Powering Ahead With iN2015

19 February 2008 - Speech By RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore At the SiTF 2008 ICT Business Outlook Forum, Ritz Carlton Ballroom.

Opening Speech by RADM(NS) Ronnie Tay, Chief Executive Officer, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore At the SiTF 2008 ICT Business Outlook Forum on 19 February 2008, Ritz Carlton Ballroom.

Mr Pek Yew Chai, Chairman of Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation,
Mr Frank Koo, Chairman of the Organising Committee of the SiTF 2008 ICT Business Outlook Forum,
Members of SiTF,
Friends and colleagues from the infocomm industry,

Good Morning.

1. I would like to first thank the organising committee for your kind invitation to speak at this year’s Business Outlook Forum.

2. Today actually marks 3 months to the day I assumed the appointment of CEO of IDA. I feel most happy and privileged to be part of the exciting fast-growing infocomm sector, as well as promoting the use of infocomm to make a positive impact for Singapore. Since taking over, I have had the pleasure of meeting many of you on various occasions, and visiting quite a number of your companies too. I thank you for your very warm welcome and hospitality. 

3. The rapid advancement of infocomm technology and the critical role of infocomm as an enabler in all sectors of the economy and society impact the way we work, learn, live and play. All these provide great opportunities for our infocomm industry, and the momentum that started with the launch of the Intelligent Nation 2015 or iN2015 masterplan will continue to propel our infocomm industry forward. 2007 was a good one for the global economy, and the Singapore economy did well too, expanding by 7.7%.

4. Let me now briefly re-cap some of key milestones in 2007 and highlight the areas where we look forward to more industry participation and collaboration in 2008 and beyond.

iN2015: Opportunities for Growth and Innovation

5. In the area of infocomm infrastructure, Singapore took a step closer towards having an open access Next Generation National Broadband Network or Next Gen NBN with the launch of the Request-for-Proposal or RFP for the Network Company, or NetCo last December. Under this RFP, the NetCo will be selected to design, build and operate the passive infrastructure layer that will carry the traffic for Next Generation Services. The Government is prepared to provide a grant of up to S$750 million for the project. IDA expects to award the NetCo RFP in the third quarter of this year.

6. In the second quarter, IDA will be launching the RFP to invite industry players to submit proposals for the Operating Company, or OpCo, which will deploy active electronics such as switches and routers to manage the flow of traffic of the passive infrastructure. The OpCo will also be the entity to offer wholesale broadband access to downstream Retail Service Providers. IDA expects to award the OpCo RFP by early 2009.

7. The Next Gen NBN is part of the larger Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure or NGNII, which will offer pervasive ultra-high speed connectivity to all Singaporeans by 2015.

8. The NGNII also has a wireless network programme, Wireless@SG. The programme was on track and all the 5,000 hotspots committed were rolled-out last September. Over 620,000 subscribers have signed up for this free service and are enjoying wireless broadband access island wide. Besides being an innovative idea in itself, the Wireless@SG programme has also sparked innovative and workable concepts from both the public and private sectors. For instance, security can now be boosted with the aid of Wi-Fi-enabled surveillance cameras. Businesses are also enjoying “cashless convenience” via wireless point-of-sale devices. Students can now go on a Wi-Fi learning trail at Sungei Buloh. With a Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone, people today can also access Wireless@SG to check on COE prices, road tax payable and even "live" traffic conditions.

9. With the NGNII in place, service and content providers can take advantage of the ultra-high speed, connectivity and mobility offered by the new infrastructure to develop and offer Next Generation services to end-users. I would like to encourage companies that are interested in developing potential services on this Next Gen NBN, to register your interest through IDA's ongoing Expression of Interest exercise. Together, we can help to spur a wide range of Next Gen Services on this ultra high-speed network from as early as 2010.

10. Last year, IDA also launched a Call-For-Collaboration or CFC to extend high performance computing, storage and software facilities to businesses. The CFC will bring together Grid service providers and independent software vendors to provide related infocomm resources on a pay-per-use basis. Businesses including SMEs would no longer need to incur hefty investments in hardware and software to enjoy high-end computing services and solutions that will be made available on the National Grid. With such access to infocomm, businesses can leverage the Grid to develop new and innovative business models and services.

11. In the area of e-government, the Government announced last year that it would call for S$730 million worth of new infocomm tenders in Financial Year 2007. This was over and above the Standard ICT Operating Environment or SOE tender for the Public Sector. Last month, the Ministry of Education called for a pre-qualification tender exercise to shortlist potential service providers for the SOE for Schools project. The industry can certainly look forward to continued investment in infocomm by the Government. More details will be available later in May when we hold the annual Industry Briefing on Business Opportunities in the Public Sector.

12. Together with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, IDA launched the S$12 million Infocomm@Seaport programme to catalyse business transformation and operational excellence in the port community through the use of innovative infocomm technologies. The first project under the programme is WIreless-broadband-access at SEaPORT or WISEPORT, where a WiMAX Network covering Singapore’s port waters and surrounding coastal areas will be deployed. We invited the industry to participate in the WISEPORT Content and Applications CFC where solutions providers and the seaport community can come together to develop and launch innovative content and applications on WISEPORT.

13. In the education sector, the first five schools under the FutureSchools@Singapore programme were announced in May last year. The Ministry of Education plans to select and develop up to 15 schools by 2015 in a few phases to ensure that the technologies used are the most up-to-date at the different phases. These pioneer schools will harness the capability of infocomm to enhance learning, and will extend beyond the 15 schools, with possible deployment to all our 360 schools eventually. The infocomm industry will be invited to share ideas and possibilities to help achieve the goals of the programme.

14. Similarly, IDA also invited the infocomm industry to provide one-stop infocomm solutions and end-to-end infocomm packages to help the more than 135,000 SMEs operate more efficiently and grow their businesses. According to the latest Annual Survey of Infocomm Usage by Enterprises for 2007, SMEs are increasingly adopting infocomm technology for their business operations. The survey findings show that broadband usage among SMEs increased from 47 per cent in 2006 to 51 per cent in 2007, and Web presence rose from 27 per cent in 2006 to 31 per cent in 2007. In terms of software services, the top three used by SMEs are Accounting & Finance, Human Resource & Payroll and Intranet.

15. In view of the growing demand for infocomm solutions among SMEs, IDA initiated the Infocomm@SME programme, where one of the key objectives is to have 80 per cent of SMEs using broadband and establishing a Web presence. As part of this programme, the SME Infocomm Resource Centre was set up at the Singapore Polytechnic where SMEs can seek help on how to use common infocomm tools and applications to enhance their businesses.

16. In addition, IDA will be working closely with the industry associations such as the chambers of commerce and SiTF to better understand the infocomm needs among the SMEs and encourage their infocomm adoption. Toward this end, IDA will form a working group with industry representatives to look into additional strategies and programmes for the next 3 years.

17. Besides the SMEs, the infocomm industry can also actively help our citizens tap on infocomm’s vast potential. This Thursday, IDA will be launching a consumer portal as part of our Consumer Infocomm Education Programme. This portal, www.infocomm123.sg, is a content-rich site aimed at raising infocomm awareness and adoption levels among consumers and business users. It features a wide range of infocomm-related information, news, tips and online best practices such as securing wireless networks and guarding against scams and identity thefts. It also helps those who are new or unfamiliar with new technologies to get acquainted with new social networking channels like blogs and online communities. IDA and the industry can work closely together in educating consumers on infocomm usage and services.

18. As we move to realise our iN2015 vision, we will embark on many initiatives such as those mentioned today, where industry innovation and collaboration will be key to success. One such example is in emerging technologies, like Near Field Communications or NFC. Recently, IDA held an industry roundtable with participation from banks, telcos, local and international payment service providers and relevant government agencies. The objective was to establish an inter-operable framework and set of standards for the implementation of an open NFC platform at the national level. By working together to resolve technology and business issues, the platform will enable mobile payments, ticketing, smart posters and a host of other exciting possibilities in future.

iN2015: Grooming Talent for an Infocomm-enabled Economy and Society

19. However, even as we roll out the various iN2015 initiatives, we recognise that Singapore must have a pool of highly skilled infocomm professionals to innovatively use infocomm to enable the growth of our economy and society. This pool of infocomm professionals is growing year on year. According to the IDA Annual Infocomm Manpower Survey 2007, the infocomm employment rate achieved a new high last year. The number of infocomm manpower employed grew by 8.9 per cent to reach 130,400 in 2007, up from 119,700 in 2006.

20. In this area, I am most encouraged that the infocomm industry takes a pro-active role in helping to groom our next generation of infocomm professionals, who will have both strong IT foundation and specific industry domain knowledge to meet future demands. For example, IBM and the IHLs launched the Service Science Management and Engineering or SSME programme last November. The programme integrates multiple disciplines such as computer science, engineering, management and operations research, and educates students in a strong mix of technical, business and people skills. This will help to address the needs of organisations and businesses for multi-disciplinary infocomm professionals. IDA, together with Avaya Singapore, DBS Bank, IBM Singapore, Singapore Computer Systems and SingTel are also sponsoring students who are keen to pursue infocomm and SSME-related courses through the National Infocomm Scholarship (NIS).

21. Already in its fourth year, the National Infocomm Scholarship (NIS) is one of the key initiatives to develop infocomm leaders for the local industry. Jointly offered by the IDA and 23 industry partners including MNCs, local companies and organisations, the NIS aims to nurture talented students to become industry-ready infocomm professionals. Last year saw a bumper crop of 633 applications with 39 students being awarded the scholarship.

22. Another key initiative in grooming a pipeline of infocomm talent is the Infocomm Clubs. Together with 12 industry and IHL partners, we aim to excite students about infocomm in a fun and meaningful way by helping them to learn new skills and cultivate leadership and entrepreneurship capabilities at an early age. Some of the Infocomm Club activities include training, project work, mentorship, competitions and collaboration with other schools. Today, we have about 150 Infocomm Clubs with more than 7,000 members all over Singapore. We are expanding this and aim to establish another 100 Infocomm Clubs by 2009.

23. In addition to our strategies and programmes to attract and nurture a pipeline of future infocomm talent, we are also mindful that current infocomm professionals need to constantly upgrade their skills and capabilities to remain relevant. In this regard, IDA together with the industry has developed the National Infocomm Competency Framework or NICF. The NICF is an infocomm capabilities roadmap which will enable infocomm professionals to assess the types of skills and competencies required for various infocomm jobs and to acquire these skills through accredited training providers. To make access to this Framework easier, a portal will be launched this year.

24. As all of us will agree, infocomm manpower development is a critical area for us in this industry, one which IDA will be focusing on. We look forward to further collaborating with our partners in industry and the education sector, to inspire our talented youths to study the infocomm disciplines, provide relevant infocomm education and skills training in our various institutions and ensure a sufficient force of competent infocomm professionals that can contribute even more significantly to the infocomm and other user industries.

iN2015: Enabling Innovation, Developing Partnership

25. Our infocomm industry continues to be a key contributor to Singapore’s economic growth. Our parallel efforts to help the various economic sectors harness infocomm have created greater demand and generated many business opportunities for Singapore-based infocomm companies.

26. Last year was indeed a busy year for the industry. Singapore hosted the annual Infocomm Media Business Exchange or imbX which was attended by over 60,000 trade visitors. For the first time, SiTF hosted the Asian-Oceanian Computing Industry Organisation or ASOCIO ICT Summit together with the Asia-Pacific ICT Alliance Awards, APICTA, and let me add my congratulations to SiTF for organising a most successful event. We also saw a record number of eminent IT personalities speaking at the IDA Distinguished Infocomm Speakers series. They included Mr Sam Palmisano, Chairman, President and CEO of IBM, Mr Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft Corporation and Mr Jim Goodnight, CEO and founder of SAS.

27. Let me now highlight some of the initiatives that contribute to strengthening the capabilities of our infocomm industry and increasing the business opportunities for our companies. IDA’s Infocomm Enterprise Programme or iEP helps our infocomm local enterprises or iLEs develop capabilities in the implementation and delivery of large-scale, sector-wide projects and to create new intellectual property. As iLEs build up their capabilities in implementing large-scale projects, they will in turn enhance their credentials and export potential. The first project, which was awarded to HeuLab Pte Ltd, will see the implementation of a “virtual classroom” tool for schools and tertiary institutions by February 2009, to enhance community-building, collaboration, and contactability for students and teachers. IDA is currently reviewing several other projects with innovative solutions in various sectors.

28. In addition, iLEs can also develop their capabilities through partnership programmes such as the infocomm Local Industry Upgrading Programme or iLIUP and the Overseas Development Programme or ODP. Larger industry players such as the MNCs work with the iLEs to develop solutions and build up new capabilities in innovative emerging technologies quickly. They also allow iLEs to access their global marketing and distribution networks. These partnerships have helped iLEs generate their own IP which they can bring to the global market. So far, we have 17 MNCs participating in these two programmes. Over the last 3 years, iLIUP has helped iLEs generate S$75.3 million in revenue, developed 231 new or enhanced products and services, and trained 931 infocomm manpower. Similarly, ODP has helped to generate S$49 million in export revenue for our iLEs.

29. At this point, let me highlight some of the overseas contracts won by our iLEs over the past year in their fine efforts of expanding in foreign markets;

  1. ST Electronics won a contract worth approximately S$68.5 million to design and implement the communications system of the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport Access MRT system.

  2. BCS Information Systems implemented a new national payment system for The Central Bank of Bahrain. The Real Time Gross Settlement system is now being used by Bahrain’s retail banks for electronic payments.

  3. CrimsonLogic was recently selected by the United Arab Emirates government to implement a multi-million dollar 5-year e-Justice Programme. This involves the development and operation of an integrated platform which enables seamless case filing, legal research, notary services as well as case and document management.

  4. KnowledgeTouch has worked with McDonalds’ to implement a manpower scheduling system in McDonalds’ outlets. The system is fully implemented in Singapore, South Korea and China. It will be extended to all outlets in India, Malaysia and Japan by end of 2008.

  5. NetGain Systems clinched an IT contract for the Beijing Olympics. The company will install an IT systems monitoring solution designed to look after the health of the vital IT infrastructure that is being set up for the Olympics.

30. Our iLEs‘ entry into the global market is gaining momentum. Their capabilities and value are also increasingly being recognised by global players who wish to expand their presence in Asia. For example British Telecom has proposed to acquire one of our leading IT services providers, Frontline Technologies. AurionPro Solutions, a leading banking products and services company listed on the Mumbai Stock Exchange, has recently acquired Integro Technologies. Most recently, Motorola has also announced that it has acquired Soundbuzz, a leading pan-Asian music provider that operates its own online music store.

31. Indeed, the Infocomm Singapore brand is gaining recognition in the global market, as our innovative and competent iLEs bring their expertise to all corners of the world, creating solutions that work. Our brand marketing activities include media campaigns that showcase the success stories of Singapore infocomm companies in overseas markets. For more information on our iLEs, please check out the Infocomm Singapore portal, a virtual storefront for our enterprises. Companies can also source for potential partnerships and opportunities through the business matchmaking service. Currently, there are more than 400 members in the portal.

32. To further help our iLEs reach more markets, IDA has also been working with other agencies to profile and brand our iLEs overseas. For example, IDA organised joint trade missions with IE Singapore and SiTF to markets like Middle East, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hungary and Poland. IDA is also working with Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) to explore other emerging markets such as South America and Africa. In addition, IDA’s eGovernment Leadership Centre or eGL is providing opportunities for foreign governments to learn about the Singapore eGovernment experience and infocomm solutions through courses and visits to government agencies and iLEs. To date, eGL has received delegates from China, Kuwait, Qatar, Estonia, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Kenya, among many others.

33. On our part, IDA will continue to facilitate and help our iLEs gain access to overseas markets through co-operation with foreign governments. IDA inked several MOUs in the area of infocomm co-operation with governments in Qatar, Oman and Brunei last year. The industry can expect to benefit from the implementation of projects under the MOUs.

34. As our infocomm companies expand beyond Singapore, it is important that they are able to develop and offer innovative products and services to serve a global market. In this respect, the participation and contributions from the MNCs to the Singapore infocomm sector have been quite instrumental. Besides being actively involved in many of our programmes, they have invested in Singapore through setting up innovation centres, thereby providing an environment for the development of innovative solutions here and bringing them to market subsequently.

35. Some examples of these centres are:

  1. Cisco’s Customer Briefing Centre which opened in February last year allows Singapore partners to pilot and showcase their solutions developed on the Cisco platform to the ASEAN market;

  2. Alcatel-Lucent’s Asia Pacific Internet Protocol Transformation Centre provides the industry with collaboration opportunities and an eco-system for partners to create innovation, value and make Singapore a showcase of IP solutions developed on the Alcatel-Lucent platform for the Asia Pacific market and beyond;

  3. iLOG’s BRMS Centre of Excellence positions Singapore as the regional hub to develop business rules management system capability. Since 2005, it has worked with our IHLs to train more than 2,000 tertiary students and faculty members. It has also assisted local infocomm companies such as Ecquaria and Singapore Computer Systems to deliver BRMS projects worth a total of $15 million;

  4. Hewlett-Packard Cooltown Innovation Centre gives iLEs the opportunity to profile and demonstrate their innovations to potential clients and regional visitors at HP Cooltown;

  5. SingTel iMobile Centre provides developers with tools that they can use for developing and testing their nascent mobile phone applications. Through the SingTel Partner Programme which includes 7 MNC partners, the infocomm companies can tap on SingTel’s local and regional networks to bring their applications to the markets beyond Singapore.

36. The setting up of innovation centres in Singapore is also an important step in building up our intellectual property in infocomm and IDA looks forward to more such industry initiatives.

Recognising the Best in Infocomm Innovation

37. Before I end, let me highlight another important event in this year’s infocomm calendar - the National Infocomm Awards. Infocomm innovation has a long history in Singapore, and the success stories are many. Organisations that have been at the forefront have been transformed and lifted to greater heights. We want to recognise this excellence in infocomm innovation with the National Infocomm Awards, the industry’s highest accolade. The Awards are a tribute to the innovators and we hope they will inspire others too.

38. Past winners such as muvee Technologies, Activate Interactive and XiD Technologies have gone on to achieve greater success both locally and in the global markets.

39. This year’s competition for the National Infocomm Awards has started. Together with our co-organiser, SiTF, I encourage you to nominate your organisation, peers or clients that have used infocomm innovatively or have produced innovative infocomm products or services. In line with our drive to increase infocomm adoption by SMEs, we have added a new sub-category to recognise the innovative use of infocomm amongst the SMEs this year.

40. As we move into 2008, there are signs of weakening sentiments in the global economy. In Singapore, the economic growth forecast for 2008, as released by the Ministry of Trade and Industry last week, is between 4% to 6%. Nevertheless, for the ICT industry, the sentiments are still quite positive. For example, IDC forecasts the ICT spending in Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) to grow by 10 per cent from that of 2007. Our infocomm industry will certainly have another busy year, with the many on-going initiatives to tap on infocomm for economic and social development. Besides the Singapore market, the demand for infocomm products and services is also worldwide, and our infocomm companies certainly have much to offer. My colleagues and I at IDA really look forward to working closely with you and your companies, to further develop our infocomm industry and enhance the economic competitiveness of Singapore through infocomm.

41. On that note, I wish you continued success in the year ahead. Thank you.