Computerworld Annual Awards 99

Michael Yap, Chief Executive, National Computer Board Speech - Computerworld Annual Awards 99

Michael Yap, Chief Executive, National Computer Board
Speech - Computerworld Annual Awards 99
Singapore, 3 September 1999

Good evening, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

The Digital Revolution: A Fundamental Revolution

1. They say that it is calm in the eye of a hurricane. Ladies and gentlemen, as we gather here tonight to honour our industry's finest, we recognise that we, the IT industry, is in the eye of the "Digital Revolution hurricane".

2. In the past, the personal computer and the Internet have driven much of the changes in the way we do things and conduct businesses. Just as how a differential in pressure will bring about the hurricane, today, the pressure brought about by the convergence of information, telecommunications, broadcasting, consumer electronics, and multimedia technologies is bringing about the "Digital Revolution hurricane". We may no longer refer to IT and telecommunications as distinct concepts, but as a dynamic industry of ICT-or Information Communications Technology. We as an industry have to rethink our businesses.

3. The digital revolution is affecting businesses and lifestyles fundamentally. This change will be impactful and thorough. For example, the "Emerging Digital Economy II" Report, published by the U.S. Department of Commerce in June 1999, highlighted that private analysts had originally forecasted the value of Internet retailing to be US$7 billion in 2000. This prediction was surpassed by nearly 50% in 1998. Last year, forecasters tripled their previous estimates of the near-term growth expected in business-to-business electronic commerce. This is the magnitude and pace of change that we have to get accustomed to.

4. A recent study commissioned by the NCB and conducted by the Centre for Management of Innovation & Technopreneurship (CMIT) of the NUS aims to assess the economic significance of Singapore's digital economy, and to benchmark Singapore's ICT development against that of advanced economies such as the US. The study showed that the total ICT sector in Singapore generated about S$90 billion in revenues in 1996, with a healthy average annual growth rate of about 19%. The contribution of the ICT sector to Singapore's GDP was estimated at 16% in 1996, rising steadily from 11% in 1986. This is an impressive contribution, a tribute to your achievements as an industry. With the opportunities offered by the new Net-based economy, we believe that the ICT sector will continue on this rapid growth path.

5. However, impressive our local ICT growth rate has been, this growth is slow compared to the U.S. The U.S. Department of Commerce's Digital Economy report indicated that the U.S. ICT sector contributed 24% to the GDP growth in 1998, up from 16% in 1993. Not only is the base value of the ICT sector much bigger in the U.S., but their rate of growth is also much higher. We aim to close this gap.

ICT21 Masterplan; ICT industry as a Major Growth Sector

6. The Singapore government recognised the importance of the digital revolution, and took several swift measures in the last few months. Firstly, the Ministry of Communications was renamed Ministry of Communications and IT, or MCIT. A Minister of State, Mr Lim Swee Say, whom many of you would know, was appointed to specifically oversee the development of the ICT. The National Computer Board and the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore will be merged to form a new statutory board by the end of the year. All these actions reflected the government's emphasis and commitment to ICT.

7. To move Singapore into a "first-world economy" as envisioned by the Prime Minister in his National Day Rally speech, the MCIT has embarked on the ICT21 Masterplan, which will facilitate the development of ICT in Singapore over the next 10 years.

8. Under ICT21, there are three major goals: namely, 

i) to develop the ICT sector as the key sector of growth in the economy [Industries are in Singapore];

ii) to use ICT to boost the performance of Singapore's knowledge-based economy through the active exploitation of ICT in various economic sectors [Singapore companies use it]; and

iii) to use ICT to enhance the quality of life and standard of living of Singaporeans in the information society [Singaporeans use it].

The Challenge: To Develop Into A World-Class ICT industry

9. By international standards, Singapore is faring quite well in two of the three areas above, namely, the adoption of ICT by the general population and businesses. We have been ranked highly on these indicators by international studies such as the World Competitiveness Yearbook and the Information Society Index. However, our ICT industry still has some way to go to be among the best in the world.

10. As creators and perpetuators of the Digital Revolution hurricane, our local ICT industry can lead the nation's efforts towards a first-world economy. This means that we must transform ourselves to be a world-class industry. I would like to share with you some food for thought on what we could do together:

11. Think global: To compete effectively against the first league players, we must be world-class ourselves. We have to be prepared to compete with the best of the world, not just within the shores of Singapore. Hence, we must strive to be world-class in everything that we do, from our products to our innovation, our service to our customers, our ICT manpower, our support and follow-up. We must continually benchmark ourselves against global world-class ICT companies.

12. We believe that we have a pool of potential world-class ICT companies in Singapore. We will actively work with these companies to help them achieve their goals through developing strategic alliances and market development.

13. I would like to urge our award winners and the industry not to stop at just being Singapore's best, but plow ahead to become the best in the world. I look forward to honouring some world-class homegrown ICT companies in this event next year.

14. Innovate: To be successful, our ICT industries can no longer just be good at what they are doing currently. Our companies must continually seek out innovative ways to deliver services and value propositions to our customers. Traditionally, end products have been competing against one another. However, in the digital revolution, the quality of end products alone is no longer sufficient. The competitive advantage of a business is now determined by the total value proposition of the entire value chain. Each stage of the value chain can value-add to give customers a total experience. For example, FedEx has turned its internal package tracking system outwards, allowing customers to track the delivery of their packages. FedEx has gone beyond competing in its end product, which is delivery service, to providing customers with a total experience in every step of its value chain.

15. Synergise: It is increasingly difficult to compete on point products alone. Customers are demanding complete solutions. Companies need to work together to create bigger and more valuable solutions. Through synergy, the sum is greater than its parts. Our real competitors are not the folks sitting around the same table here, but out there in the world. Our ICT industry should work together to grow the pie.

16. As we witness the growing trend of mergers and acquisitions in the worldwide ICT sector, we will also facilitate the formation of alliances among industry players that will give us the critical mass needed to compete in a fierce global business environment.

17. Embark on The Next Big Things together: I encourage our ICT companies to ride the next wave of the future, and collectively explore new technologies and paradigm shifts which we can term "The Next Big Things", or NBT. What might be new clusters of technologies and processes that will create the future hurricanes like the Internet and E-commerce of today? May these be wireless devices and technologies, smart and user-aware sensor-controlled environment, knowledge processing and management? We hope you could tell us.

18. To this end, we want to work with companies and research institutions with ideas of the Next Big Things so that we could be the generators of the next Digital hurricane rather than getting swept around by the wind.

ICT Industry to Take the Lead in ICT21

19. We have come a long way in the last two decades of national computerisation, from the Civil Service Computerisation Programme, to the National IT Plan and IT2000. The ICT industry today has matured and become more sophisticated. As we embark on our 4th national ICT plan, our ICT industry must take up the driver's seat.

20. The government recognises that if we implement ICT21 on its own, we will not be able to create a world-class ICT sector. In order for Singapore to succeed as a global center for ICT, our ICT industry must take the lead, be entrepreneurial and show the way. Government will facilitate in terms of providing a conducive pro-business environment.

How Industry Can Take the Lead

21. Tonight, I would like to issue a challenge to the ICT industry to take the lead: tell us (1) how our ICT industry can lead, (2) how our ICT sector can become world-class, and (3) what are the Next Big Things.

22. Share with us your visions and your proposals. We will give each proposal due consideration, and give our full support.

23. We will be going around to talk to you, but don't wait for us to come. Please seek us out. If you have some ideas, please us know so that we could discuss your ideas in detail.

24. I am happy to recall many wonderful collaborations between the industry and the government during the past year since we last met, such as, with the Singapore Computer Society for professional certification, with Casetrust on the trust certification of E-commerce sites, and with SITF on industry self-regulation, etc. So, don't wait for us to initiate the collaboration; be proactive and form your own industry groups, as what CommerceNet and ec.Think have done.

25. The ICT21 secretariat will arrange various consultative industry forums shortly to discuss specific strategies for the ICT21 Plan. We hope to see the ICT industry participating in and driving these forums and taskforces.

26. There is a lot that the industry and government can do together to make Singapore a global player in the ICT industry. Let us build a win-win partnership for all.

27. May I take this opportunity to again congratulate our ComputerWorld Annual Awards 99 recipients for their outstanding achievements. My best wishes for this event to grow even more successful. Thank you.