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Opening of Internet World '98

Mr Michael Yap, Chief Executive National Computer Board Opening Address - Opening of Internet World '98

Mr Michael Yap, Chief Executive
National Computer Board
Opening Address - Opening of Internet World '98
Singapore, 3 March 1999

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

1. In the last few years, we have seen tremendous growth in the Internet. Some 112 million people worldwide are now reachable by the Internet [source: IDC]. US$43 billion of goods was transacted over the Internet last year. [source: Forrester]. In Asia alone, there are about 12 million users and the value of Internet commerce transactions is expected to grow from US $700 million to US $2.6 billion this year. [source: IDC]

2. But all these developments will be eclipsed by what will be unfolding over the next few years. There will be 300 million users in 2002, and electronic commerce transactions are expected to reach US$1.3 trillion in 2003.

3. More significantly, beyond the growth rates and the scale, it is the new ways in which technology is being applied. People are now talking about smart fridges. These fridges can scan the barcodes on your foodstuff and help you compile your shopping list when your stocks run low. The fridge can even propose a menu for dinner. We are also seeing smart factories. These factories can adapt to designs. They can change the production lines and schedules to build products customised for individuals.

4. Many driving forces are bringing about this transformation, including globalisation, miniturisation and wireless technology. Today, I would like to talk about two of the forces that are fueling this transformation.

5. One is familiar and much talked about. This is e-commerce. We have heard of Dell using its superior supply chain and direct access to the customer to sell US$6 million worth of computers a day. Dell now has the largest market share in its business [source: ZD Market Intelligence]. This trend is also spreading into Asia. GEIS, a leader in business to business platforms, is setting up 15 e-commerce hubs in the Asia Pacific by the end of this year, and getting thousands of companies onto its e-commerce network. They target to double the number of Asian companies on board their electronic trading community from 14,000 to 28,000 in three years.

6. The second driving force, which is less often talked about, is broadband taking off. Various developments are pointing this way. First of all the deployment of access devices such as ADSL modems and cable modems are growing at an astounding rate. There are now more than half a million devices in total, and this is projected to grow to 9.1 million over the next four years [source: Strategis Group]. The @Home network itself grew by eight times last year to reach 331,000 subscribers.

7. Mainstream content providers such as CNN,, ESPN, CDNow and have started offering a mix of audio, video and streaming content.

8. Companies are also positioning themselves for this future. In the past year, we have seen a series of mergers and acquisitions as companies jostle to become the broadband and e-commerce portals of choice.

9. Following the merger with TCI, AT&T has gained control of the cable TV access services, and also the high-speed cable Internet company @Home, and in turn, the Internet directory company Excite. Major Internet portals such as AOL are entering the fray. They are partnering with telecommunications and network companies to gain access to the broadband market. The coming together of PC-based Internet access, interactive TV, cable Internet and broadband content is clearly happening.

10. Singapore is well-positioned in these two areas. We have invested heavily in both e-commerce and broadband, and have built a strong foundation.

11. In the broadband area, Singapore ONE is our flagship project. Our access network is now available to 98% of homes. Every student can connect to Singapore ONE from school. It is also available at 42 libraries and community centres. There are some 55,000 users on Singapore ONE.

12. We have a budding industry of online service providers delivering 150 applications. A total of $150 million has been invested in these services.

13. Singapore ONE has nurtured innovation and is recognised as an international test-bed. For example, IBM has set up an Emerging Technology Centre (ETC) in Singapore to carry out research on broadband networks. The initial focus will be on quality of service and multi-casting. The ETC is IBM's first applied research lab in the world.

14. We have also deployed some 5000 video conferencing kits and 3000 Chinese input systems in Singapore ONE-enabled PCs in libraries, schools, community clubs and homes.

15. Singapore ONE is e-commerce enabled. We have also deployed the Secure Electronic Transaction protocol (SET) and C-ONE, a micro-payment mechanism, in Singapore. Both are among the first in the world. More recently, Singapore Network Services and TrustMarque have formed a partnership for digital distribution. Other local companies are also piloting eCheque as well as Bill Presentment.

16. These projects not only benefit Singapore companies by giving them a head start over their regional competitors, they also offer international companies a unique opportunity to study issues in deploying services - from technology and scalability, to market acceptance and business models.

17. Today, I am pleased to announce that, in partnership with Lotus, Singapore ONE will commence a trial of Lotus QuickPlace. QuickPlace is the Lotus' newest initiative in collaborative work. With this tie-up, user communities on Singapore ONE will be able to create and organise pages composed of rich content, images, file attachments, spreadsheets and presentations. Lotus will customise QuickPlace to exploit Singapore ONE's broadband capabilities.

18. Looking ahead, Singapore ONE is moving into a new phase. This will be a growth phase to go into the mainstream. We need to achieve a critical mass of users in the next 18 months. In this phase, Government will continue to support, but industry would be the main driver.

19. These are some of the areas in which we will be working together. First, to bring Singapore ONE to the masses by creating awareness and highlighting the value of the services to users. Throughout the year, the service providers will be using various mass-marketing channels, including TV and print, to promote their services. Secondly, to provide hands-on exposure to as many people as possible through mass-training sessions. For example, we will be setting up a permanent training site to let some 100,000 people gain hands-on experience.

20. We will work with the Singapore ONE service providers to aggressively expand their services into broadband markets overseas. For example, we have a partnership with @Home through which we can deliver Singapore ONE services to its 330,000 subscribers.

21. In the e-commerce arena, the likes of Amazon and E-Trade have fired the imagination of many. We hope that we will have some similar success stories locally. Beyond this, e-commerce is also a key enabler that companies cannot ignore. The lack of e-commerce capabilities can make a company irrelevant. The company that can succeed in the future must have a network running through it and be e-commerce ready.

22. Some local companies have made good headway. Digiland for instance, is investing S$7 million in its Internet strategy and became the first online channel partner in HP's Asia Pacific strategy. It is now positioning itself to become a regional electronics distributor and expects 80% of its revenues to come through the Internet.

23. In summary, through collaborative effort with industry, we have created the infrastructure and environment that is truly in the forefront of broadband exploitation. The Government will support the industry to seize the opportunity to become major players in the Internet of the future.

24. Thank you. I wish you all a very thought-provoking and fruitful conference ahead.