Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Communications & Information Technology - Speech SCS Festival 2001, Orchard Hotel

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Communications & Information Technology - Speech
SCS Festival 2001, Orchard Hotel

Singapore, 24 May 2001

Mr Martin Tsang, President of Singapore Computer Society
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning. It is my pleasure to be here with you this morning at the Singapore Computer Society (SCS) Festival 2001. This event has brought together many distinguished practitioners and industry experts to share experiences and information on IT practice and developments.

Current Business Climate

1 This is a particularly challenging period for all of us in the infocomm industry. Globally, market sentiments have been adversely affected by the plunge in NASDAQ, the collapse of dot-com firms and the slump in the profits of Internet giants such as CISCO. There are also signs that the US economy is headed for a difficult period and the US Federal Reserve has not signalled an end in sight to its campaign to reinvigorate the sluggish US economy.

2 We are facing similar challenges in Singapore. As an illustration, the latest Straits Times Consumer Confidence Index has plummeted from the June '99 height of 358 to 142, the lowest since the last economic crisis in '98.

3 The current infocomm landscape is certainly not as radiant as that two years ago. The dot.com entrepreneurs who were sacrificing profits for a larger market share had realised that the "Get Big Fast At All Costs" strategy is not the winning formula. Many businesses have begun to re-examine the dot-com models of "clicks without mortar". The current realism is a timely reminder of business fundamentals.

4 However, we must not be misled into concluding that all the earlier promises of Internet have evaporated into thin air because they have not. Instead, what we have witnessed over the past 18 months were the experiments in Internet business ventures that can be expected in a nascent industry. Obviously, not everything is rosy; some have succeeded and others have failed. The way forward is to learn from the first generation of failed Internet ventures to come up with business models that are sustainable and profitable.

5 Industry analyst, International Data Group or IDG, predicts that on a worldwide basis, the year-on-year growth of B2B e-commerce will hit US$500 billion in 2001, up from around US$280 billion in 2000. Such a positive projection comes amidst the current state of global economy.

Digital Transformation

6 Singapore has been moving steadfastly towards digital transformation. Our companies in Singapore are quick to adapt to the changes in this dynamic economy. Our people are also embracing an e-lifestyle. B2B e-Commerce sales in Singapore grew from $40 billion in 1999 to an estimated $92 billion in 2000. It is projected to reach $109 billion in 2001. Even for the much maligned B2C e-commerce, there has been remarkable growth - from $36 million in 1998, $200 million in 1999 to an estimated $1.17 billion in 2000. This figure is continuously increasing and the total consumer spending over the Internet is expected to reach $2.75 billion by the end of this year The figures are from the Survey on E-Commerce 2000 by IDA and the Department of Statistics (DOS)..

7 There are also healthy growth trends in e-commerce across the major economic sectors, including the Finance and Banking sector, the Transport, Storage and Communication sector, the Wholesale & Retail sector, and the Manufacturing sector. In all these sectors, strong market interest exists in embracing industry-related Internet applications, such as e-logistics and e-insurance.

8 Companies have recognised that e-business and e-enablement are part and parcel of their business plans and operations. Companies have also begun to realise the value of the "bricks and clicks" approach. This evolving mindset in digital transformation will steer companies towards adopting a stronger focus on core competencies as they re-engineer their business models.

9 Achieving operational excellence, optimising distribution and sales channels, and enhancing customer service form the thrust of e-enablement. The B2B and B2C evolution towards operational efficiency will build upon these fundamentals to leverage on Internet technologies. In moving into the digital age, companies need to review of their business strategies and operational processes to infuse a new lease of life to strengthen their core competencies. Examples include the "Nikes" and "DollarDEXes" of this era, who are enjoying successes by channeling their investments and focusing their energies to work on what they do best.

10 However, the e-business game is not over. Companies need to continue to learn and re-learn the rules of e-competition, equip themselves with the capabilities to meet new challenges and to create business opportunities. The bleak market sentiments right now serve as a training ground that challenges us to look for leaner and meaner ways of competing.

Manpower Training

11 According to a market survey, the majority of our e-business savvy workforce are competent with Internet applications, including e-mailing, information retrieval, software downloads and subscription of online news, with 74% of them at ease with e-Government transactions.

12 However, a large number of our workforce had not attended any infocomm-related courses in the last one year. With infocomm technologies and businesses constantly evolving, we must ensure that our workforce continue to possess relevant skills, and are competent to meet new needs and challenges. More importantly, we should promote the spirit of lifelong learning. Now would be a good time for companies to focus on manpower training in the area of infocomm to face up to the greater challenges in digital transformation.

13 Currently, there is a wide spectrum of manpower development programmes, ranging from those tailored for infocomm professionals to general IT literacy courses for the masses. We hope to further extend infocomm training and development by introducing specialised incentive programmes to the general business community.

New training programme

14 The Ministry of Manpower, or MOM, and Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, or IDA, have jointly identified e-business skills as a critical infocomm skill and are working on the e-Business Savviness Programme.

15 This programme aims to encourage the middle level managers and non-infocomm professionals to embrace e-business in their operations and management. As they form the core thrust of the e-economy, it is important to instill them with e-business savviness and to encourage them to think "e-business" in their management and professional practices.

16 Three focal categories have been identified for the e-Business Savviness Programme - e-business development, e-business management and e-business vertical applications.

17 First, the e-business development training aims to proliferate e-business appreciation and practice among key decision-makers and professionals as they embark on the business renewal process. This is important because developing an understanding of the e-business environment and infrastructure forms the foundation for new e-initiatives.

18 Second, the e-business management training aims to equip managers and professionals with an understanding of e-business strategies, planning and operation processes. It will equip them with a good knowledge of the competitive environment, which will encourage them to drive and champion their companies' e-business.

19 Finally, the e-business vertical applications training aims to internalize e-practices in professional practices such as e-commerce for maintenance, repairs and operations, or e-MRO in short, for the manufacturing industry, e-insurance for the insurance industry and Supply Chain Management for the retail and wholesale industry.

20 MOM and IDA will be releasing the details of this new e-Business Savviness training programme and the incentive schemes soon.


21 In conclusion, the evolution of e-business models is far from over. New rules are still emerging and new opportunities arising. Companies must develop their e-business models to compete effectively in the current environment. To support such efforts, "e-skills" must be developed and enhanced among the workforce. We have to equip our manpower pool with the necessary e-skills to prepare them for challenges in digital transformation. A lifelong learning mentality must also be built up to ensure that we consciously keep ourselves abreast of developments in this dynamic infocomm arena.

22 I trust that you will walk away from this conference equipped with new knowledge to brave through the road of digital transformation.

Thank you.