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E-Commerce - The Gateway to Commerce

Mr Lam Chuan Leong, Chairman, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore - Speech Britain and Singapore : Regional EC Hubs Seminar, Shangri-La Hotel ...

Mr Lam Chuan Leong, Chairman, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore - Speech
Britain and Singapore : Regional EC Hubs Seminar, Shangri-La Hotel

Singapore, 19 Jun 2003

Good Morning
Your Excellency, Alan Collins, British High Commissioner to Singapore,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share some thoughts with you on the subject of e-commerce.

Commerce is a vital subject to Singapore. Our very city itself was founded for the purpose of commerce. Commerce is the lifeblood of the modern economy. But it is also probably the oldest business in the world. There are reports of Chinese silk found in Egyptian tombs some 4000 years ago. Since those early days, commerce has become more sophisticated, easier, and more voluminous. Centuries ago, the invention of money propelled commerce to greater heights.

I believe strongly, today, information technology will be the invention to lead the next great spurt in international commerce. That is why we have chosen this topic for today, as E-commerce will become be the new Gateway to Commerce.

Let me mention here are some things we did to prepare ourselves for e-commerce.

First of all, trade involves documents, signatures and binding contracts. These can only be enforced within a proper legal framework. So, as early as 1998, Singapore passed the Electronic Transactions Act. We were amongst the 1st few in the world to do so. The Act gives legal status to the use of electronic records and signatures.

But trade also requires parties to trust one another. Electronic trade requires trust even more because it is conducted over a faceless network. We need authentication of parties, of signatures, etc. Hence we build up a Public Key Infrastructure to provide a strong means of authentication.

We also formed the PKI Forum Singapore and joined the Asia PKI Forum comprising countries such as Japan, Korea, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau and India. Through Asia PKI Forum, we work towards mutual recognition of digital certificates amongst countries. In addition, we are working to identify and harmonise legal gaps and issues in conducting e-Commerce across 8 economies - Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Chinese Taipei.

Another initiative to foster trust is the TrustSg programme. Companies can qualify for the TrustSg mark if they have sound e-business practices and adhere to a code of practice including online security and data privacy. Currently, 40 companies have qualified for these trustmarks. In a few days'time, we are very happy that the TrustSg programme will receive a major international award.

Besides trust, communication is vital for trade. A common standard or language that allows information to flow seamlessly from one system to another will greatly facilitate trade. Singapore has therefore strongly promoted the RosettaNet as the open standards for companies in high-tech industry to participate in information and data exchange quickly and at low cost. Currently, 60 companies are on RosettaNet. They benefit from less data entry, less error and thus save costs.

These measures that I have mentioned lay the foundation of e-Commerce. But laying the foundation by itself is not enough. We need to facilitate its adoption by companies and individuals.

Hence, IDA has helped to fund 47 projects to develop and deploy e-enabling solutions and industry-wide infrastructure and applications. IDA also helped fund the training of 1,200 individuals in e-commerce technical implementation, management and applications over the last one and a half years.

I would like to say a few words here on how Web Services applications can help e-commerce. By its nature, e-commerce must involve inter-company connections. Each party need to share information, connect with trading partners, look for other partners and to let others find you. Currently, transactions are mainly amongst parties who know one another.

Web services is a technology that can help different services integrate better by "wrapping-around" existing IT solutions in companies. So you do not have to spend extra money to change your IT systems. Web services can link IT systems of different business partners or services to each other so that information and transactions can be transmitted seamlessly. Very importantly, Web services can help companies locate preferred partners and conduct transactions with them with a single point of access. Because of the value of web services, IDA last month launched a $40million programme called WEAVE, known as Web Services Add Value to Enterprises, to promote the development of Web Services in Singapore over the next 3 years.

We have some outstanding examples of the adoption of e-commerce. We have also been ranked internationally first or second in various measures of e-preparedness. The statistics on trade also confirm the trend of increasing e-commerce. Between 1999 and 2001, B2B e-commerce volume increased 2.5 times. In the same period, the number of SME's doing e-commerce increased from very little to 33,000.

These figures suggest a high adoption rate of e-commerce in Singapore. We are all aware that the economy is not in the best state of health. However, we should look to the opportunities ahead when better times return.

I can see there are three opportunities. The first opportunity is e-commerce itself. I want to re-iterate the point that e-commerce is the gateway to future trade growth. All companies must find a way through it or risk being left behind.

The second opportunity is that e-commerce is still in the growth phase. Many e-commerce applications and new technologies have yet to be exploited. IT companies can look for rewarding work in these areas.

The third opportunity is Singapore's history. Nearly 200 years ago, Singapore was founded as a trading hub. Now we are still a key global trading hub. In the bygone days, agreements were signed by quill pens and goods transported by ships. Today, signatures are electronically signed and authenticated. Goods like software and multi-media content are transported digitally over the telephones. The methods of commerce are different but the aim is the same. Namely, to trade. So on this note, I would like to welcome all our friends overseas to come here and keep Singapore growing as a global trading hub.

Thank you and have a pleasant morning.

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