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Emergence of e-Economy: Stepping Up the Pace of Infocomm Manpower Development

Lim Swee Say, Acting Minister for Environment and Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology - Speech, Institute of Systems Science Official Opening

Lim Swee Say, Acting Minister for Environment and Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology - Speech, Institute of Systems Science Official Opening

Singapore, 12 July 2001

First of all, I would like to congratulate everyone here at ISS on the official opening of the New ISS Building.

Infocomm Manpower Development in the 80's and 90's

2 ISS was set up in 1981 at a time when we were trying to catch up with the world on the use of computer technology. There were only 850 IS professionals in the industry at that time. We needed to quickly multiply the number and bridge the gap between the potential of the technology and the needs of businesses.

3 We embarked on a series of manpower development initiatives: We expanded the Computer Science Department at NUS into the Department of Information Systems and Computer Science. We set up the Japan-Singapore Institute of Software Technology and the Centre for Computer Studies to train students for careers as programmers and systems analysts.

4 One of our key initiatives was to work with IBM to establish the ISS for two purposes. First, to offer a Diploma in Systems Analysis so as to enlarge the small pool of systems analysts and designers; Second, to help user management and business executives to understand computer technology so that they could play an active role to ensure the successful adoption of IT in their businesses.

5 By the mid 80's, we managed to close the gap in computerisation with the world. We then set ourselves a higher target of becoming an early adopter of new and promising advanced technology. We therefore embarked on a second series of manpower development initiatives. This time round, we focused on software engineering, computer networking, artificial intelligence and real time computing. I still remember vividly that ISS rose to the new challenge and became probably the first institute in the region to offer graduate diploma programmes in knowledge engineering and software engineering.

6 We also established new institutions to expand our capability profile in the development of IT manpower. With the support of AT&T, the NCB and TAS set up the Information Communication Institute of Singapore to offer post graduate diploma in data communication, computer networking, and network planning and simulation.

Infocomm Manpower Development - Future Thrusts

7 Our pro-active approach towards the development of IT manpower over a period of 20 years has served us well. It enabled us to co-evolve our economy and society with technology change, and exploit the potential of IS, IT and now ICT effectively.

8 In terms of quantity, the pool of infocomm manpower in Singapore has grown from 850 in 1980, 10,000 in 1990, to now more than crossed the 100,000 mark for the first time, to reaching 105,000 in Year 2000. This is a 10 times increase over 1990 and more than 100 times increase over 1980!

9 In terms of quality, our pool of infocomm manpower has also improved tremendously. In the Infocomm Manpower and Skills Survey conducted in 2000, CIOs rated our infocomm workforce as being competent and professional in project management, networking and Internet technologies. It is also competent in non-technical areas such as decision making, customer services and creative thinking. This increase in number and improvement in competency is indeed most encouraging. Having come this far, where do we go from here?

10 We will step up the pace of infocomm manpower development because the infocomm industry is constantly driven by technology advances and challenged by economic restructuring. The rapid emergence of e-Economy is a case in point. It is essential for corporations and individuals to invest in continuous upgrading and retraining, if they want to remain competitive and relevant.

11 This challenge of keeping knowledge and skills up-to-date is not confined to only those who work in the infocomm sector. It is equally applicable to corporations in all major economic sectors and individuals from all professions. After all, the transformation towards the e-Economy cuts across all major sectors of the economy and society. In our pursuance of new and expanded strategies in infocomm manpower development, we aim to achieve three main outcomes.

12 First, we aim to nurture a growing pool of new graduates who can either become infocomm professionals experts in the infocomm sector, or become Infocomm-savvy users experts in their chosen fields of profession and business sectors.

13 Right now, our tertiary institutions produce about 5500 infocomm-savvy graduates every year. We aim to increase it to at least 10000 a year by 2010 to meet the growing demand for infocomm manpower in the economy. At the same time, this growing pool of infocomm manpower will need to be complemented by a expanding pool of infocomm graduates from various disciplines The Institutes of Higher Learning will therefore infuse more infocomm knowledge and skills into all aspects of the curriculum. In this way, many more students will become more multi-disciplinary in their learning, and infocomm will become an integral part of their core skill base. This will prepare them better for the e-Economy.

14 Second, we aim to speed up the upgrading and updating of infocomm knowledge and skills in our workforce. The development of a knowledge recognition and skills certification system is now underway for infocomm professionals as well as non-infocomm professionals and workers in the various economic sectors. This effort is spearheaded by the National Infocomm Comptency Centre (NICC) set up jointly by the Singapore IT Federation, the Singapore Computer Society and the IT Management Association; with the support of the MOM, IDA and PSB.

15 The Centre will work closely with all manpower development institutions in the private and public sectors to promote life-long learning and certification of competency. For a start, it aims to assess and certify 30,000 working adults in its first 3 years of operation. Together with various manpower development programmes (including the People Developer Standard of the PSB; the Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme of IDA; and SRP for Infocomm spearheaded by the NTUC), we aim to increase the proportion of infocomm competent workforce from the present 43% to as high as 75% within the next 10 years.

16 Last but not least, we aim to put in place a pervasive infrastructure and comprehensive platform to sustain lifelong learning in infocomm. We will leverage on the enhanced features of broadband capability and wireless accessibility, and encourage manpower development institutions and the infocomm industry to put in place an e-Learning infrastructure with interactive content to supplement the existing network of physical facilities. We will also attract and foster alliances with world-class e-Learning service providers.

ISS - Past Contributions and Future Roles

17 ISS has played a leading role in the development of infocomm professionals and specialists, as well as the upgrading of infocomm user management in the past 20 years. The ability of ISS to adapt quickly to changing technologies and changing needs of the IT and user communities in Singapore and the region has enabled ISS to remain relevant and effective all these 20 years.

18 I am also impressed by its exciting vision and sustained efforts in re-inventing itself all the times to stay on top. The establishment of the new ISS Virtual Institute will make learning even more accessible to managers and professionals. The e-learning strategy of ISS is certainly showing great promise. The first e-learning product on Certificate of IT Project Management was launched in April this year and some of the e-learning modules will be opened up for free assess by 4000 members of the Singapore Computer Society. ISS has also set an ambitious goal of training 20,000 decision makers, senior technologists and analysts by 2010. I wish you all the very best as you embark on this most exciting endeavour.

19 As we officially open the new ISS building, I would like to congratulate all the pioneers, past and present managers and staff members of ISS for your achievements in the past 20 years. ISS has played an instrumental role in the development of IT manpower in Singapore for 20 years. I thank you for your tremendous contribution to the success of National Computerisation and National IT plan in the 80's, and IT 2000 in the 90's. Looking ahead, I am confident that ISS will continue to play a key and leading role in ICT 21 I wish you great success as you gear up to play a greater role in our pursuance of an Innovation driven economy and Information Society.

Happy 20th anniversary, ISS.