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E-Transformation - Overcome Challenges, Embrace E-Business

Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister for Communications & Information Technology - Speech Inaugural User Forum 2001, Grand Corpthorne Waterfront Hotel ...  

Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister for Communications & Information Technology - Speech
Inaugural User Forum 2001, Grand Corpthorne Waterfront Hotel

Singapore, 7 November 2001


The world today is facing tremendous challenges. The future is riddled with uncertainty after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Since July, Singapore has been in the grips of a recession and Prime Minister Goh has described the outlook as "very, very bleak." Straits Times, 28 October 2001, cover.

We are in the midst of a huge storm. Should we hide in a shelter until the storm blows over? Should we adopt a wait-and-see attitude? Or worse, should we abandon ship? I don't think so.

In fact, it would be a grave mistake to do so. Singapore has faced many seemingly insurmountable challenges in the past. These challenges have tested our mettle; but we persevered and each time, have come out stronger. I am confident that we will do so again. This same spirit of prevailing over adversity must apply to challenges in the technology realm too. Despite the recent bursting of the technology bubble, technological innovation and the Internet revolution have not come to a stop. After the dot-com meltdown, some critics declared the Internet Era over. But today, we are still using it. As Michael Malone, Editor of Forbes ASAP, remarked, "the Internet isn't dead - it's molting" Malone, Michael S. Internet II: Rebooting America. Forbes ASAP, 10 September 2001, What will emerge will be bigger and stronger than its original form.

Singapore companies must never turn their backs on technology and innovation. As a nation, we have been continuously embracing technological advancements that improve our competitiveness and consequently, our quality of life. We are also proud of our excellent infrastructure, global connectivity, infocomm-savvy and technically skilled population, and open Government policies. We are committed to building Singapore into a trusted global hub for e-business.

But in the current climate, we need to re-think and refine our strategies, so as to retain our competitive edge. We need to find ways to convert the downturn into a new opportunity. This is the time to nurture new ideas. This is the time to innovate.

Today, we have five Government agencies - EDB, IDA, MAS, PSB and TDB - all collaborating to bring you the User Forum. This is a forum designed especially for you to share with your fellow practitioners the insights and lessons learnt on e-transformation. For the Government agencies, the feedback garnered will enable them to better understand the evolving needs of your industries. It will help them develop the necessary measures to address any gaps.

Let me now briefly share with you the two complementary Government initiatives that will help spur your companies to e-transform in order to stay ahead. I will also explain how we intend to enhance these two initiatives to make them even more effective. The first initiative is the e-Business Industry Development Scheme or EBIDS. The second is the Pilots & Trial Hotspots or PATH.

Gaining Competitive Advantage through e-Business Transformation

Some of you may be familiar with EBIDS. In October last year, IDA and PSB announced the co-funding of the $30 million EBIDS to accelerate Singapore's move towards becoming an e-Business Hub. EBIDS will support and encourage companies to create new e-Business value for their industries.

In a world made borderless by infocomm technology, e-business makes reaching global customers a reality. EBIDS will help reduce the costs of e-business adoption. It will help local enterprises to acquire the relevant knowledge, obtain technology transfer, optimise their business processes, and create e-Business value. In the one year since its launch, the IDA has supported about 20 EBIDS projects. The incremental E-Commerce transaction value from these 20 projects will amount to more than $1 Billion for next year alone.

While broad cumulative figures are impressive, it would be more interesting for me to share with you three local EBIDS success stories.

First, the case of SCM Solutions. This is an integrated materials management and third-party logistics provider, dealing in Supply Chain Management. Its core competency is helping businesses manage their sourcing, procurement, warehousing and repacking requirements. Typically, these activities are labor and space intensive. With the assistance of EBIDS, SCM has built a new, competitive e-Business platform that reduces its lead-time from order to shipment and minimises its inventory holding requirements.

The second example is the partnership between PSA Logistics and solution providers like Manugistics, EON and Fuels & Lubes. They have developed best-of-breed software that integrates with PSA's Sea Cargo & Port Logistics systems. Through EBIDS, three third-party warehouses, seven trucking companies, a network of port operators and shipping lines are involved in this IDA-supported pilot program.

The third project involves Far East, a premier online flower and gift provider. It was launched in June 1999 to complement its traditional mail-order business, and is one of the first in the retail industry to provide a seamless and integrated "cyber storefront". With the assistance of EBIDS, it has improved its customer relations management system as well as its e-procurement and e-payment systems with suppliers and clients. Information can now flow smoothly throughout the value chain, helping to increase productivity and to lower non-value added costs.

These three success stories are very encouraging because they demonstrate the intrinsic value of embracing e-business. However, we recognise that in the current economic climate, companies may tighten their belts and postpone plans for e-transformation.

To help local companies and start-ups meet the cost of e-transformation, I am happy to announce that the Government is widening the qualifying criteria for EBIDS, so that more companies can benefit from the scheme. The enhanced framework will also incorporate criteria such as faster time-to-market, improved productivity, capability development and penetration of new markets.

I would like to encourage all companies to actively embark on efforts to e-transform. E-Business transformation is not only applicable for the big players. In fact, e-Business Transformation can benefit all businesses. It aggregates the benefits of business exchange platforms, secure transactions and efficient information exchange - together with global outreach to customers. So don't wait. Transform your business today or risk being left behind by your competitors.

Gaining Competitive Advantage through Innovation

Earlier on, I mentioned the need to convert the downturn into new opportunities by means of innovation. PATH is an initiative that will nurture new ideas. By facilitating more pilots and trials, we increase the likelihood that more commercially viable products and services will be developed. This will, in turn, lead to greater Intellectual Property creation. It will reinforce Singapore's position as a vibrant innovation hub for the test bedding of new infocomm technologies and services.

PATH was announced as a $9 million initiative in May this year to accelerate the development of innovative wireless infrastructure and applications. It achieves this by supporting the trial and piloting of wireless technologies and applications in Singapore.

I am happy to announce today, that the Government will enlarge and accelerate the programme by expanding the budget for PATH from $9 million to $48 million. Over the next two years, PATH will also support pilots and trials in broadband, emerging infocomm technologies, and other best-of-breed services, such as application outsourcing, speech and language and XML Web services.

PATH is relevant to both vendors and users. As a 'test bed' funding initiative, PATH is the channel for both manufacturers and vendors who want to pilot projects. Users will benefit as well, because the product is tested and developed with their needs in mind.

User Forum

Today's User Forum on e-Transformation is the first of its kind to enable us to focus on the adoption of e-business which brings speed, security, reliability and outreach to companies. The focus is not on the technology itself, but on how the technology can be harnessed for a stronger competitive edge. The Forum is also about what it takes to thrive in the current economic climate. With that, let me end by wishing all of you an interesting and productive discussion.