Connecting Singaporeans together

         Sir, many Members have spoken in this Budget debate about the need to bring Singaporeans closer together as we take Singapore forward, and we agree wholeheartedly with them.

2          Let me now share with Members how MCI is fulfilling our mission to build an engaged and connected Singapore.  Through the media sector, we will engage Singaporeans with shared stories of our home and nation, and through our National Library and Archives, we will cultivate a shared appreciation of our past, so that we can move into the future with confidence and a strong sense of our identity.

Connecting Singaporeans through Shared Stories

3          Let me begin with the media.

4          The digital age offers great promise for our media sector to grow. The global entertainment and media industry is expected to grow by 4.4% from 2017 to 2022. Within Southeast Asia, the media sector is likely to grow by more than 7%.  There is a discernible shift towards Asia, and towards Asian content.

5          We are well positioned to seize these opportunities.  We are at the confluence of the East and the West.  We have talented storytellers and world-class digital infrastructure and we must leverage these strengths to develop promising young talent, deepen the skills of our media workforce, and prime our industry to ride the wave of growth in the global media ecosystem.

Developing Media Manpower

6          Mr Darryl David has asked about our plans to develop the local media industry. We are doing so through manpower development plans like our Skills Framework for Media, which maps out our career pathways and skills to help media professionals stay ahead of the competition.  We will enhance this Framework to meet the industry’s needs for writing and storytelling skills, as well as the demand for professionals with digital skills like data analytics and social media management.

7          First, we will extend the iPrep scheme to media students in tertiary schools so that they can be better prepared for the rigours of the media industry when they graduate. iPrep will provide up to $8,500 per student to cover the costs of attending industry courses, overseas internships or immersion programmes.

8          Next, we will strengthen on-the-job training to familiarise fresh media professionals with the latest trends and tools of the trade. IMDA will launch a Story Lab Apprenticeship this year to help young media professionals gain customised training and experience in key media companies. I am glad that companies like Mediacorp, mm2 Entertainment, HBO Asia and Turner Asia Pacific have already expressed interest to come on board.  IMDA will announce more details by the third quarter of this year.

9          We will also help media professionals master digital skills to compete and thrive in today’s landscape. Our Continuing Education and Training (or CET) courses have been very useful to media professionals like 37-year-old Ms Nusaibah Abdul Rahim, who is creative director of a media production company.  Last December, Ms Nusaibah attended a data-driven content development workshop organised by the Singapore Media Academy, and learned how to analyse data from audience insights to drive creative decision making. IMDA will curate more of such CET courses.

Helping Local Media Go Global

10          Mr Darryl David asked about our plans to help local media companies go global.  I would like to give two examples. Firstly, IMDA’s Public Service Media Digital Partnership Fund will help local media companies partner international players to co-produce digital-first public service content for our audiences. IMDA’s funding call for proposals will close by the end of this month, and I strongly encourage local companies to make use of this resource.

11          Secondly, the Singapore Media Festival will continue to be our main platform to showcase our most promising talent and companies to the world. Last December, the Festival attracted over 23,000 media professionals and industry thought-leaders, and facilitated more than US$313 million worth of deals. We will expand the Singapore Media Festival to seize the opportunities created by the growing convergence of the tech and media industries, and strengthen Singapore's thought leadership in the region. IMDA will share more details in the second quarter of this year.

Connecting Singaporeans to Our Past and Our Future

12          Our efforts to develop the media industry will help us to tell our stories better – to our fellow Singaporeans, and to the rest of the world.  And there is indeed no better story, one would argue, than the story of Singapore. This year’s Bicentennial commemoration will help us to understand our early history, how Raffles’ landing in 1819 set us on a path to where we are today, and to reflect on the attributes we will need to succeed in the future. 

National Library

13          The National Library and Archives will play an important and meaningful role in this Bicentennial commemoration.

14          The NLB will roll out a series of activities to increase engagement with Singaporeans.  For example, NLB’s librarians will play host and present the National Library’s rare materials collection with 25 specially produced videos.  Some highlights of this valuable treasure trove of Singapore’s early history include Munajathu Thiratuu, the oldest Tamil book on Islamic religious poetry held by the National Library, or Hikayat Abdullah, one of the most important records of the socio-political landscape in Singapore, Malacca and the southern Malay kingdoms at the turn of the 19th century. These videos will be released every fortnight from April, on NLB’s social media channels.  We have also brought a special preview of the NLB’s archives to Parliament, and I invite all Members to visit the Reception Hall of Parliament House to view exhibits that showcase our multicultural roots and life in early Singapore.

15          NLB has also worked with the community groups to digitise valuable historical content.  Last month, SMS Sim Ann launched the Singapore Biographical Database of Chinese Personalities to remember pioneers who contributed significantly to Singapore in its early days.  The NLB and the Tamil Digital Heritage Group are already at work collecting historical materials on Indian dance in Singapore for a new Digital Archive of Singapore Tamil Dance. Theatre practitioners from the Malay community will partner the NLB to create a Digital Archive of Singapore Malay Theatre.  These new databases will be a rich resource of our arts and cultural heritage, and they will be publicly available from December this year.

National Archives

16          Our National Archives also have much to offer. The NAS celebrated their Golden Jubilee last year, and their birthday wish is to encourage every Singaporean to play a part in preserving our collective memories. Our Community Oral History Committees, representing the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian communities in Singapore, have had more than 100 volunteers document over 160 hours of interviews for our national oral history collection.  One such volunteer interviewer is 31-year-old Ms Sushma Somasekharan, an auditor and classical Indian vocalist who recently interviewed her first music teacher – the accomplished Carnatic singer Dr Bhagya Murthy.   Thanks to Ms Sushma’s interview, we gained valuable insight into the Indian classical music scene in the 1980s, and how it evolved with a uniquely Singaporean twist – because in those days, Dr Murthy apparently had to learn to sing in Malay and Mandarin to cater to a multi-racial audience as well.

17          When the revamped National Archives building at Canning Rise opens next month, I hope Ms Sushma and many other potential archivists will make good use of its new facilities, such as the three new oral history recording studios in the building.  The Oldham Theatre in the NAS building will become accessible to members of the public, featuring regular screenings of curated films by the Asian Film Archive.  NAS will also launch an online system that allows members of the public to request digital images of Singapore in its early days.

18          I hope these commemorative events will ignite the interest and passion of Singaporeans to discover more about our past, and indeed, about ourselves.  Mr Chairman, the NLB and NAS have done tremendous work as custodians of Singapore’s heritage and memories.  With your permission, I would like to show this video that showcases their good work. I hope that Members feel more than a tinge of nostalgia watching these images.

Conclusion

19          Mr Chairman, My Ministry will continue to create opportunities for all Singaporeans in a digital economy, and help Singaporeans of all ages embrace technology.  We will endeavour to keep our cyberspace safe and secure, and enhance government communications to foster an engaged Singapore.  Through the efforts of the National Library and Archives, we will foster a deep understanding of our shared journey from the past to the present, and aspire to build a better future for Singapore, our home, for the next 200 years and beyond. We look forward to working closely with all Singaporeans as MCI perseveres in its mission to connect Singaporeans to each other, and to a better and brighter future. Thank you.

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