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Invest In Infocomm To Grow Your Business

17 August 2006 - Opening Address By Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts At 10th Infocomm Commerce Conference, Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Opening Address By Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, and Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts At 10th Infocomm Commerce Conference on 17 August 2006, Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Mr. Chuan Thian Poh, President of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning.

1. First of all, allow me to congratulate the Chamber on its auspicious 100th anniversary. For the past century, the Chamber has played a crucial role in championing the interests of the local business community, and contributing to the economic, educational, cultural and community development of Singapore.

2. The Chamber is a key institution of Singapore's business community, and a respected and valued partner of the government. With its extensive business networks, deep industry knowledge and strong capabilities built up over the past hundred years, the Chamber will continue to be a key catalyst and driver for enterprise development and business growth in Singapore.

3. Now well into the 10th year, the annual Infocomm Commerce Conference (ICC) series organised by the Chamber has a dual purpose. Firstly, the Conference shares key business insights and infocomm strategies with our local enterprises to improve their operational efficiencies and streamline business processes. Secondly, it fosters collaboration amongst the industry players. With the support of the Chamber, local enterprises have been increasingly receptive to exploiting infocomm in their businesses. The latest statistics1 show that about three in four businesses today use infocomm appliances and the Internet. Slightly over half of businesses make use of broadband. These figures are likely to grow as enterprises seek to equip themselves with technologies to gain a competitive edge and grow their businesses.

4. We do not invest in infocomm just to save costs. Instead, we must "invest in infocomm to stay competitive". The government will help enterprises exploit infocomm by working with trade associations to update their members on infocomm opportunities and benefits, share best practices and innovative solutions.

Invest in Infocomm to Stay Competitive

5. All companies, not just technology-intensive ones, can use infocomm technology to achieve the much needed competitive edge in the increasingly global business and rapidly changing environment. Business processes can be re-engineered with infocomm to be completed faster and more cost-effectively. More importantly, infocomm helps open doors to new markets, extending companies' reach to new customers across geographical and time zones.

6. It is therefore surprising to me that some companies do not strategically invest in infocomm. For instance, IDA's survey last year revealed that some enterprises had not yet adopted broadband Internet connectivity because of high broadband costs. The good news is the cost of broadband access has come down significantly in the last two-three months. If we believe that the Internet is a tremendous tool to be tapped for greater business growth, it is worth considering that a year's worth of broadband subscription costs no more than for example, a high-end Chinese dinner serving sharks' fin and abalone.

7. In the business world, there will always be new challenges and changing customer needs. One key challenge we will all face is the changing profile of the new generation, who will be our customers of the future. This new generation of customers are growing up in the age of computers and the Internet, mobile phones and mp3, and they will only become even more tech-savvy over time. It is therefore important that we continue to reinvent and revitalise businesses to be relevant, and to engage customers meaningfully at their level.

8. Let me share with you an example of a local businessman who has embraced infocomm to improve his business. There is a dessert store owner in Chinatown who had invested in a touch screen computer to allow customers to place their dessert orders by simply touching the picture of their dessert choice, and then indicating if the order is for dining in or take away. I understand that this simple use of technology has brought the owner new business. It has also helped to reinforce its company image of being modern and well-managed. The system has also helped the owner take stock of the desserts sold and amount of ingredients left. This illustrates that even a small business can be very enterprising in the way it uses technology.

A Guide on Best Practices on IT Implementation

9. I would also like to take this opportunity today, to commend SPRING Singapore on their continued efforts to help our SMEs leverage on technologies. I am pleased to announce that SPRING has worked with the Singapore infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) to publish a guide on Best Practices on Infocomm Technology Implementation. This guide, which recognises that companies will have different infocomm needs, depending on the nature of its business and scale of operations, aims to provide step-by-step directions, as well as tips on how companies including SMEs can adopt, leverage on and derive the maximum benefits from infocomm.

Enterprise Development Updates

10. 2006 is a significant year for Singapore as we celebrate 25 years of infocomm. This year, IDA has also launched its new 10-year infocomm masterplan, iN2015, after a year of consultation with the public, private and people sectors. The iN2015 masterplan seeks to better position Singapore for the digital future, with recommendations for key sectors including local companies. I will elaborate further on some of these recommendations.

11. In the area of enterprise development, one of the technologies that have brought about a significant impact to the industry is Web Services. Web Services can facilitate interoperability among disparate systems which in turn can be translated to lower costs for a company seeking to integrate new solutions with legacy systems. This means that companies can enjoy benefits of greater automation and productivity by incrementally enhancing their IT systems as opposed to writing off and replacing their entire legacy IT investments. In addition, Web Services can also enable business transformation in industry by fostering seamless integration between enterprises and their partners.

12. To exploit this economic potential, the IDA launched the WEAVE Programme in 2003 to promote Web Services to the industry. As of today, an industry rate adoption of over 28% has been achieved. In terms of capability development, there are now more than 3,000 professionals trained in Web Services know-how in the industry, with a third attaining certification through IDA-endorsed courses. Altogether, about 65 industry projects have been supported by IDA, and amongst them are well-known names like SIA, PSA, and United Premas. The total value of investments in the industry is estimated to be S$246 million.

13. Apart from encouraging industry use of Web Services, significant headway has also been made by the government. Web Services have been deployed to share common information and services making it more convenient for businesses and public to transact with the government. For example, four licensing agencies (HSA, MDA, NEA and PUB) have implemented forty strategic Web Services, which enable real-time integration of services in the Online Business Licensing Service portal. In many cases, this effectively reduces the turnaround time for businesses to obtain their licenses from a few weeks to a few working days, or even within the same working day.

14. Moving forward, the government will be extending its Web Services to the private sector. Through the Government Web Services Exchange, businesses will be able to leverage e-government common services to save time and effort. For a start, the Web Services currently available include the business-related services offered by ACRA, the carpark-related services offered by HDB and URA, the library book catalogue services offered by NLB, and NSmen-related services offered by MINDEF.

15. In the area of manufacturing and logistics, the Collaborative High-Tech Manufacturing Plan aims to drive B2B initiatives using open standards for highly adaptive and responsive supply chains. Companies and their supply chain partners have experienced benefits through this programme. One such company that has benefited is Chartered Manufacturing which has seen 20%-40% productivity improvements in key process areas. The supply chain has become more efficient and adaptive to changes in demand for Chartered's products.

16. In the retail space, we have also seen significant improvements in the infocomm-enabled supply chain operations for the four collaborative hubs developed by Cold Storage, NTUC FairPrice, Sheng Siong and Watson's Personal Care Stores. Their IT systems are now linked by supply chain technologies and business process tools to facilitate greater collaboration with their large pool of suppliers. Initial results from their early infocomm deployments involving a few selected suppliers collectively show an average annual savings of up to S$1 million. When fully implemented, these hubs will enable them to proactively manage their business processes.


17. It is clear that infocomm will continue to transform businesses and have a direct impact on their bottom line. Local enterprises will have to prepare themselves for the future by leveraging on technologies to stay abreast of their competition. I would urge all of you to enable your businesses with infocomm so as to empower yourselves to embrace the challenges ahead.

18. Thank you.

1 Source: IDA's 2005 Survey on Infocomm Usage in Business