latest and the best in the industry. This is especially so in a mega-event like CommunicAsia '96. With the number and the quality of exhibitors and visitors here for the event, I am sure you will have a busy time ahead of you. I wish all of you a very successful and fruitful CommunicAsia '96 and may you have a pleasant stay in Singapore.
On this note, it is my pleasure to declare CommunicAsia '96, Broadcast Asia '96 and Network '96 open.