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Infocomm Singapore: Innovations In Action

18 January 2007 - Speech By Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports And Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts At SiTF 2007 ICT Business Outlook Forum, Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Speech By Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports And Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts At The SiTF 2007 ICT Business Outlook Forum on 18 January 2007, Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Mr Pek Yew Chai, Chairman of SiTF,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

Moving into the Digital Age

1. Last year marked 25 years since we first took up the challenge to systematically transform Singapore by exploiting infocomm technology. Infocomm has now permeated every facet of our lives - social, economic and political. It has also become a critical infrastructure for our economy. Proof of this lies in the disruption we all felt when the earthquake in Taiwan temporarily disrupted our internet access.

2. 2006 was also significant because we launched Intelligent Nation or iN2015, Singapore's ten-year masterplan with a vision to build Singapore into an intelligent nation and a global city powered by infocomm. One of the key iN2015 initiatives introduced last year was free wireless access for users in many public places. I understand that more than 180,000 subscribers have signed up for the service since its launch last month. The programme has also dramatically changed the broadband landscape in Singapore, resulting in more competitive pricing and service offerings. In addition to this, we also launched the NEU PC Plus programme, which aims to equip low-income families with PCs, are also helping to ensure a digitally inclusive society with opportunities for all.

3. The profile of Singapore consumers has been evolving. In IDA's latest survey on Infocomm Usage Annual in Households and by Individuals, 78% of all households in Singapore have at least one computer at home and the number of households having internet access has now reached 71%1. The survey also revealed that nearly 9 in every 10 households with school-going children have at least one computer at home.

4. Online services such as instant messaging, use of e-mails and using the web to retrieve information were the more popular applications among Internet users aged 15 to 59. It goes beyond this age group. We see more and more seniors jumping on the band wagon. Online shopping is also on the rise. About a third of these users made online purchases in the past 12 months. The most popular goods and services purchased online by this group were travel-related products such as air tickets and tickets for entertainment.

5. With pervasive internet access and prices of broadband falling, the consumer can access online products and services anywhere, anytime. This all means there are growing business opportunities for companies and organisations looking to woo these Digital Age consumers.

Growing Opportunities

6. The Singapore infocomm industry is thus well poised to tap into growing opportunities in the Digital Age. I believe our infocomm industry is set for further growth and to make its mark on the international scene. Our export revenue crossed the 50% mark in 20022 and has continued to grow since then.

7. IDA's preliminary estimates indicate that the 2006 Infocomm Industry revenue will hit S$40 billion for the first time. This is up from S$37.8 billion reported for 2005. The estimated growth rate for our industry last year was 6%.

8. Looking ahead, business sentiments continue to be positive. According to a report from IDC, worldwide end-users spent US$1.16 trillion on information technology last year. Such IT spending is expected to increase at a compound growth rate (CAGR) of 6.3% to reach US$1.48 trillion by 2010. The question is what will be your share in the expanding pie.

9. In emerging markets such as the Middle East, various measures are taken to attract foreign investment as they liberalise their economies to transform themselves beyond being oil producers. According to a 2004 IDC report, covering the Middle East and North Africa, it is estimated that the region's IT market is set to grow from US$6.9 billion 3 years ago and will reach US$13.4 billion by 2008. This region is, therefore, the third fastest growing IT market in the world after India and China.

Going Global

10. The Singapore infocomm industry must seize the opportunities from this positive global IT business outlook.

11. Singapore is already well known for its exploitation of infocomm for daily lives. For example, we have been consistently ranked among the top three in the annual World Economic Forum Global IT Report over the past three years.

12. Our local infocomm companies have also been making inroads into the overseas markets based on real life successful products and expertise developed locally. For example, following the success of BackPack.Net project in Singapore, three Singapore companies iCell, Heulab and Amdon Consulting will be launching the pilot phase of the eSchoolBag project in Qatar. Similarly, Crimson Logic has ventured into the mountainous region of Uttaranchal in India to design, develop and implement the Citizen Data Vault (CDV) which will provide a single source of citizen data for the State’s 109 government departments. Another example is Singapore's successful Public Service Infrastructure initiative developed by Ecquaria and is now giving residents in Qatar, Mexico and Brunei a convenient one-stop access for government services delivered through the internet. Meanwhile, NCS has been active in Hong Kong where they are launching a one-stop secure document and record management solution for Hong Kong's Immigration Department. In addition, with the success of Singapore’s taxi fleet management system, ST Electronics has gone overseas and recently clinched a deal to develop the same system for all taxis in Mumbai. To enable more of our companies to break into new overseas markets, IDA will be working in tandem with IE Singapore to showcase our capabilities in the local workspace and global marketspace.

Build Your IP, Build the Brand

13. However, we need to have stronger branding on the world stage. In a perception audit initiated by SiTF, IDA and IESingapore conducted last year among ICT stakeholders in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and China, India's infocomm industry was ranked first in Asia, followed by Singapore and China. The other close contenders were Taiwan and Malaysia.

14. Despite our good ranking and some would even say, a reputation for having built an excellent e-Government solution, there are very few Singapore technology brands that people would associate as Singapore-owned, Singapore-made. We have the technology, talent and infrastructure, but there is a lack of international awareness of our strengths and confidence in what our local infocomm companies have to offer. As a result, we fall behind countries like Japan and Korea who have consistently capitalised on their strong brand image over the years.

15. In addition, we need to fight for mindshare in the highly competitive global market. As the perception audit shows, there is a lack of awareness of the Singapore infocomm capabilities. I am pleased to note that the IDA and IE Singapore, together with SiTF, have already embarked on an exercise to develop and market a distinct Singapore Infocomm Brand. The brand will have a two-fold benefit for local enterprises. First, it will elevate the perceived value of Singapore's infocomm products and services both locally and internationally and also generate stronger recognition of the quality and uniqueness of Singapore's infocomm products and services.

16. But a brand cannot be an empty shell and it needs real intellectual property (IP). To help our companies develop their own IP for both the domestic and overseas markets, the IDA will implement the Infocomm Enterprise Programme so that companies can receive assistance in developing innovative, high impact products and services that can be exported overseas. The creation of intellectual property will be a key in ensuring we have the competitive edge for our companies in the global market.

17. We also want to create a strong market presence of the local infocomm companies by showcasing them through the Infocomm Singapore Portal. It is a virtual storefront for enterprises to promote and profile their products or services both here and in overseas markets under a unified Infocomm Singapore brand. This is done through a one-stop directory listing and capability maps of local infocomm companies, as well listing success stories of local infocomm products and services. On the horizon is also a tool within the portal to allow companies to source for potential partnerships and business opportunities matching.


18. In closing, let me urge all of you to look ahead and beyond for success. There are many opportunities for the taking. The key to going global is to build IP and develop the Singapore Infocomm brand. I would like to wish all of you a successful and prosperous year ahead.

19. Thank you.


1 All figures are from IDA's Annual Survey On Infocomm Usage in Households and By Individuals For 2006 (501.86KB).

2 Infocomm Industry Survey, 2002. Percentage of ICT exports was 53% ($16.96billion) of total infocomm revenue.