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Capitalising Broadband for Businesses

Mr Leong Keng Thai, Acting Chief Executive Officer/Director-General (Telecom) Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore Opening Address - Broadband Media Conference, Suntec Singapore

Mr Leong Keng Thai, Acting Chief Executive Officer/Director-General (Telecom)
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
Opening Address - Broadband Media Conference, Suntec Singapore
Singapore, 26 April 2002

Mr Ong Teck Guan, Chairman of Broadband Media Association
Distinguished guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

1. First let me extend my heartfelt congratulations to Broadband Media Association for organising this event. It is very timely as this month is the broadband month.

2. Companies in Singapore today, are already at an advantage if they want to leverage on Infocomm Technology for their businesses. The government together with the industry had taken a leap of faith 5 years ago with a vision that a good information infrastructure will be a worthwhile investment to enable Singaporeans to use IT for work, for learning and for play. This has resulted in a world's first nationwide broadband infrastructure with 99% coverage. So how can companies make use of the available infrastructure to generate value for their businesses? Let me just give you a few examples of organisations that have done so successfully.

3. The Supreme Court, for example, was awarded the most innovative use of IT for its e-litigation system which enables e-filing and e-hearing two days ago, at the IDA National Infocomm Awards. Today, about 83% of the court documents are filed electronically and Supreme Court users are able to access some of these files at selected locations within the area with wireless Local Area Network. They are not stopping at that. A multi-party web-based video conferencing over broadband between the Supreme Court, Subordinate courts, Attorney General Chambers as well as the legal firms will be launched very soon. This web-based video conferencing system will allow lawyers to conduct their administrative or non-contentious hearings with the court from the comfort and convenience of their offices. The lawyers can save travelling and waiting time and convert this to productive billable time. It is estimated that the legal industry can potentially save up to $30million a year.

4. A property project by Keppel Land - the "Caribbean" at Keppel Bay has integrated Broadband facilities into the development of the property. It provides residents with broadband access and a host of innovative services that includes interactive WebPad to control home systems and a network web surveillance camera to screen visitors at the lobby. The property developer also used broadband applications to spice up their online marketing efforts. The Caribbean at Keppel Bay has an online portal that allows potential buyers to first enjoy a walk through of the show flat without physically being there.

5. The third example is Victoria Junior College. Here, teachers use interactive animation and modelling to teach students on the law of physics. Developed together with education service providers, an experiment using an animated "Hot Air Balloon" allows students to adjust wind velocity and heat intake to move a balloon from one point to another. These are all conducted online over broadband so that all the students can have access to this model at the same time and experiment with the different variables and observe the different outcomes generated.

6. The courts and the legal firms generate value through increased savings and profitability; the property company enhanced the value of their development through better facilities and creative marketing; and the school generated value for the students by making learning more effective and enjoyable.

7. The ability to generate value will be the key to sustaining competitive advantage in this new economy and especially in today's economic climate. It has become apparent that it is no longer enough to just be more productive or simply add value on existing products and services. To thrive and succeed in the new economy, companies will have to change their ways of doing things. The new economy, as described in Business Week Online, will be about competing for the future; the ability to create new products and services; and the ability to transform existing businesses into new entities that yesterday could not be imagined and the day after tomorrow obsolete. It will be driven by knowledge and innovation and the emphasis will be on value creation. Infocomm Technology such as Broadband can be used by businesses to enable them to build up their competitive advantage in the new economy.

8. So, how can companies leverage on broadband for their businesses? I do not have all the answers but I have 3 suggestions. First - companies can create new business opportunities through development of innovative products and services. Secondly - It can be used to help innovate and transform existing business processes and thirdly to help generate and build knowledge capital to shorten learning cycles for companies.

9. A recent survey commissioned by IDA on broadband usage showed that there are currently some 950,000 users in Singapore. Half of them access broadband services from home while the other half from the office. The growth of users accessing from office accelerated significantly during the last two years as more commercial buildings become broadband enabled. Today there are 330 buildings with broadband access and many companies are already using broadband for their online access. This provides a good market potential for B2B companies to either create distribution channels or deliver new products and services online. The survey also showed that almost half of the users read or watch news webcast and about 42% download music while about one third use broadband for online games. This will be good news for those involved in the media, entertainment and games industry as users on broadband are spending more time in these activities. Although e-Learning and telecommuting is quite low at an average of 4% in terms of usage, the growth potential in this area is high as more office buildings become broadband enabled. Education and application service providers can take this opportunity to develop products and services for this market.

10. Secondly, businesses can also harness the use of broadband to re-engineer the way they communicate; market and deliver their products and services to their customers. In the insurance sector for example, it is important for the insurance agent to keep the sales cycle as short as possible so that they will be able to get their customers to commit more quickly. Most of these meetings are usually conducted out of the office at food courts and cafes etcetera. The most efficient of agents will still need perhaps a second meeting to generate the contract as well as the terms and conditions for their clients to go through before they sign on the dotted line. Imagine today with over 40 wireless broadband hotspots in Singapore at cafes and food courts, agents armed with notebook, wireless LAN card and remote access back to office can access their corporate resources from the start to generate a contract. With a portable printer or better still, as part of enhanced service provided by the cafe? - The agent is able to use their printer to print out the contract for their client. If the agent is fortunate, I would imagine a sale can be closed more quickly. The increased savings with shorter sales cycle and potential revenue generation through more effective sales processes will certainly benefit the finance and insurance sector.

11. Businesses have also used broadband to help manage some of their operations. Breadtalk a local bakery, for example, use webcams to monitor its eleven branches remotely. Transmitted real-time over broadband, the company is able to ensure that the bakeries are managed professionally; keep track of inventory and even conduct market study by observing customer behaviour and purchasing habits. This exemplifies the innovative use of technology to enhance business operations and generate greater value.

12. The new economy will be a knowledge-based one. As Robert Harris, author of "The New Paradigm of Business" said, "The most visible differences between the corporation of the future and its present day counterpart will not be the products they make or the equipment they use, but who will be working, how they will be working, why they will be working and what work will mean to them". A critical asset of the company will be the cumulative knowledge and experience of their employees that had been built through the years. In a world where the product life cycle is getting shorter and shorter, the competitive advantage of a company will be one that can learn faster than their competitors or emerging competitors. Technologies like broadband can help shorten the learning cycle as it allows for several dimensions of learning and sharing of information. Rich media materials such as videos can be archived; 3-Dimensional rendering on product specifications can be shown virtually over the broadband; interactive and guided learning modules or simulations can help enhance learning process. Employees in different countries can now engage in discussions through video conferencing and projects can be jointly developed remotely from several countries. The possibilities for online learning and the transmission of information have been greatly transformed with the availability of high-speed access. All the above ties back to the value of building a knowledge asset within the company, which in turn enables the company to move faster with instant access to global information and knowledge resources.

13. I hope that I have illustrated some examples on how businesses can capitalise on broadband to help create value and new opportunities. The growth of broadband in Singapore has spawned a strong base of over 300 experienced interactive multimedia broadband industry players from access provision, content creation to aggregation, hosting and delivery. The liberalisation of telecommunications sector and the policy of broadband open access have also brought about the entry of more access providers. I remember not too long ago that there were only 2 access providers, today, there are some 12 of them and prices for broadband access have fallen substantially. It is therefore time, for companies to consider how you can capitalise on broadband for the benefit of your businesses.

14. This conference organised by the Broadband Media Association has brought together both the service providers and corporate users to share their experiences on integrating broadband for their business.

15. I am glad to be part of this event and would thank the Broadband Media Association for inviting me here today. I am also happy to see invited speakers from other parts of the region as it shows that the case for broadband is not only limited for Singapore and that the region as a whole will need to determine how they can move ahead to make use of the available technology to meet the challenges of the new economy.

16. Ladies and gentlemen, the infrastructure is in place, the products and services are available and the support from an experienced base of the broadband industry players can be garnered. The challenge therefore lies in how you will use it to bring out the maximum potential for your organisation.

17. I wish all of you a very successful conference today.

Thank You.