Businesses and the community play important roles in e-society
ADDRESS BY DR BALAJI SADASIVAN, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE
FOR INFORMATION, COMMUNICATIONS & THE ARTS and HEALTH
AT THE E-SOCIETY EXCELLENCE AWARDS
ON 23 MARCH 2005, 12.00PM AT THE PAN PACIFIC HOTEL SINGAPORE
A CONTINUOUS JOURNEY TO GETTING CONNECTED
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to be here today to present the e-Society Excellence Awards. Just two weeks ago, Singapore was rated as the world's most successful economy in exploiting infocomm developments by the World Economic Forum in its Global Information Technology Report. This is the first time that Singapore has topped the rankings in the overall Networked Readiness Index which measures the ability of individuals and government to tap into the potential of infocomm technology, as well as the government usage of infocomm technology.
2 While we are heartened by the overall top ranking for Singapore, the report also highlighted areas where improvements are required. Compared to other countries, Singapore's business investment in R&D and training is low. In terms of business networked readiness, Singapore is ranked 15th. In the area of technology absorption by firms, we were ranked ninth. Indeed, we have noticed that many of our local companies need some push in adopting infocomm technology to improve their business process efficiency and productivity. To address this, IDA Singapore has put in place schemes and programmes to encourage companies to review their business processes and tap on technologies like web services, RFID and wireless.
Help for Businesses and the People
3 To encourage local enterprises to transact online with the Government, IDA and MTI have partnered PC/broadband vendors and training schools on the Business CARE programme. This programme aims to help companies obtain affordable PC-Broadband access and training to use government e-services. In addition, to make online transactions with the government easier and more seamless, the resource portal, www.business.gov.sg, has also been set up to give companies one-stop access to government services.
4 Besides helping businesses, we have also put in place numerous initiatives to ensure that as many people as possible are on the right side of the digital divide. This includes equipping our people with basic infocomm skills through the National I.T. Literacy Programme (NITLP) and helping needy families to own computers through schemes such as IDA's NEU PC programme. Since 1999, with the help of community associations such as the Association of the Muslim Professionals, Chinese Development Assistance Council, Yayasan Mendaki, Singapore Indian Development Association, The Society for the Physically Disabled and many community development councils and voluntary welfare organisations, more than 18,000 new and refurbished computers have been given to needy families. Many private organisations also provided constant support to help the less privileged in our society to cross the digital divide. For instance, since the inception of the PC Reuse scheme in 1999, more than $13 million worth of software, Internet access and basic IT training were sponsored by Microsoft, Pacific Internet and SingTel to equip needy families with the necessary skills.
5 Such efforts have helped Singapore come a long way since the early introduction of Infocomm Technology. The vision of creating and building a well connected society started as early as 1980. The government wanted to transform Singapore into an intelligent and well-connected island, where IT would permeate every aspect of the society, at home, work and play. We also wanted to grow Singapore into a dynamic and vibrant global Infocomm capital, with thriving businesses and an infocomm-savvy population.
Infocomm Usage Survey for 2004
6 The results of the ninth annual survey on infocomm usage in households and by individuals in 2004, testify to our steady transformation into a well connected society. The latest results show that 74% of households in Singapore now own personal computers and almost 65% have Internet access.
7 We are also becoming more infocomm-savvy. It is no surprise that today, more than 95% of Internet users aged 15 years and above communicate via email. There is also an upward trend of people using more sophisticated applications that go beyond email. For instance, online information retrieval and search has increased from 64% in 2003 to 82% in 2004. With more than 1,600 government e-services made readily accessible via the e-Citizen portal, transactions with the government online has increased from 42% to 56%.
8 Shopping is a favourite pastime among many of us. Last year, we saw a three-fold increase in online shopping. 30% of the Internet users have gone online shopping as at 2004. Confidence in online shopping has increased with the introduction of TrustSg, a nation-wide trust mark that identifies merchants who have adopted e-commerce best practices. The successful implementation of the TrustSg accreditation programme would not have been possible without the help of the National Trust Council and its two Certification Agencies - Consumers Association of Singapore and CommerceNet Singapore, and other industry partners such as NTT Singapore and MSN Singapore. I am happy to note that since the launch of the TrustSg initiative in 2004, 275 e-merchants and organisations have been accredited with the TrustSg seal; this is six times the number in 2003.
9 What's next for us? As our society evolves, we want to continue tapping on technology to improve our life-styles, our work processes and our interactions with each other. Yet, as we all know, technology evolves even faster. At IDA's technology symposium held two weeks ago, we heard about nano technology, biocomputing, and even sentient technology. All these may sound alien and far away into the future. However, these are technologies that we will face as challenges in our future development as a well connected society. How do we tap on these so-called next era technologies to help us remain relevant in the changing global economy, and how do we ensure our citizens are not left behind in an environment increasingly powered by technology?
10 To address these challenges, IDA is now leading a national effort to develop a 10-year ICT master plan called iN2015 (pronounced as in twenty fifteen) that will identify new possibilities for Singapore's industries, economy and society. I spoke about this at the SCS Gala Dinner two weeks ago. The master plan will address the latest technologies that we can tap on to help define our future. We want to build on the current success to propel Singapore to the next phase of infocomm development. Our vision is a Singapore where infocomm technology will help to create a conducive environment for thriving businesses, smart workforce and a well-connected society.
e-Society Excellence Awards
11 A well-connected society cannot be created by the government alone. Businesses, the community and civic organisations play important and integral roles too. This is what we are witnessing today among those who have participated in the e-Society Excellence Awards. Some of these organisations have contributed in one way or another to sponsor worthy causes that helped the less privileged to embrace infocomm technology. Some of them have also participated actively in devising programmes to help the community get connected. I am truly heartened by the noble intentions and tireless efforts shown by all the 61 entries received for this year's Awards.
12 I was told that the judges were also very impressed by the creativity and innovation of the finalists and had a challenging time deciding on the winners. To all the participants, I would like to say that regardless of whether you win an award or not, you are already winners in many ways. Your initiatives, programmes and efforts have contributed significantly to changing the lives of others, with the introduction of infocomm technology. You have contributed in creating a well-connected society. Indeed, you are the e-Society Champions.
13 On this note, I want to congratulate all the winners of this year's e-Society Excellence Awards and thank them for their efforts in helping Singapore to build a well connected society.