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Welcome Address by Ms Aileen Chia, Deputy Director-General (Telecoms and Post) at World Telecommunication and Information Society Day Celebrations

23 May 2011 - Welcome Address by Ms Aileen Chia, Deputy Director-General (Telecoms and Post), Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore at World Telecommunication and Information Society Day Celebrations, SIM University

Welcome Address by Ms Aileen Chia, Deputy Director-General (Telecoms and Post), Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore at World Telecommunication and Information Society Day Celebrations, 23 May 2011, SIM University

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

1. I am glad to be here today for the celebrations of the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, co-organised by the ATIS and the SIM University.

2. Since 1969, member states of the ITU have been observing this day which falls on the 17th of May, to commemorate the founding of the ITU on the same day in 1865. As we mark this date each year, we can take stock of how far we have come since the first International Telegraph Convention was signed in 1865, 146 years ago, and to identify new areas to advance together as a global telecoms community. In doing so, we can raise awareness of how information and communication technologies can bring opportunities to economies and societies.

3. This year, the theme for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day is "Better Life in Rural Communities with ICTs". Indeed, Singapore being a city-state and a knowledge-based economy does not have rural areas by any sense of the word. Nonetheless, the issue of digital divide in our society, although not along the lines of urban-rural divide, is very much an issue of concern to us and there are still parallel lessons Singapore can draw, in its process of bridging the digital divide within our society.

4. Singapore, was one of the first cities in the East to have its first telephone service in 1879, merely three years after Alexander Graham Bell patented his invention . Today, we see the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network, or Next Gen NBN in short, being rolled out to our homes which promises ultra high-speed broadband access and the introduction of new wireless technologies like LTE that promise very high-speed wireless broadband access. But we should be reminded that broadband Internet access started with the humble copper telephone line, which used dial-up for Internet access, then came co-axial cable lines, and now fibre. One could say that Singapore, like many other countries, had followed an incremental path of technological advancement, but with each incremental step we took, we saw a quantum leap in the plethora of innovative services and products being introduced to consumers such as Skype, Facebook and Groupon, with significant impact on the way we live, work and engage, and how economies and societies organise themselves.

5. Some studies have shown that a 10 per cent increase in broadband penetration may translate into a 1.3 per cent increase in GDP on average . While infocomm has been recognised as a key factor for economic growth as well as social development, its benefits are unevenly distributed. This is not only evident in the gap between developed and developing countries, it is also present within societies such as Singapore. According to IDA's 2010 annual survey on infocomm usage for households, about 82 per cent of households in Singapore are on a broadband connection at home. Compare this to how, by the same survey, 16 per cent of households still have no access to a computer at home. The commonly cited reasons for those who do not have access to a computer are 'no need to use' and 'lack of skills'. IDA believes that infocomm is a powerful tool which empowers the disabled, engages the elderly and can equip disadvantaged groups like less well off people. To help those who have 'fallen through the cracks', IDA has implemented a series of digital inclusion efforts to bridge this digital divide, as part of IDA's Intelligent Nation iN2015 Masterplan to build an infocomm-savvy nation.

6. We introduced the NEU PC programme, which evolved from our PC Reuse Scheme started in 1999. This programme equips poorer households with school going children with computers. Students and the disabled from low-income households can purchase subsidised new computers bundled with three years of free broadband access and software. I am happy to share that to date, the programme has benefitted more than 30,000 needy households.

7. The Infocomm Accessibility Centre (IAC), a collaboration between IDA and the MCYS, the National Council of Social Services, Tote Board and Microsoft Singapore, has funded IT courses for people with disabilities, and helped trainees acquire industry-relevant skills such as PC maintenance, web design, music arrangement and video editing. The Centre is also working with the National Library Board to convert books into suitable formats for the benefit of people with visual impairment and dyslexia.

8. We have not forgotten our senior citizens, who may have left the workforce but whose lives could be further enriched by infocomm. Our Silver Infocomm initiative, which aims to promote IT awareness and literacy among senior citizens so that they can continue to be actively engaged in the digital age, includes nine Silver Infocomm Junctions islandwide, which offer affordable infocomm training and a customised curriculum for them. IDA has worked with selected industry partners to come up with PC bundles priced competitively for senior citizens aged 50 and above. Those who complete 30 hours of IT training can receive further discounts off the bundle. By March 2013, 100 Silver Infocomm Hotspots will be set up island wide for all senior citizens to have convenient and free access to computers and Internet services. Currently, you can find about 40 of these at various Community Clubs, self-help group centres and Residents' Committees. These 'silver' initiatives become especially important given the trend towards an ageing population.

9. These measures address some aspects of the 'digital divides' which exist in Singapore society today. We believe that to address digital divide issues effectively, it is not sufficient to improve connectivity and accessibility. We need to also enhance users' capability. People not only need to have a computer, broadband or Internet access, but they also need to know how to use them.

10. While we seek to ensure digital inclusion in our society, we also make sure that Singapore keeps pace with global developments of the infocomm industry and that we continue to facilitate early introduction of new technologies and innovations in Singapore. Singapore is the first to roll out a nationwide Next Generation broadband network and we are the world's first mobile Wimax ready seaport . We have been consistently in the top ranks of global eGovernment studies. We are already looking at the allocation of spectrum to pave the way for our operators to deploy 4G technology in the next few years. As you can see, Singapore is at the forefront of infocomm development in many ways.

11. The ITU Secretary-General has mentioned the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in his speech for this occasion . The Commission is aimed at increasing the roll out of broadband to firmly establish a universally accessible knowledge-based information society. IDA's Deputy Chief Executive and Director-General (Telecoms & Post) Mr Leong Keng Thai is one of the Broadband Commissioners, together with representatives from governments, relevant industries, international agencies, from around the world. We hope to share Singapore's Next Gen NBN deployment and broadband development experience and our policy development perspectives with other leaders round the world in the Commission, and help shape policies at the international stage to bring the world closer to a knowledge-based information society. IDA believes that the broadband network with its suite of innovative services, is an important leveler that will open up economic and engagement opportunities for everyone, including the disabled and the less-privileged.

12. Today, as we commemorate the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, we should be reminded of how member economies in the ITU should collectively examine our responsibilities, especially with the proliferation of the Internet and the borderless nature of online communication, in order to better address the needs of our respective economies and societies. Let us make the world a digital global economy and an information society for all.

13. On this note, I wish you a pleasant morning ahead. Thank you.