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Regional Collaboration for ICT Growth in Asia

Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore Speech - ASOCIO-ICT Ministerial Dialogue, Asian Oceanian Computing Industry Organisation (ASOCIO) ICT Summit

Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
Speech - ASOCIO-ICT Ministerial Dialogue, Asian Oceanian Computing Industry Organisation (ASOCIO) ICT Summit
Hanoi, Vietnam, 29 November 2003

Honorable Chairman, Deputy Prime Minister, H. E. Pham Gia Khiem Your Excellencies,
Mr Manoo Ordeedolchest, President, ASOCIO,
Distinguished colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen


1. It is a pleasure for me to be here once again to join distinguished Ministers and my fellow counterparts from the region at this second Dialogue Session organised by ASOCIO. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate ASOCIO and VINASA (Vietnam Software Association) together with the support of the Vietnam government for putting together a successful ICT Summit in Hanoi.

2. When we met at this forum in Chiangmai last year, it was amidst a gloomy landscape. Infocomm spending was down and the outlook of the global economy was at its lowest. The terrorist attacks in the region and appearance of SARS did not help. However in the last quarter, there seems to be a break in the clouds. According to an article by EIU1 - it says that "there are signs that the global telecoms and IT industry is headed for a rebound -- with Asia as both the main catalyst and primary beneficiary."

3. What is even more interesting is the observation made in the same article. The author wrote that even in the darkest period of the dot com doom, Asian policy makers never stopped believing in ICT's ability to transform their economies. It is indeed this faith in the potential of ICT that has brought us here today to discuss how we can further our collaborative efforts to grow this potential for Asia.

Connected Asia: For Greater Growth Opportunities

4. This brings me to the Connected Asia initiative which ASOCIO has championed since 2001. The objective behind the Connected Asia initiative is to harness complementary strengths of excellence in the region to help grow the Asian ICT market and enhance our competitiveness in the global ICT arena.

5. Both governments and businesses will need to have a stake in building the concept of a Connected Asia. Whilst governments build the foundation and provide the initial impetus for inter-region linkages, the real strength and value will have to come from collaboration among business communities.

6. Last year, Singapore had suggested at this forum that ASOCIO members come together to flesh out some of the quick wins that can be accomplished under the Connected Asia initiative. I am pleased to note that one such project has come to fruition.

7. That project would be the recent Singapore and Thailand industry collaboration to create an electronic document exchange for the travel industry. Code-named XIP-TS, which actually stands for XML Interop Platform for Travel Services, this was a partnership that was initiated between the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) and the Association of Thai Computer Industry (ATCI).

8. Through this partnership, both parties will jointly develop a system for travel agents in Thailand and Singapore to electronically exchange relevant business documents domestically and bilaterally. This paperless system will improve information sharing, increase transaction speed and reduce turnaround time, whilst lowering paper-processing costs.

9. The partnership demonstrates how an industry-led inter-country initiative can help to overcome a common business challenge faced by the travel industry for both countries. By harnessing the power of ICT, the travel industry in both countries can now make use of XIP-TS to tackle the problem of increasing disintermediation and thinning margins. I believe that the prototype developed can eventually be applied for use by other member economies within ASOCIO.

10. I applaud the efforts of SiTF and ATCI in taking the bold step to conceptualise and concretise the XIP-TS project. I would like to urge the members of ASOCIO to continue to push for more of such projects and opportunities.

11. Beyond the XIP-TS project, I am also told that the SiTF and ATCI are now in discussion on a proposal to implement a joint certification programme for project management in the area of computer arts, animation and multimedia. I would like to take this opportunity to invite other members to participate in the project.

ASEAN Collaboration

12. The call for Asia's IT cities to work together was also reinforced among ASEAN member countries at this year's Third ASEAN Telecom Ministers' Meeting which was recently concluded in Singapore. The chair of the meeting, H. E Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts of Singapore, emphasized that governments, industry and the community each had important roles to play in maintaining the continued growth of ASEAN ICT agenda.

13. In a concerted ASEAN-wide effort, the ASEAN ICT Ministers endorsed an Action Agenda, with clear timeframes, to realise an integrated ASEAN Economic Community. They include:

*Firstly, to enhance Cybersecurity in the region - ASEAN countries will take concrete steps to create a more secure cyberspace and ICT by developing and operationalising national Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTS) by 2005. All member countries by 2004, will have in place a common framework for sharing cybersecurity threat and vulnerability assessment information. Cybersecurity expertise and information will be shared among member countries to help develop cybersecurity policies and exchange real-time information on cybersecurity issues.

*Secondly to promote ICT Market Integration - To facilitate trade and investment within ASEAN, countries will expedite implementation of Mutual Recognition Arrangements (MRA) on conformity assessment for telecommunication equipment and implement Phase 1 MRA by 2005. Such harmonised standards for telecommunication equipment testing will lessen time to market, lower business costs and help create a common market for ICT goods and services.

* Third, Bridging the Digital Divide - To narrow the digital divide, ASEAN countries will share best practices in the rolling out of network and services, including the use of Universal Service Obligation (USO) schemes and promotion of ICT usage. An ASEAN connect portal was launched, at the meeting, to provide a publicly accessible digital divide database. It will house key data statistics and measurement indicators, analysis of initiatives to bridge the digital divide and other relevant information.

*And fourthly to build ICT Capacity & Capabilities - The Ministers endorsed the need for cross-certification among various high-quality ICT courses and certification programmes available today in member countries. Countries will promote networking of and collaboration between ICT skills competency centres in the region, and establish a regional mechanism for promotion of cross-certification of ICT programmes by 2004.

14. Besides the four initiatives, the ASEAN ICT Ministers also endorsed the strengthening of the ASEAN Secretariat's ICT capabilities with the aim to create an ASEAN ICT centre to manage and administer the ASEAN ICT Work Programme. This illustrates the commitment by the ASEAN ICT Ministers to ensure the implementation of the initiatives that has been endorsed.


15.There is no doubt that ICT will be the next engine of growth for Asia as well as a key enabler for Asian businesses to innovate and create higher value-add. The Asian ICT sector will be a major contributor to the global economy if we continue in our efforts to work together.

16. Finally, on behalf of the Singapore delegation, I would like to once again thank the Vietnam Government and VINASA for hosting this Summit and for extending such warm hospitality to the delegates and participants.

17. Thank You.