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17 November 2005 - Opening Remarks By Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, and Health At the Express IT! iN2015 Competition Award Ceremony, NTUC Centre Auditorium.

Opening Remarks By Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, and Health At the Express IT! iN2015 Competition Award Ceremony on 17 November 2005, NTUC Centre Auditorium.

Good morning boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen.

1. I am most happy to be here this morning to share with you the infocomm visions and aspirations expressed by our fellow Singaporeans for our nation over the next 10 years. Early this year, I spoke about the need to develop a long term masterplan to leverage on infocomm technologies to enable our nation-building efforts. We wanted to hear from Singaporeans on what you would like to see in Singapore by 2015. As such, IDA organised the Express IT! iN2015 competition in May, in collaboration with the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation and Singapore Computer Society, with the support of the Ministry of Education and The Straits Times Digital Life. Today, we will be unveiling the winning ideas from the competition.

Express IT! iN2015 Entries

2. It was most heartening to see that a large number of you had responded with suggestions on how infocomm technologies can be used to create a more conducive environment for work, learning and play. More than 3,000 entries were received from students, professionals, retirees and people from all walks of life. Many of these ideas were interesting and well-considered and they reflect a personal need for infocomm technologies to play a more vital role in education, health care and transportation. There was also no lack of creativity as the ideas were submitted on media as diverse as essays, drawings, multimedia and even poetry. The judges were so impressed with the quality of the ideas that they even considered roping in one entrant to help develop the iN2015 masterplan.

3. The entries in the Express IT! iN2015 competition show that Singaporeans recognise how technology can be used to our advantage. Many entries came from students asking for lighter school bags in the future. They want to see textbooks and classrooms shrink into one portable computer. Some of the students say they don't want textbooks or even to go to school; but to learn through e-books and virtual classrooms. We therefore need to identity ways to use technology to make learning more convenient and accessible.

4. Many of you painted a very colourful, but challenging infocomm future for Singapore. Colourful because all the ideas show much interest in an infocomm-enabled future. Challenging because the ideas can only be implemented with the combined commitment of the government, industry and people. However, challenging doesn't mean impossible. It just means the work is now cut out for every one of us; but I am confident that we can create this future together.

Challenges and Directions for Masterplan

5. In the last six months, the iN2015 Steering Committee, headed by IDA with representation from the public and private sectors, has been looking hard at the likely challenges that Singapore will face over the next decade. It has also been charting the directions upon which to develop the iN2015 masterplan, as well as identifying strategies and initiatives to build and use our infocomm capabilities for the benefit of Singapore’s development.

6. So far the Committee has identified three key areas for development in order to build an infocomm-enabled Singapore in 2015. The areas are manpower, infrastructure and enterprise development. Today, I would like to touch on infocomm manpower.

7. There are currently more than 100,000 infocomm professionals in Singapore working in both the infocomm and other economic sectors. They are mostly engaged in systems integration, infocomm solutioning and infocomm sales and marketing. As you know, countries like China and India are also establishing a name for themselves as attractive sources of low cost but well trained infocomm manpower. This means that our infocomm professionals need to find ways to remain relevant and enhance their value-add in an increasingly competitive and demanding business environment.

8. We have to differentiate ourselves and define the new playing field. We have to move up the infocomm value-chain to produce innovative products and services that serve the global, rather than just our domestic, market. This means that our infocomm professionals need to be innovative, engage in R&D and create intellectual property (IP) that can be commercialised. For example, look at Trek2000. It is a local company that invented the USB thumb drive that is now used globally.

9. Singapore is going to need more of such infocomm professionals who are both technologists and business strategists. As techno-strategists, they are creative in using technology to architect solutions that enable key growth areas, like education, healthcare, logistics and financial services, to become even more competitive.

$120m To Boost Infocomm Manpower

10. Over the next five years, the government, together with the industry, will invest S$120 million to nurture this pool of highly-skilled infocomm professionals and to develop an infocomm-savvy workforce to support Singapore's economic growth. Towards this end, IDA, has drawn up the Infocomm Manpower Development Roadmap, in consultation with the industry and educational institutions. This Roadmap is one of the foundational pillars of the iN2015 masterplan and will drive Singapore's efforts to develop an innovative, entrepreneurial, globally-competitive and infocomm-savvy workforce.

11. There is something for everyone in this five-year Roadmap. Beginning with students, we are looking at a 'Student Infocomm Outreach Programme' that brings the excitement of infocomm technology right into the schools. The establishment of Infocomm Clubs in primary and secondary schools, as well as junior colleges (JC) will be a start. Infocomm Clubs will be part of the Ministry of Education’s Co-Curricular Activities or CCA, so students can earn CCA points by participating in the Club’s activities.

12. I am pleased to announce that we are ready to roll out Infocomm Clubs in 30 schools by January next year, with the support of MOE and the industry. Our industry partners have pitched in hardware and software to develop fun-filled but industry-relevant curriculum in fast growing infocomm technology areas such as digital media, games development, mobile software and applications development, as well as security and networking. Students, I encourage you to pursue your interest in infocomm technology further, by participating in the activities of the Infocomm Clubs. You can expect a host of activities over the next year, such as competitions, mentorship, inter-school collaborations and more. In three years' time, we expect more than 150 schools to offer the Infocomm Club programme.

13. For students who want to take your interest beyond JC or the polytechnic level, you can enrol in infocomm-related undergraduate courses here or abroad, such as Business IT or Computer Engineering. There are scholarships available to help you along. I am happy to announce today, that the National Infocomm Scholarship launched last year by IDA, will be expanded to offer overseas undergraduate studies from next year onwards. We hope that by exposing young Singaporeans to infocomm technology at an early age, you will become the innovators of tomorrow, making your parents, and Singapore, proud.

14. The Roadmap will also benefit the general workforce, by making infocomm technology accessible to everyone. Regardless of your profession, you can use infocomm technology to become a more efficient and effective worker. IDA's existing Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme or CITREP, has been expanded to help the general workforce become that techno-strategist.

15. For infocomm professionals, the formulation of the National Infocomm Competency Framework that I announced in March, will define the step-by-step certification and competency requirements for a professional career in infocomm. This Framework aims to widen and deepen the infocomm capabilities of infocomm professionals and guide their professional development. The government and industry have been hard at work to get this going and the framework will be ready by the next quarter.

16. I have just given you a flavour of the programmes that you can expect under the S$120 million Infocomm Manpower Development Roadmap. I urge you to take part in these programmes as they unfold over the next year. Together, let us make Singaporeans a force to be reckoned with through our ability to leverage on infocomm.

Progress of iN2015 masterplan development

17. Moving from manpower development, I would now like to provide you with some updates on the iN2015 masterplanning exercise. The iN2015 Steering Committee is also reviewing our infocomm infrastructure and programmes to develop local enterprises. In terms of infrastructure, the Committee is now looking at how to make it faster, cheaper and more secure, to enable the realisation of ideas like virtual learning and remote healthcare. For enterprise development, the Committee is also exploring strategies and programmes to help our local infocomm companies grow and expand into relatively untapped markets like Russia and the Middle East, beyond the commonly cited prospects in China and India.

Build our Infocomm Future Together

18. The iN2015 masterplan will have to be bold and ambitious to help us navigate the challenges in the ever changing global landscape over the next ten years. The future possibilities are limitless. I am sure you will all be inspired, as I was, by the digital future that was painted by the Express IT! Competition entries. All the entries are available for viewing online and some of the top entries will also be on display at selected libraries over the next three months. I encourage each and every one of you to continue contributing inputs and ideas to shape our future. Just like what we are seeing today from the Express IT! iN2015 competition entries, our infocomm future can be a most enriching and colourful one.