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Opening Address by Mr Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive, Infocomm Media Development Authority, at the Opening Ceremony of ConnecTechAsia 2019


Mr Ian Roberts [Regional Executive Director, ASEAN Business, Informa Markets]
Ms Harriet Green [CEO & Chairman of IBM Asia Pacific]
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen


  1. A very good morning to all of you. It is my pleasure to be here again at ConnecTechAsia.                                                             

  2. ConnecTechAsia is one of the region’s largest Telecommunication, Media and Technology events. This year, I am told that more than 1,700 exhibitors are participating in the event, with more than 40,000 attendees. The organisers have enhanced the programme, and lined up a series of roundtable discussions on issues that will have far reaching impact on our industry and the broader economy, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cybersecurity and OTT. I am encouraged by how ConnecTechAsia is continually reinventing itself to remain relevant to the industry and its stakeholders.

Singapore’s Digital Transformation

  1. As a small and open economy, Singapore is keenly aware of the importance of transforming our industries to stay competitive, particularly at a time when digital technologies are rapidly reshaping markets, blurring boundaries between sectors, enabling new business models and transforming the workplace.

  2. Last year, the IMDA launched the Digital Economy Framework for Action. Our vision is for every business to be digitally empowered, every worker to be digitally skilled and every citizen to be digitally connected. It is our belief that these capabilities are critical for Singapore, and Singaporeans, to thrive in a digital era.

Every Business is Digitally Empowered

  1. We started with efforts to raise the digital capabilities of our enterprises, particularly the Small and Medium Enterprises, or SMEs. Two years ago, we launched the SMEs Go Digital programme, which aims to make going digital simple and easy for SMEs. The results have been encouraging. 

  2. At the heart of the SMEs Go Digital Programme are the Industry Digital Plans (IDPs). Each IDP – for example Retail, Media and Security – is aligned to its respective sector’s Industry Transformation Map. SMEs can refer to the sector-specific IDPs for step-by-step guides on the digital solutions to use at each stage of their growth. We have launched 8 IDPs thus far, and expect to roll out more this year. 

Every worker is Digitally-Skilled

  1. However, the digitalisation of businesses can succeed only if our workers, too, are equipped with the skills to effectively use digital technology. We recognise the importance of supporting our professionals in developing critical tech skills; this is why we launched the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) initiative in 2016. TeSA courses provide opportunities for non-ICT workers to switch to a tech career, or for current ICT workers to take on deeper tech roles. To date, over 61,000 training places have been taken up or committed to by companies and workers.

  2. It is a positive time for our industry. The hiring outlook for tech professionals locally remains strong.  Based on our Annual Survey for Infocomm Manpower, we project that the demand in Singapore for infocomm professionals will increase by 28,500 from 2018 to 2020.

  3. Frontier tech skills in high demand, such as AI, cybersecurity, and software development, are critical to these jobs. This is why we continue to invest in our tech professionals. For example, we are working with our partners to train up to 12,000 Singaporeans in AI skills through various programmes, such as the AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP), AI for Industry (AI4I) and AI for Everyone (AI4E). These aim to get everyone in the workplace comfortable with using AI-enabled tools in their day-to-day work. We are also rolling out such training programmes in other areas, such as cybersecurity.

Every Citizen is Digitally Connected

  1. At the individual level, we want every Singaporean to be digitally connected and engaged. Last year, we launched the Digital Readiness Blueprint. Since then, more than 450 organisations have pledged their support for the digital readiness movement, and 3,000 volunteers participating across various Digital Readiness initiatives.

  2. We have seen good progress across various initiatives. But, we know that we need to continually be on the lookout for emerging trends, consult with industry players and partner ecosystem stakeholders in order to put in place a conducive and trusted business environment where innovation can flourish.

Secure and Seamless Cross Border Data Flows

  1. I will like to touch upon three emerging areas of attention, first of which is data. Data flows are the lifeblood of the global digital economy. Singapore supports a more seamless flow of data across borders, as long as it is done securely and between jurisdictions that have comparable data protection standards.

  2. At the regional level, IMDA has helped set baseline data protection principles by contributing to the ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance. We support multilateral certification mechanisms like the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules and Privacy Recognition for Processors systems. We also participate in Free Trade Agreements that safeguard data flows such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Treatment for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

  3. We will continue to work with like-minded regulators around the world to nurture such an environment of trust. For example, we have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with both the United Kingdom and Hong Kong to foster greater collaboration in this area.

  4. The rapid growth of the global digital economy also requires us to adopt a different approach to how we think about trade and trade rules. Recently, we began talks with Chile and New Zealand on the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, or DEPA. Through DEPA, we aim to set forward-looking standards on digital trade, and establish new international approaches to support the digital economy and trade in the digital era.

Responsible and Accountable Use of AI

  1. Second, I will talk about AI. Frontier technologies such as AI have immense potential to deliver benefits to businesses, workers and citizens. However, in harnessing the value of such new technologies, we are often confronted with difficult trade-offs especially as regulators – giving sufficient space for the industry to develop innovative applications and services, while at the same time ensuring that the interest of the end-users and society’s trust in the digital systems are protected.

  2. To that end, we have been working on several initiatives to promote the responsible and accountable use of AI. One example is the Model AI Governance Framework, which was released earlier this year for adoption and feedback. The Framework is the first in Asia to provide private sector enterprises with readily implementable guidelines on how to address key ethical and governance issues when deploying AI solutions. The Framework exemplifies Singapore’s commitment to invest and build capabilities in AI.

  3. Singapore realises it cannot do this within the confines of the nation itself. This is why we have also been actively engaging on the global front for AI adoption, and working through its challenges. Our partnership with the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) is intended to bring a global perspective to our Model AI Framework.

  4. You may have already heard that we garnered an international win, having taken the top spot in this year’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prize Forum’s “Ethical Dimensions” category. But we know we cannot rest on our laurels, and will continue to work with others to contribute to the global conversation in AI. 

Vibrant 5G Ecosystem

  1. The last area I will talk about this morning is 5G. Future-ready digital infrastructure is a key building block of our digital economy. This brings me to the transformative technology that I am sure will be the subject of many discussions here – 5G.

  2. We kicked off our 5G journey a couple of years ago. Just last month, we launched a second public consultation. Through this new consultation, we would like to hear the industry’s views on policies associated with 5G, such as the appropriate regulatory framework and spectrum allocation.

  3. IMDA has always taken a long-term, strategic approach in building our digital infrastructure. Trusted, resilient and high quality digital infrastructure is a key building block for any country that aspires to be a leading Digital Economy.

  4. Through past efforts, our consumers and businesses are able to enjoy pervasive and affordable fixed and mobile services today. For instance, 1Gbps fibre broadband access is available for as low as ~USD25 a month, due to our early investments in deploying the Next Generation National Broadband Network. And our mobile market is a competitive and vibrant one, with a 150% penetration rate and unlimited data plans from as low as ~USD22 per month.

  5. Singapore sees a different 5G use-case from that of other jurisdictions, which tend towards using 5G for high-speed fixed-wireless last-mile coverage. Instead, we envision 5G as a strategic enabler to support the development of new innovative applications and services that will power our Digital Economy – a public utility that will benefit our entire economy. Put simply, it is not just about how fast our 5G network is or how soon we have it; it is about how smartly we use the 5G networks to create value and deliver benefits to our businesses and people.

  6. This means Singapore’s 5G networks will have to offer more what than what we have today. They will need to deliver next generation network capabilities such as full network slicing, ultra-reliable low-latency, support massive numbers of devices and greater intelligence at the edge. To do this, we envisage that the 5G networks will need to be built on standalone architecture. Standards are expected to be finalised next year.

  7. IMDA will also facilitate network rollout by allocating 3.5Ghz to two nationwide networks, for a start, through a call for proposal. We expect more 5G networks with more spectrum availability to be deployed in the coming years.

  8. More details can be found in our public consultation document. The public consultation will close in the coming weeks, and I welcome your views and comments.


  1. All of us face significant uncertainties in today’s global economy. We read about these tensions and conflicts in the papers on a daily basis. However, amidst this cloud of uncertainty, one thing is clear. The pace of the digital revolution remains unabated. Digital technology is sparking innovation, boosting productivity, spurring economic growth and raising the standard of living for societies around the world.

  2. The public and private sector can, and must, work together to achieve our shared goals of harnessing the full benefits of digitalisation. The speed of innovation and novel policy questions that accompany such technology changes demand this.

  3. This is why platforms like ConnecTechAsia are important. Such platforms bring together industry leaders, solution providers, entrepreneurs and policy makers to focus our minds on the key issues of the day. On this note, I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to be part of today’s event.

  4. I wish all participants a most rewarding and enjoyable time over the next three days. Thank you.


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