Speech by Mr Lee Yock Suan, Minister for Information & the Arts, at NAFA Convocation 2001 On 11 August 2001, 2.30pm at NTU Auditorium, Nanyang Avenue

11/08/2001

Distinguished guests,

2.     NAFA management and staff,

3.     Parents and graduands

4.     I am happy to be here to participate in your Convocation Ceremony. My congratulations and best wishes to the graduands.

5.     We live in a highly inter-connected global economy which is changing rapidly with advances in technology. Analysts have predicted that by 2005, nearly 1 billion people, about 15% of the world's population, will be using the Internet. Growth in Internet use in Asia-Pacific and the rest of the world is expected to outpace growth in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

6.     To survive and thrive in such a borderless and interconnected world, communities and organisations have to be knowledge-based and knowledge-driven. In the 21st century, the wealth of nations and companies will be increasingly measured, not just in terms of its output of goods and services but also its output of intellectual property and value added through research, development, design and other knowledge-based activities. Here, creative human endeavour, the arts and technology will play an increasingly important role. As competition rises exponentially from within and beyond national borders, creativity becomes increasingly important for survival. Matching competitors is no longer good enough. Developing and getting innovations rapidly into the market is the key to success. But such innovation can only spring from creativity. This is provided, of course, that customers both like and buy what has been created.

7.     Take Apple Computer's iMAC machine as an example. Compare one with the traditional computer and you have a glimpse of the creativity that sprung from its designers. The appeal of the iMAC is not just the aesthetics, but that it is more user-friendly. It is a successful blend of computer science, engineering and design, all put together by creative thinking. In the global economy, the technical quality of things is becoming increasingly uniform, and the design can make the difference between success and failure.

8.     Early last year, Ford Motor Company announced plans to set up its design centre in central London, which will feature not only a studio for up to 40 designers but also a restaurant and an art gallery. The designers would come from both within and outside the car industry. It is hoped and expected that outside designers and consumers would bring fresh concepts and ideas to car design. The car is more than a highly engineered product. It has to be aesthetically pleasing and satisfy consumer needs beyond just getting from place A to place B.

9.     Creativity is a skill often associated with the arts. Creativity has surfaced as a key skill, a skill that top businesses and organisations from around the world identify as perhaps the most important a graduate can have. Graduates today will be competing for jobs with candidates from around the world. Prospective employers are looking beyond just academic qualifications for that extra edge in a new employee. They look for the ability to think globally and creatively. Graduates with creative ability will be an invaluable asset to any knowledge-driven company. Creative people do not cling to established facts and figures, but look laterally for new ones. Likewise, creativity requires linking and associating things in different ways.

10.     Ambiguity, ambivalence and rapid change will dominate the global environment of the 21st century. Creative people tend to thrive in such an environment. For them, uncertainty and flux do not create stress, they open doors. Where there are gaps in knowledge, processes and the market, one can play around productively with ideas and concepts. This requires substantial confidence in one's own abilities. Beyond the corporate world, those who work as artists and designers have a role to play in stimulating the creative energies of the rest of the population.

11.     There is no predicting where technological innovations will take us within the next decade or even the next few years. But, we can prepare the next generation - that includes you, the graduands seated here today – to be artists, thinkers, designers and innovators. That is precisely what NAFA excels in, and has prepared you for. NAFA aims to equip its graduands with creative and critical skills to enable them to thrive in the New Economy. As you enter the world of work with new knowledge, concepts and ideas, I hope that you can channel and convert them into competitive advantages and strength, for the benefit of your personal professional and creative development, for your future employer, and for your nation.

12.     Congratulations once again to the graduating class of 2001 on your success in completing what I am sure has been a challenging course of studies. I wish you every success for the future.

MINISTRY OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS
11 August 2001

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