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Building a Singapore Core in Infocomm Media

11/04/2016

DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION, AT THE COMMITTEE OF SUPPLY DEBATE ON 11 APR 2016


Introduction

 
I thank Members for their thoughtful comments and suggestions.
 
2 Madam Chair, with your permission, I would like to show a short video on the efforts of my Ministry to connect people to opportunities, community, and government, with the help and support of trustworthy infrastructure and technology.

Building a strong Singapore core for the infocomm sector

3 Last month, I spoke about the manpower situation in the infocomm sector – that the current rate of demand for infocomm professionals has outpaced the rate of supply. Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Ms Sun Xueling and Mr Randolph Tan also observed this, and they asked how we can prevent ICT manpower shortages and in particular, about how we can reduce our reliance on foreign manpower in certain ICT sub-sectors.
 
4 Madam Chair, the ICT sector is indeed expected to see good growth, and with that, increased demand for infocomm professionals. Together with our Smart Nation initiatives, we expect an additional demand of 30,000 infocomm jobs to be filled by 2020. As demand far outstrips current supply, and because the landscape is changing so rapidly, it is difficult to meet company needs for skilled manpower without non-Singaporeans entirely. But we must do our best to support our Singaporeans to be highly skilled so that they can compete with global talent. Hence, today, I will talk about how we will do more to accelerate infocomm capability development, and build a strong Singapore core for infocomm media. With your permission Madam Chair, I have asked the clerk to distribute materials to the Members in this House.
 
5 It is not enough to ensure that we have sufficient computing science or IT places in our institutes of higher learning (IHLs). We must also ensure that our students have work-ready skills, and our current workers in the sector can easily renew their skills. We will focus our efforts in high demand areas such as Software Development, Data Analytics, Cybersecurity, and Network & Infrastructure.  We will hence set aside $120million to support training efforts in developing infocomm manpower capabilities, to address immediate and future manpower needs.

Build the future pipeline of infocomm professionals

6 To build the future pipeline of infocomm professionals, we must start young. Hence we launched the Code@SG movement in 2014 to nurture interest in technology among our young. We will continue to develop coding and computational thinking as a national capability.

7 Next, we will focus on the 6,000 or so students from each cohort, who are already in infocomm disciplines. Today, our estimates indicate that a significant proportion of them do not enter the sector upon graduation. This is a missed opportunity. IDA has studied this together with stakeholders. One reason is that employers are looking for applicants with strong experience, even prior to graduation. 

8 We will hence launch an Industry Preparation for Pre-Graduates (iPREP) Programme. IDA will work with the IHLs to select students and place them on this structured internship and mentorship programme, so that they can build their portfolios and gain sufficient entry-level skills and experience even before they graduate. Over three years, we hope to increase the supply of professionals by 2,400.
 
9 This will help more young Singaporeans like Tan Kai Heng, an NTU Computer Science alumni. During his internship at Gametize, he worked with a dynamic team and even co-led it to develop an Android app from scratch. The internship helped him become a confident software developer, and he was subsequently offered a job with Gametize after graduation. He has been with them for almost 4 years now.

Accelerate professional development
 
10 We will do more to support our working ICT professionals. We currently co-fund Company-Led Training (CLT) programmes with industry partners. For example, Google has partnered IDA to roll out the “Squared Data and Analytics Programme”. Let me share two examples.

  • Vicnan Pannirselvam, a graduate in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, wanted to pursue a data related career. After the training, he was deployed to TBWA, an international advertising agency. There, he gained practical experience in integrating data with advertising. He did so well that he was offered a job as a Data Strategist.

  • Celestine Goh found that the programme helped to open doors for trainees like her to access a large community of like-minded individuals and mentors. She also developed her skills and gained valuable experience there. She is now a Data and Analytics Specialist at Maxus.

11 In fact, every single participant in Google’s programme found a job after the programme! Hence, we will expand our CLT programmes to help more than a thousand professionals each year, compared to 160 today. Mid-level professionals will now also benefit from the local and overseas training and attachments to build expertise and competencies for jobs in demand, especially in emerging areas like cyber security and analytics.

12 We will also help experienced professionals deepen their skills, or convert to new infocomm disciplines. IDA’s Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Programme (CITREP) helps approximately 3,000 mid-level professionals take up professional short courses and certifications every year. Moving forward, we will expand the CITREP+ programme and also help entry level professionals to start acquiring ICT skills and professional certifications early in their careers.
 
13 Mr Saktiandi Supaat asked about our efforts to help non-infocomm mid-career professionals make a career switch and join the infocomm sector. Last year, IDA partnered with General Assembly to offer bootcamps that provide short but immersive training for people with no background or industry experience in tech, but who have interest in a tech career. Participants are taught through industry projects by industry practitioners, receive career support, and have job placements opportunities with potential employers.
 
14 We will ramp up the capacity for such accelerated Tech Immersion and Placement programmes, to support more than 1000 Singaporean trainees over the next three years, especially those with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) backgrounds.
 
15 Madam Chair, in his Budget speech, the Minister for Finance announced the setting up of the Technology Skills Accelerator. We will work very closely with industry to grow this into our flagship platform where all Singapore ICT professionals can receive training and career advice.
 
16 The infocomm industry associations – Singapore IT Federation, Singapore Computer Society and the IT Management Association – have already played a huge role in the past, to develop the National Infocomm Competency Framework. These associations will continue to define new competencies, under the TechSkills Accelerator, and support our shift towards greater recognition of skills mastery.

  • To this end, we have already partnered with Proxor, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff, to introduce their skills validation platform, so that employers can use it to test potential employees’ skills in solving realistic problems, rather than referring only to academic qualifications. We will also provide funding support to Singaporeans who use the platform to validate their skills.

17 A new feature of the TechSkills Accelerator is that the partnership will be anchored by major employers in the sector. This is important because employers must also themselves want to develop a strong Singapore core and offer competitive remuneration to recognise skills achievement, and not just paper qualifications. I am happy to confirm that several anchor employers, including the new Government Technology Agency, Singtel, Mediacorp, ST Electronics, Integrated Health Information Systems, DBS and UOB, have already committed to be part of the TechSkills Accelerator. I encourage more companies to come on board and to put more emphasis in talent development, so that we can together, build a strong Singapore core for infocomm.

Transforming the media sector to be future ready

 
18 Madam Chair, Mr Ganesh Rajaram asked about the media sector, and how we can encourage media companies to be independently competitive. Mr Randolph Tan asked about how we can encourage more Singaporeans, especially our young, to create more content. I am pleased to share that this year, MDA will expand on its efforts to help enhance the capacity of the media sector to create new content, for new platforms, so that we can transform the media sector to be future ready.

19 I previously announced that we would launch a Creators’ Space at Pixel Building in one-north. It is on track to start operations by the end of this year. Key partners such as Adobe, digital creative agency Brand New Media, online video platform Dailymotion and Disney’s Maker Studios, the global leader in online short-form videos have been confirmed.

20 We will take it one step further, by running other initiatives related to content development at Creators’ Space. In this way, we will enable synergies between professionals in the various media sub-sectors, and create a truly vibrant space for learning, experimentation and collaboration.

21 One of the initiatives that will leverage Creators’ Space is Story Lab. Mr Darryl David asked how we can improve the quality of film, video and TV, especially in the area of idea generation and content creation. Our Story Lab initiative helps to enhance the creative capacity of our media industry to develop compelling story ideas, and innovative ways to tell these stories across various media platforms. Just last month, we ran a “Game Writing versus Narrative Design Masterclass”, in partnership with NTUC and the National Book Development Council. About 40 media and literary professionals came together to learn about game writing techniques and tools to develop game stories.

22 We will launch more programmes later this year, such as the WritersLab, to hone scriptwriting for television.

23 For the film sector, programmes such as the Chinese scriptwriting with local film producer mm2 Entertainment has been very successful. They brought in notable Hong Kong and Taiwan writers as mentors. This programme will help our promising local screenwriters develop deeper scriptwriting skills, to better serve the Mandarin-speaking market in the region.

24 Another of our initiatives that we will co-locate with Creators’ Space is the Games Solution Centre (GSC). Madam Chair, the games sub-sector is one of the fastest growing media sectors in Singapore. The GSC offers budding game developers mentorship programmes, support for them to take their businesses and ideas overseas, as well as business networking and access to financing opportunities. In fact, in just five years, the GSC has benefited close to 50 Singaporean game companies. Of which, three-quarters have successfully completed games or game demos with more than 20 commercial game releases. In addition, more than five of them have gone on to secure seed funding from $100,000 to $2,000,000!

25 Many of our game developers have made their mark both locally and internationally. For instance, Rotten Mage’s Spacejacked won the Best Linux Game award at Intel’s Level Up 2015 game developer contest. Another game, Autumn Dynasty Warlords by Touch Dimensions, was among the top grossing strategy games on iTunes Store in several countries. These two games are among many that grew out of the GSC.

26 The co-location of Story Lab and GSC with Creators’ Space will be a significant step to help our Singapore media companies become even more independently competitive. It will help facilitate collaboration between various media sub-sectors to bring about richer consumer experiences. For example, game developers today use data to better understand their consumers. This capability can be shared more widely to other media professionals, so that they can develop more innovative ways to commercialise their content. I am confident that when the Creators’ Space opens later this year, we will inspire more Singaporeans to create original content for consumers not only in Singapore, but around the world.

27 Finally, to encourage early to mid-career Singaporeans to take ownership of their own skills upgrading, we will give out more than 300 SkillsFuture Study Awards by this time next year to support Singaporeans’ aspirations in the infocomm media and design sectors[1]. Recipients will receive a monetary award of S$5,000 which can be used to defray out-of-pocket expenses associated with the course that they will take.

28 Madam Chair, we are making significant efforts to attract Singaporeans, both male and female, to careers in infocomm, media and design. We believe these sectors offer good careers. We also believe that it is essential that these sectors develop a strong Singapore core of talent. And we will succeed, if we can attract more Singaporeans with a passion for their craft. People like Fadli bin Sidek, whom I met earlier this year at a SGfuture dialogue.

  • Fadli developed an interest in cybersecurity very early in his teens. He tried to enrol in an IT course at a polytechnic, but was unsuccessful. Undeterred, he pursued private courses in IT and infocomm security. He worked various jobs to pay off his study loans and to gain experience. Eventually, he managed to graduate with a degree in cyber forensics, information security management and business information systems. Today, he is the Lead Intelligence Analyst at a cyber-threat Intelligence Company.

29 Young Singaporeans like Fadli exemplify the spirit of SkillsFuture, and the new IMDA and MCI will do all we can to help them. The Cybersecurity Agency (CSA) will also help to nurture Singaporeans’ interest and awareness of cybersecurity. I will talk more about our cybersecurity efforts now.

Cybersecurity

30 Madam Chair, some of our honourable members have raised questions about cybersecurity. We established the CSA last year, as the national agency overseeing cybersecurity strategy, education and outreach, and industry development. I am pleased to report that since its formation, we have made good progress.

31 Mr Zaqy Mohamad asked how we ensure senior executives of firms in critical sectors and important industries are committed to cybersecurity. While bigger companies are better-equipped against cyber threats, cybersecurity is seldom a top priority. Businesses need to come round to the fact that cyber threats can hurt bottom lines. I am glad to share that the CSA is working on an awareness programme to educate and sensitise the C-suite to potential cyber threats to their firms.

32 The honourable member also asked how cybersecurity awareness among individuals and businesses in Singapore is measured. IDA surveys companies and individuals annually on the infocomm security measures they adopt. In 2014, 94% of companies used virus-checking or protection software, while 81% of home Internet users, myself included, had anti-virus software installed on their computers. These figures are encouraging, but there is always room for improvement, especially as threats grow more complex.

33 CSA advocates a multi-faceted approach to cybersecurity, including risk-based mitigation, early detection and robust response. Cross-sector responses are coordinated between CSA and other sectors to mitigate widespread cyber-attacks. Ms Sun Xueling and Mr Vikram Nair asked about how the CSA has worked with critical sectors to ensure resilience against cyber-attacks. CSA works closely with critical sectors to assess critical infrastructure for vulnerabilities, taking a cybersecurity by design approach. This ensures that security capabilities and measures are in place to detect, respond to and recover from cyber threats. To strengthen cyber resilience, CSA also conducts cybersecurity exercises with critical sectors.

34 Recently, DPM Teo Chee Hean and I were present at CSA’s multi-sector exercise, codenamed Cyber Star. This exercise gave us the opportunity to evaluate the capabilities of CSA and the banking and finance, government, energy, and infocomm sectors in incident management, as well as their operational processes and coordination functions in a simulated cyber-attack. I was pleased to observe that all parties worked well together.

35 The exercise was also a good demonstration of CSA’s ability to mobilise resources and experts from across multiple sectors to address a crisis.

36 The successful conclusion of Cyber Star marked CSA’s achievement of initial operational capability. CSA will continue its close collaboration with various partners, including government agencies, to better respond to cyber-attacks, and proceed with its plans to further build up its capabilities.

37 However, as members have pointed out, cyber threats are borderless. There are many international efforts that Singapore is involved in, to strengthen cybersecurity cooperation, such as the ASEAN Computer Emergency Response Team Incident Drill, and the ASEAN Regional Forum Seminar on operationalising cyber confidence-building measures. Last year, the CSA also signed MOUs with the UK, France and India to strengthen international cybersecurity cooperation.

Cybersecurity Act

38 Apart from building up the CSA’s capabilities, we also intend to review the policy and legislative framework for cybersecurity. This is especially important as we move towards building Singapore as a Smart Nation, and I thank the members of the House who have asked about the proposed cybersecurity legislation.

39 Mr Zaqy Mohamad and Mr Vikram Nair also asked how the legislation will complement the powers in the existing Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act (CMCA). Madam Chair, the CMCA grants powers for law enforcement agencies to investigate and apprehend individuals or entities behind cybercrime. However, cyber-attacks have increased in sophistication, and attackers have become faster and bolder. It is inevitable that Singapore’s critical information infrastructure will at some point be targets. The interconnectivity in our networks also means that the effects of cyber-attacks can be contagious.

40 Globally, governments have been strengthening their cybersecurity legislation.

  • In Germany, a law was passed last year to enforce minimum cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure operators. It also mandates the reporting of significant cybersecurity incidents.

  • Last December, the US government approved the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, to facilitate the sharing of cyber threat information. The law also protects information sources from being sued.
41 We need to likewise strengthen Singapore’s cybersecurity legislation. We will commence work on developing a standalone Cybersecurity Act that provides for stronger and more proactive powers.

42 Mr Christopher de Souza, during Budget, asked for an update on the timeline. Madam Chair, CSA will consult stakeholders on the scope of this new Bill. Broadly speaking, the Bill will ensure that operators take proactive steps to secure our critical information infrastructure, and report incidents. It will also empower the CSA to manage cyber incidents and raise the standards of cybersecurity providers in Singapore. We look forward to members supporting the bill when it is tabled in Parliament in 2017.

Conclusion

43 Madam Chair, to sum up, we are stepping up our efforts to enhance our cyber security, and also the resilience of our infrastructure. This is the necessary foundation for a successful digital economy. We are also ramping up our efforts to grow a strong Singapore Core in the infocomm media and design sectors – sectors that offer good jobs for Singaporeans, and also play an important role in helping to transform the rest of the economy towards an innovation-led growth.

44 Thank you.


Visit the MCI COS Budget Debates 2016 Microsite for more information.


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[1] IDA will give out 150 awards; MDA will give out 70 awards; and Dsg will give out 90 awards in FY15 and 16.