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Developing Singapore Into A Digital Media Hub

20 August 2007 - Speech By Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State For Foreign Affairs and Information, Communications And The Arts At The State Of Play V Conference, Marina Mandarin.

Speech By Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Senior Minister of State For Foreign Affairs and Information, Communications and The Arts At The State Of Play V Conference on 20 August 2007, Marina Mandarin.

Ms Beth Noveck, Founder of State of Play,
Mr Aaron Delwiche and Mr Dan Hunter, Conference Co-Chairs,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

1. It is my pleasure to be here today to officiate this State of Play V conference on behalf of the Singapore Government. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to the organisers and foreign delegates.

2. We are honoured that Singapore has been selected as the venue for the conference's first staging outside of the United States. We hope to share our perspective in the discussions on virtual worlds, being uniquely positioned as the gateway between the East and West.

Singapore - A Thriving infocomm and Media Cluster

3. This year's State of Play conference focuses on cyberspace issues: its future, the impact of these online immersive virtual worlds on education, law and society and its implications for the government and people in this digital age.  These are very relevant emerging issues as the world becomes increasingly porous. It is certainly useful that the conference will delve into these issues from the multi-disciplinary perspective. We must equip and prepare ourselves to exploit the new opportunities opening up.  We also need to plan ahead to manage the profound changes that these infocomm technologies will bring and its attendant impact on our society, government and people.

4. Let me take this opportunity to share with you some national initiatives that have been introduced to grow a thriving infocomm and media cluster in Singapore.

iN2015 Digital Media and Entertainment

5. To address the rapid changes in infocomm technology and its critical role as a key enabler in this digital age, the Singapore Government developed and launched a 10-year strategic masterplan aptly named Intelligent Nation 2015, or iN2015, in June last year. The intent of this ICT roadmap is to identify new opportunities and possibilities for Singapore to promote our economy and enhance the quality of our citizens' lives. In particular, we aim to mould Singapore into a global interactive and digital media capital offering innovative content, services and technologies to the world.

6. Two key strategic thrusts were established under the iN2015. The first looks at developing Singapore into a centre for the creation and commercialisation of digital media and entertainment technologies. This will help generate technologies and platforms for media and entertainment companies to create content and services. The second thrust seeks to develop Singapore as global node that provides core services for storing, trading and distributing digital assets. We also aim to provide the necessary infrastructure for the processing, management and delivery of content and services. These thrusts will provide the foundation to propel Singapore into the digital age, which will see pervasive and immersive use of virtual worlds.

Efforts in Interactive & Digital Media

7. Singapore is also accelerating the development of our Interactive & Digital Media (IDM) sector to firmly position Singapore as a global media city. To this end, the Singapore Government has set aside S$500 million (US$329 million) over five years from 2006 to increase our IDM research and development (R&D) capacity and capabilities. Thus far, the year-old R&D programme to stimulate the digital media sector has supported 32 industry projects and 20 academic research projects.

8. A comprehensive framework has been put in place to build a thriving ecosystem comprising IDM industries, institutes of higher learning, the public sector and individuals to spur innovative applications, services and platforms and to drive demand for such services.  Companies, start-ups or passionate individuals with innovative products, applications or platforms for test-bedding can also tap on initiatives and programmes designed to help develop applications, business models, solutions and services. Innovations spun out by this initiative will seed collaborations between industry and these budding start-ups or individuals, with the possibility of some of the ideas being eventually commercialised.

9. We have also forged collaborations with some of the world's best R&D institutions. Take for instance the establishment of GAMBIT (which stands for Gamers, Aesthetics, Mechanics, Business, Innovation, Technology), a game lab which we established with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). GAMBIT aims to further digital game research globally and develop world-class academic programmes in game technology. This will undoubtedly help entrench Singapore as a vital node in the international game industry.

10. This five-year research initiative will see some 200 of our best digital media students work side by side with the MIT researchers to address important challenges faced by the global digital game research community and industry, with the core focus on identifying and solving research problems using a multi-disciplinary approach. The pioneer batch of some 31 Singapore students will be returning from their internship at GAMBIT this month. I am sure they have gained invaluable insight into the digital game industry during their stints.

Virtual Worlds

11. The Singapore government is also well aware of the untapped potential of virtual worlds such as Second Life as a platform for multi-party collaboration and community outreach.  Just as Linden Labs, the US-based creator of Second Life, is taking steps to establish a Singapore presence, several of our government agencies have begun exploring how Singapore could establish an online presence as well. Earlier this year, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore procured a small island on Second Life, and embarked on a collaborative project with a local polytechnic to experiment hands-on experiential learning in these cyber worlds. Our Tourism Board and Economic Development Board have also gotten into the act, looking at ways to tap the potential of these brave new worlds and devising new ways of engaging their stakeholders.

12. I am told that a group of Singaporeans are already one step ahead of us. They have created a replica of Singapore on an island called 'Lion City' in Second Life. This grassroots or ground-up effort is commendable, as other than fostering a sense of national identity and pride, it clearly demonstrates our ordinary citizens’ drive to tap on the potential of the digital age. To date, the group has rendered an online replica of Suntec City, complete with the Fountain of Wealth, Chinatown, as well as some local coffeeshops. If you have the chance to visit these tourist spots, with Suntec City just opposite this hotel, you can compare the authenticity of the online version to the real sights.


13. Indeed, these are exciting times where new channels of communication and interactions are created in cyberspace, impacting lives and creating new types of social communities.  I hope this conference will provide a good and useful platform for a vibrant exchange of ideas and views on harnessing such technologies to build a virtual world that enhances our lives.  I would also encourage you to explore what is uniquely Singapore in the real world, our multi-racial culture, increasingly cosmopolitan people and our vibrant night life.

14. On this note, I wish you an insightful and enjoyable time at the conference. Thank you.