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Illuminating the Digital Future

Lim Swee Say, Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology and Trade & Industry - Keynote Address, Opening Ceremony of itsAsia 2000

Lim Swee Say, Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology and Trade & Industry - Keynote Address, Opening Ceremony of itsAsia 2000

Singapore, 25 September 2000

Mr Wilson Tan, Chairman, IT Standards Committee
Mr Willie Cheng, Chairman, Singapore IT Federation
Mr Wee Tew Lim, Chairman, itsAsia 2000 Organising Committee

Distinguished Speakers, Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I am happy to be here this morning at the opening of itsAsia 2000. It provides a platform for the exchange and sharing of ideas on current developments in infocomm technology, standards and applications. I wish all of you a fruitful time at itsAsia 2000.

2. We are living in exciting times. Technology is advancing rapidly. We are now heading towards a whole new world of Broadband, Wireless, and Internet Appliances. Every day, we read about the launching of new hardware, software, middle-ware, cyber-ware and so on in the press.

3. What is even more exciting is the promise that these new offerings will eventually inter-operate seamlessly into the so-called "any-ware". We are told that we will be able to have access to any form of e-services and multi-media contents, using any Internet enabled device, from any place, at any time.

4. One may ask, is this for real? Is this pervasive penetration and seamless integration of Infocomm hardware, software, middleware and cyber-ware into "any-ware" going to happen soon? If so, will it happen at the regional or global level?

5. These questions arise because there is a gap between the advancement of technology and the development of standards. Our challenge is to narrow this gap, so that we can enjoy the full benefits brought about by the fast changing technology.

6. First, from the technology angle, standards can help to speed up the commercialisation of emerging technologies. For example, the establishment of new standards on wireless networks and protocols has facilitated the growth of wireless access to Internet, and increased the demand for mobile devices and systems. Likewise, biometrics standards facilitate speedier innovation in secured access methods and devices.

7. Next, from the standpoint of market access, standards facilitate inter-operability and open access across international boundaries.

8. In the early years of e-Revolution, Internet was very much US centric and English centric. This is changing. The Internet user community is globalising rapidly, across continents, languages and cultures. With the globalisation of the Internet user community, seamless integration of applications and services across borders will become even more important. For example, the standardisation of multilingual character coding and translation methods will go a long way to enhance the global reach of Internet in local languages.

9. Third, from the application angle, standards will help speed up the pace of e-nnovation in existing economic sectors, and the growth of new business sectors.

10. For example, global standards in electronic payment and secured transaction would encourage e-purchasing and e-tailing across the globe. This will speed up the re-engineering of old economic sectors as they gear up to compete in the New Economy. At the same time, the standardisation of multimedia formats for streaming of animation and rich media will speed up the growth of media commerce.

11. Last but not least, from the consumers' point of view, standards enable consumers and businesses to choose from a wider selection of innovations and inventions, and offer them a better protection of their investment in leading edge technology and solutions. This added confidence helps to strengthen consumer acceptance, and speed up the mass adoption of new inventions.

12. Notwithstanding the importance of Infocomm standards, Asia on the whole is relatively less pro-active in standards development compared to Europe and North America. As the Internet revolution continues to globalise, the challenge faced by us in Asia is to organise ourselves better to move faster and be more pro-active in contributing to the development of global standards.

13. As a small economy with limited expertise and resources, Singapore is playing its small part in the development of international standards. For example, I am told that Singapore has contributed fast motion estimation techniques called Diamond Search and MVFAST that were accepted as part of the MPEG-4 international standard for multimedia applications. Perhaps one day we will see these techniques being deployed on applications developed for handheld wireless devices like 3G mobile phones and personal digital assistants.

14. There is a lot more we can do and need to do in Asia to contribute to the development of standards. I am glad that the Infocomm community in Singapore has taken another major step forward by organising this itsAsia forum. I am also very pleased that the Forum has the support of ASOCIO and the Internet Development Research Centre of Canada.

15. I congratulate the organisers, sponsors and supporters of itsAsia on the launch of this inaugural Forum. I am confident that this Forum will expand and evolve over time to reach out to a wider base of Infocomm community in Asia. Through better coordination of efforts, I am sure the Asian Infocomm Community will be able to help narrow the gap between technology and standards, as we embrace the e-revolution in the era of New Economy and Information Society. Thank you.