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Official Opening of Lucent Technologies' Asia-Pacific Technical & Education Centre & Asia-Pacific Customer Technical Support Centre

Mr Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister for Communications & Information Technology Speech - Official Opening of Lucent Technologies' Asia-Pacific Technical & Education Centre & Asia-Pacific Customer Technical Support Centre

Mr Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister for Communications & Information Technology
Speech - Official Opening of Lucent Technologies' Asia-Pacific Technical & Education Centre & Asia-Pacific Customer Technical Support Centre
Singapore, 23 June 1999

1. I am very happy to be here this morning to officiate at this opening of Lucent Technologies' Asia-Pacific Technical and Education Centre and Asia-Pacific Customer Technical Support Centre. Lucent Technologies is a forward-looking, progressive company and we treasure your relationship with Singapore, a partnership that has spanned some 12 years. This relationship was further strengthened just last month, when the Economic Development Board awarded the Business Headquarters (BHQ) status to Lucent Technologies' South East Asian operations and management headquarters. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate you on this achievement.

2. We are all familiar with the economic crisis in Asia. As an open economy with close links to the region, Singapore could not avoid being affected by the regional turmoil. I am pleased to say that Singapore was better able to weather the storm, because of our strong economic fundamentals, robust financial institutions and a stable political environment. We are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, as there are signs of the beginnings of an economic recovery in Asia. However we cannot afford to be complacent. The economies in Asia must continue to build upon their strengths, acquire new capabilities and sharpen their competitiveness. Our greatest challenge is to ensure a sustained Asian recovery and a stronger Asia.

3. On the other hand, the economic slowdown has hardly had any effect on the two fastest growing segments of the communications market - the Internet, and wireless communications. Outside Japan, the number of Internet users in Asia is expected to expand at 35 per cent a year until 2003, reaching some 57 million customers Business Times, "Internet users in Asia seen rising 35% a year", 14 May 1999.. Internet growth in Asia is crucial as it can help fuel economic expansion as the region recovers. Some market researchers expect the Internet commerce market in Asia, excluding Japan, to expand incredibly to US$32 billion by 2003, up four hundred and fifty times from a 'mere' US$720 million in 1998. In 1997, the region's telecommunication sector accounted for 20% of the world's telecommunication revenue and 25% of the global total of main lines Analysys Report, "Network Operators in the Asia-Pacific Region", Analysys Publications 1997. These figures are expected to expand significantly over the next decade.

The Role of Manpower Development in a Knowledge-Based Economy

7. At the opening of the CommunicAsia 99 yesterday, I announced that my Ministry had begun work on the Information Communications Technology 21 (ICT21) Masterplan for the Net Economy and the ICT sector in Singapore. ICT21 aims to develop Singapore into a dynamic and vibrant global ICT Capital with a thriving and prosperous Net Economy by the year 2010.

8. One of the key strategies of ICT21 is 'Manpower Development'. The knowledge worker in a Knowledge-Based Economy will play an increasingly important and significant role. Thus, a key focus of ICT21 initiatives concerns the development of a highly skilled knowledge workforce for the Infocommunications industry through a process of continuing education and training.

9. Manpower Development is a theme that fits nicely into today's event here at Lucent Technologies. Through this Technical and Education Centre, Lucent Technologies' customers will receive world-class training in its state-of-the-art telecommunications products and services. It will enhance their skills and capabilities, and enable them to become more productive and valuable assets for their companies.

10. This Regional Technical Training Centre is a wonderful development for Lucent Technologies and for Singapore. Indeed it is a definite win-win arrangement for both of us. We will be happy to work with Lucent Technologies to include more of its training organisations under this Asia-Pacific Technical and Education Centre. Lucent Technologies will in turn benefit increasingly from economies of scale by offering a more comprehensive range of training services to customers in the region.

11. The info-communications industry is a relatively new, but very fast-evolving one. We therefore need to have a clear, in-depth understanding of the industry, as this will allow us to better promote its development and facilitate its growth. Consequently, the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore is collaborating with the National Computer Board and the Ministry of Manpower on a joint study, which will be completed before the end of the year.

12. The objectives of this study encompass three broad areas:

- Firstly, it will identify the infocommunications industry landscape. This would include determining our current manpower status, existing training and educational programs and facilities, and what are the industry's future skills and capabilities requirements. We also need to understand what other countries are doing with regard to telecoms deregulation.

- Secondly, we want to identify 'gaps' or areas of need, for example, in issues like manpower, special expertise, new technology, and education. On education, this would include the re-training of existing workers and determining what the government, research institutes, tertiary educational institutes and commercial training institutes, like the Lucent's Technical and Education Centre, can play in addressing the manpower needs of the industry. We would also need to identify countries from which we can attract the relevant talent to augment our local supply of expertise.

- Thirdly, we want to identify key growth sectors for the industry in Singapore. This would include identifying policy initiatives, regulatory framework, and infrastructural developments necessary to attract new investors and promote the further growth of existing ones.

13. The study should yield valuable insights, and will help make Singapore an even more valuable partner to our investors.

14. On this note, let me end by once again commending Lucent Technologies for setting up this centre here and to wish the company all success in its endeavours. With that, it is now my great pleasure to declare Lucent Technologies' Asia-Pacific Technical and Educational Centre and Asia-Pacific Customer Technical Support Centre open.