Boosting the competitiveness of Singapore's ICMD sectors

10/03/2014

RESPONSE BY MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION AT THE COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY DEBATE ON 10 MAR 2014

 

Introduction

               I thank Members for their valuable comments and suggestions. The landscape that our sectors operate in has and will continue to evolve quickly. For example, the rapid digitisation of information and media content, ubiquity of mobile devices, and easy access to high-speed Internet have blurred the once distinct lines between our infocomm and media environment, and are also affecting other sectors. Many people refer to this blurring as convergence. But what is this convergence?

2              With your permission, Mdm Speaker, my colleagues and I would like to display some slides on the screens.

3              Let us take a look at this Radio Shack advertisement from America. This is in 1991, more than twenty years ago. Radio Shack is an American electronics retail chain. This advertisement features an old TANDY computer, a camcorder, a radio, an alarm clock, among others. Who would have thought then that 12 devices in this advertisement can today be found in a single device that fits nicely into the palm of your hand? Today, the smartphone does all these and more. Imagine the possibilities ten or twenty years from now.

 

Setting our sights for the future

The Infocomm Media Masterplan

4              In anticipation of what this future might bring, I announced last year that MCI would convene a private-sector led Steering Committee to spearhead the development of a single, integrated masterplan for Singapore’s infocomm and media (ICM) sectors. This will enable Singapore to exploit the opportunities that will arise in the ICM space, and in the increasing overlap between these sectors.

5              The Steering Committee is assisted by five private-sector led Working Committees that are looking into areas such as establishing a roadmap for technology and research & development, infrastructure, industry development, manpower development, and finally, economic and social transformation through ICM.

6              The goal of the Masterplan is to establish Singapore as a Smart Nation that leads the world in harnessing ICM, and that nurtures Innovative Talent and Enterprises. This can bring about economic growth and social cohesion, improve the quality of life for Singaporeans, and achieve sustainable and quality growth for our ICM sectors.

7              Work on the Masterplan is ongoing, with a consultation document on the first part of their work to be published later this month. This document provides a broad plan that elaborates on the key ideas, especially those that represent potential new directions for us. The Steering Committee will use the consultation document to have a deeper conversation with the industry and public about the feasibility and potential applications of the ideas. Let me now share a sample of the key ideas from the Masterplan.

 

Key ideas from the infocomm media masterplan

Accessing Data Seamlessly Over Different Wireless Networks

8              First, the idea of a nationwide heterogeneous network (HetNet). A report released in November 2013 found that half of mobile usage in Asia Pacific came from high-bandwidth video downloads. With the growing availability and quality of ICM services, and our desire for faster Internet access anytime and anywhere, the demand for bandwidth is going to increase.

9              The Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network has provided an infrastructure that has met the needs of fixed line access. However, the spectrum to support wireless Internet access is a limited resource around the world. Therefore, the Steering Committee is studying the possibility of introducing a HetNet. Today, mobile users are able to operate and access data services across different wireless networks such as cellular and Wi-Fi. However, resources such as spectrum may not be optimally used to serve diverse user demands.

10   nbsp;         In a HetNet, operators will be able to achieve better management of traffic in their wireless networks. Users will be able to connect more seamlessly and operate their devices across different wireless networks such as cellular and Wi-Fi. Their devices will also connect to and utilise the best available network in range.

11            Singapore could be among the first in the world to adopt this cutting-edge solution at the nationwide level. This is an example of how we can seize new opportunities in the Masterplan, as advocated by Mr Zaqy Mohamed.

Making Sensors-enabled Home-based Healthcare More Widely Available

12           Second, making home-based healthcare more widely available. I thank Mr David Ong for his cut on caring for an ageing population. The Steering Committee recognised the potential of ICM to support the right-siting of care and “ageing-in-place”, with family and close friends using ICM to help them in their care-giving roles.

13           Sensors can help stable chronic disease patients self-monitor their conditions in the comfort of their homes, and receive healthcare services only when necessary.

14           By deploying sensors-enabled home-based healthcare, patients can expect more timely attention from caregivers and medical professionals on their conditions. For example, floor mats embedded with sensors can help patients regularly monitor their weight. This will help the caregivers detect sudden weight fluctuations, which may suggest sudden fluid retention from renal or cardiac failure. This can arise, for example, if the patient does not take his medication as prescribed. A son or daughter can be notified if their parent has missed taking their medication. Caregivers can thus intervene in a timely manner to prevent the patient’s condition from worsening, and possibly avoid costly hospital re-admissions.

15           Accenture’s recent Health Consumer Survey found that three in four Singaporean seniors use digital technology to help manage their health. The openness of our seniors to use technology for their healthcare needs, coupled with the probability of sensors becoming more unobtrusive and less costly, can facilitate the widespread adoption of sensors-enabled home-based healthcare for chronic diseases. This technology need not be confined to homes. Patients with chronic diseases can also potentially be cared for at day-care centres and step-down care facilities. So the social sector also stands to benefit from such innovations, if we can help them seize the opportunities - a point raised by Ms Penny Low.

CODE@SG Movement - Developing Computational Thinking As A National Capability

16           Thirdly, computational thinking – a suggestion from Mr Zaqy Mohammed and Ms Penny Low. The Singapore of the future, with a rich array of ICM products and services, will require different skills. To realise the ideas I talked about earlier, we will need people familiar with ICM skills and who are also sensitive to how ICM can be applied to improve living. Our children will also need to be more familiar with computational thinking as it becomes an increasingly essential part of our lives and careers. Apart from the infocomm sector, jobs such as animators, visual effects artists, and games developers in the media sector also require our talent to have both creative flair and computational skills.

17           Hence, the Steering Committee is proposing the idea of developing computational thinking as a national capability. They hope to do this through a movement they call “CODE@SG”. We are working with relevant stakeholders to introduce coding and computational thinking to more students in schools through a combination of infocomm clubs, competitions, and enrichment programmes. Enrichment programmes will allow our students to learn fundamental programming concepts in a fun and easy-to-learn manner.

18           For example, students can use visual programming languages to program graphically, and in the process learn fundamental programming concepts. This is in line with the global movement to teach the important life-skills of computational thinking to the young. Some countries have already started to incorporate computing into their national curriculum. The UK will do so for children from the age of five starting from this September.

19           We are also looking into revamping infocomm clubs in schools. We can do this by developing a platform to ‘gamify’ learning, and increase interest levels in computational thinking. With such changes, we aim to increase our engagement with students, and promote infocomm as a highly desirable career choice.

20           The three ideas I have just shared are a preview of some of the ideas that will come out later in the consultation document. Considerable work remains as the masterplanning process will only conclude next year.

21           Nonetheless, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Masterplan’s Steering and Working Committees for the work they have done so far. I would also invite the industry and public to share their thoughts on the preliminary ideas that have been developed for this Masterplan.

22           One of the directions that we have already begun to embark upon is data analytics. We will continue building up our infrastructure and capabilities to seize the opportunities in a data economy and better the lives of our people. Data analytics, as noted by Ms Penny Low, is a powerful tool. We can rely on data analytics to develop better policies and programmes for our people. It allows us to spot trends and improve service planning, including in the social sector. Recently, we also expanded our Data Sciences Group at IDA to build deeper domain expertise, and lead our efforts to grow our data analytics capabilities. We will be working closely with other agencies to identify and work on projects that can make use of this new capability.

23           The media industry can also ride on our national push towards greater use of data and analytics. For example, the simple old measurements of circulation, subscriptions, or linear viewership will no longer be sufficient. Audiences are no longer confined to programme time belts or to their TV sets for entertainment. With this changing content consumption pattern, the media industry must learn to use data analytics to gain insights into audience preferences to develop compelling programmes.

24           Finally, we will also revise and pilot new programmes and schemes over the year to help us assess their feasibility for inclusion into the Masterplan. Much of what we do now will provide us with a strong foundation to pursue the ambitious goals we have set for ourselves.

 

Achieving more vibrant and competitive ICMD sectors

ICMD Milestones Over The Past Year

25           Ms Penny Low and Mr Vikram Nair shared their views about the increasing vibrancy of our Infocomm, Media, and Design (ICMD) sectors. Mr Vikram Nair and Mr David Ong have also highlighted the importance of digital inclusiveness in society. I will address this in my response later and MOS Sim Ann will highlight the libraries initiatives for our seniors too.

26           In 2013, Singapore’s economy grew by 4.1 per cent. I am happy to share with Members of the House that our ICMD sectors are estimated to have grown 5.7 per cent over the same period.

27           A number of our filmmakers and producers have gained international recognition and acclaim over the past year. The most well-known is Anthony Chen, who in 2007 received an MDA scholarship to pursue a Masters in Film Directing. He took us to new heights by winning several top accolades with his first feature film Ilo Ilo.

28           Several other local feature films supported by MDA have also done well. For example, local feature film That Girl in Pinafore featured a teenage love story set in the 1990s against the backdrop of “xinyao”. The film celebrated this notable youth music sub-culture that is largely home-grown, and which has enriched our local arts scene since that period. Besides its widespread local appeal, we are also proud that the film was selected for Panorama, a non-competitive section at the prestigious Shanghai International Film Festival.

29           Another notable success was Serangoon Road. This HBO series was one of Asia’s largest original television productions and won the Digital and Film Award at the Australian Art in Asia awards. Serangoon Road featured a large number of local cast and crew, and was partly filmed and produced in Singapore.

30           On the infocomm front, Singapore continues to be consistently ranked highly in the world for our infocomm achievements. We have been ranked second for both the Global Information Technology Report and the Global Competitiveness Index by the World Economic Forum. For the past five years, we have also been consistently ranked first in the Waseda University International e-Government report.

31           We owe many of these achievements today to the infocomm technology (ICT) pioneers we had back in the 1980s. One such pioneer is Mr Philip Yeo, who was the founding Chairman of the National Computer Board (NCB) back in 1981. He is widely recognised for guiding Singapore through our transition to a knowledge-based economy. The efforts of Mr Yeo and his team of pioneers at NCB helped us take our first steps towards our nationwide adoption of ICT.

32           Several of our local start-ups have been successful also in carving a niche for themselves in the infocomm space. One example is leading Singapore-based online start-up Reebonz. Founded by Singaporean entrepreneurs Samuel Lim, Daniel Lim, and Benjamin Han in 2009, Reebonz has since established itself in the e-commerce space. They created a new direct distribution sales channel online for their lifestyle products. This brought greater convenience, affordability, and choice to consumers in the Asia Pacific region. With IDA’s support, the company has continued to grow and expand its footprint. In May last year, they completed their latest financing round and raised US $40 million, bringing the company’s total value to US $200 million in just five years.

33           Our design community has also done well and our designers have brought home prestigious international awards. One notable example is Mr Pann Lim, the Creative Director from Kinetic Design and Advertising Pte Ltd. He is a Designer of the Year recipient at last year’s President’s Design Award. Pann also clinched several other prestigious awards in 2013, including the Cannes Lions Bronze in the 360° Brand & Identity Experience category. Kinetic won these awards for their work done for Maki-San, Singapore’s first fully customisable sushi store. Kinetic’s design solutions included coming up with the whole brand identity and experience, designing the interior of the store, and packaging for their products.

34           These successes are signs of the vibrancy of Singapore’s ICMD industries. I am also happy to highlight several new exciting infrastructure projects completed over the past year that have enhanced Singapore’s ICMD ecosystem.

35           As noted by several speakers, Google opened its first data centre in Southeast Asia in Jurong West in December 2013. This data centre is a key part of Google’s expansion into the region, and is their first urban multi-storey data centre. Earlier this year, Pacnet also opened their new $115 million (US$90 million) data centre in Paya Lebar. These data centres will help Singapore meet our rising needs as we continue to push our country as a regional data hub.

36           We also witnessed the opening of two key developments at one-north in early-2014. Infinite Studios opened its multi-tenanted development at Mediapolis in early-January, featuring Singapore’s largest purpose-built sound stages and high-speed content transmission capabilities. We also saw Lucasfilm open its first purpose-built facility outside the US at Fusionopolis. This award-winning building, named Sandcrawler, contains state-of-the-art digital production facilities that will cater to the long-term global production needs for Lucasfilm.

37           With these key international players and local heavyweights such as MediaCorp and StarHub moving their operations to one-north in the coming years, this cluster is set to be the engine for our push to establish Singapore as a leading digital media hub.

38           Last year, I updated the House about our progress with the National Design Centre (NDC). I am happy to inform Members of the House that DPM Tharman will officially open the NDC on 12 March. This will be a milestone for Singapore’s Design community. The NDC will support the DesignSingapore Council’s efforts in developing the design sector and helping businesses to use design for innovation and productivity through training and assistance. Activities will also be organised for the public to deepen their appreciation of design.

39           More details will be announced during the opening of the NDC.

Building Innovative and Entrepreneurial Infocomm and Design Ecosystems

40           Mr Zaqy Mohamad and Ms Jessica Tan have shared their views about the need to build up our SMEs. Besides funding support, IDA will continue to look into measures that can help SMEs strengthen their capabilities to adopt transformative ICT solutions and shared services. During the Budget speech, DPM Tharman announced the ICT for Productivity and Growth (IPG) programme to help our SMEs across all industries. This will be a major boost to our existing iSPRINT initiatives to increase adoption of ICT.

41           To further build up our ICT capabilities, we will place greater emphasis on innovation and creation, and provide Singaporeans and our local enterprises with more platforms to innovate. We will also look at ways to help our Singapore technology start-ups grow in the global market.

42           Therefore, IDA will be launching IDA Labs. It will be a platform in which IDA and Government agencies can partner with the industry to experiment and develop new solutions. IDA Labs will also be used to excite and attract young Singaporeans, ranging from those in primary school to those enrolled at Institutes of Higher Learning, to tinker, build, and fix with technology. Equipment such as 3D printers and laser cutters will be available for their use. To support the emphasis on computational thinking, micro-processors such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino kits will also be provided. IDA Labs will also provide opportunities to develop applications and solutions where infocomm and media converge, such as in games development. We believe that this new programme will help us grow a culture of creating and building in Singapore.

43           For a start, IDA will build two Labs – one at Mapletree Business City and the other at the National Design Centre. They will be launched over the next two months.

44           At the Mapletree Lab, products from Singapore technology start-ups can be “plugged in” to be experimented and tested for feasibility of use within a Government context, and for demonstration to potential users. IDA would also be launching a new Accreditation Programme for Singapore technology start-ups within the Lab. This will help these enterprises establish their credentials, increase visibility to potential Government and larger enterprise buyers, and gain more opportunities through Government work.

45           IDA Labs at the NDC will target technology and media professionals as well as designers, and serve as a meeting point for them to collaborate on new products and services such as sensors, games, and data visualisation. It will be a place for industry players to work on integrated ICMD solutions. They will have access to equipment to build prototypes, test-bed new ideas, and speed up the development of new products and services.

46           The NDC will also host a Prototyping Lab that will be open to the public. This lab is jointly supported by SPRING Singapore and DesignSingapore Council. It is set up to encourage design innovation activities by providing designers and the public with access to tools and equipment for prototyping.

47           The DesignSingapore Council will also collaborate with industry associations to roll out accreditation initiatives for design professionals and companies in specific design disciplines. This is aimed at setting up best practice standards to ensure quality design services.

48           Finally, IDA will also introduce Accelerator programmes progressively in 2014 in partnership with industry partners. This will help to nurture a pipeline of Singapore technology start-ups that are well placed to attract both funding and investments. I am pleased to announce that a partnership has been made with local accelerator Joyful Frog Digital Incubator, and the first intake will take place this month. Such Accelerator programmes will allow our promising start-ups to scale fast, secure early funding, and grow to excel on global stage.

Building A Media Ecosystem That Focuses On Quality

49           Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Ms Sylvia Lim, Ms Janice Koh, and Mr Baey Yam Keng have highlighted the ongoing need to promote the growth of our local media industry.

50           MDA takes a holistic view in developing our media industry, providing support for all stages of the creative process across all media sectors. Since 2011, MDA has provided support to more than 2,000 projects in the media industry. While this has been promising, more will be done to increase the exposure and profile of our local artistes. We want their talent and works to be widely appreciated and recognised.

51           In the music sector for instance, MDA is working with MediaCorp for the third consecutive year to call for the creation of original theme songs from local songwriters and producers. Some of these songs have done very well. For example, theme songs for 96o Café and The Dream Makers achieved recognition at the Y.E.S. 93.3FM’s music chart. Apart from enjoying greater exposure for their music, the creators of the winning entries also retained the intellectual property (IP) for their songs, and can therefore further commercialise their creations.

52           MDA also supported programmes such as Anugerah Planet Muzik and The Final 1. These are useful platforms to spot local musicians and showcase their talent in the region.

53           In a competitive media sector, we must ultimately create quality content that can resonate with and attract the attention of our audiences. I will now briefly highlight our future approach to help our media companies adapt better to the rapidly changing business environment and consumer consumption patterns.SMS Lawrence Wong will speak more about our efforts on Public Service Broadcasting and the promoting of local content in his response later.

54           Over the coming year, MDA will continue to work with our media companies to develop new, interesting, and compelling stories, and to develop and manage their own IP for increased revenue opportunities. We will also encourage greater development of media content and services catered for multiple screens, to extend the reach and returns of our companies.

55           MDA also plans to build a vibrant content industry by helping to forge partnerships between leading international companies and our local content creation companies. For example, Serangoon Road was a joint production by Australia’s Great Western Entertainment and Singapore’s Infinite Studios. It illustrates the type of collaborative relationship we want to develop, where leading international media companies can draw on local media companies’ experience and understanding of the domestic and regional environment.

56           At the same time, as Singapore’s media sector aspires to higher standards and income, our local media companies and talents will also get the opportunity to learn the best practices and standards of these international companies. Thus, we can build stronger media enterprises and capabilities through collaborations with companies experienced in global media markets.

57           More details will be announced by MDA later this year.

58           Let me know just respond specifically to the points raised by Ms Janice Koh, and Ms Sylvia Lim about local music. At COS, we have reviewed this together with MDA, vis-à-vis other agencies such as NHB and NLB. We think there are some limitations and challenges in taking this further. So for instance, we realised that not all buildings that public agencies are located at are government-owned, and this limits where music can be played. While we understand that the intention is good, there should be flexibility for agencies to decide based on organisational needs whether it is suitable for music to be played in their premises or not. For example, NLB obtained COMPASS licences for playing music at selected library events. So we will continue to explore ways and means in which we can enhance the playing of local music, over our local radio in Singapore and to allow a platform.

59           Given the limited reach of music broadcast in government offices, we must recognise that there is probably little value to the industry by taking this idea further. The key way to bring greater benefit to the local music industry is to continue to provide opportunities and platforms for local musicians to be profiled and showcased both at home and internationally.