The ICT industry is also a significant economic generator in Singapore. The ICT industry contributed 6.4 per cent to the country’s GDP in 2002, but by 2008, its contribution will increase to 7 per cent. To get on this journey of growth, Singapore is focusing on building capabilities in new growth areas such as Grid and Utility computing, Web Services, Infocomm Security and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Strategic projects include:
• A Digital Exchange that rides on the country’s excellent state of connectivity to distribute, manage and process digital assets, such as online games, digital cinema and animation, to the rest of the world. This project aims to generate S$500 million worth of digital transactions.
• The Singapore Government will invest up to S$50 million (US$29.4 million) over the next five years to develop an integrated IT platform for the logistics sector, which will make Singapore more competitive as a world class port and logistics hub.
• The Infocomm Development Agency (IDA) has invested S$9 million to help 45 companies develop solutions in Web Services. These companies expect to generate S$125 million in revenue over the next two years
• IDA has also allocated S$10 million to help companies in the manufacturing, distribution and retail sectors build their capabilities in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Industry partners have committed an additional S$12 million in trial projects, technology and infrastructure development. By 2007, the RFID initiative is expected generate ICT spending of S$50 million in the development and adoption of RFID technology.
• The Singapore Government will award S$1.5 billion worth of IT tenders this year for a project which will reduce the time to deploy new ICT services in Government, improve its ability to respond to ICT security threats, and make it easier to operate and maintain desktops and networks.
For its innovative use of technology, Singapore is ranked first in the world for Networked Readiness in 2005-2005 in World Economic Forum’s latest Global Information Technology Report. Singapore is also rated the Number One Business Environment in Asia Pacific, according to EIU, 2002. It is ranked first in Asia for Intellectual Property Rights Protection by PERC 2004 and Global Corruption Report, 2003. Singapore also topped the Global e-Government Survey by Brown University, 2003.
The achievements that Singapore has made over the years in the advancement of ICT may be attributed to the vision and drive of early pioneers from back in the 1980s in recognizing the importance of technology to the development of the economy. Prior to 1980, the government itself had only one computer, and one central department provided computer services for the entire government. That was the era of the mainframe computers. But technology was changing, and decentralized systems using mini-computers was emerging as a powerful alternative to the centralized approach.
As early as 1979, the government had recognized the need for computerization, and a Committee for National Computerization was formed, chaired by the Senior Minister of State for Education. In 1981, the government established a separate statutory board, the National Computer Board or NCB (the precursor of IDA). One of its roles was to set up an information systems department in every government ministry, so that new applications could be developed more quickly. At the same time, the Government also recognized the need to train more computer professionals. The NCB spearheaded this, and formulated a comprehensive manpower development programme to convert mid-career professionals from other vocations into IT specialists, and to launch new courses to turn out graduates in ICT. Thirdly, the NCB also concurrently embarked on a nation-wide programme to encourage the use of computers, and to train people to use them.
This encouraged demand for more computerization, and prepared the necessary manpower to deal with the surge in demand. This combination of both supply-side capability building, and demand stimulation, enabled the ICT market to grow rapidly. Today, the NCB has merged with the telecommunication authority to become an integrated agency, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, or IDA. This new agency promotes and regulates the whole Infocommunications sector.
Throughout our history of ICT development, progress was driven by the vision of using ICT to transform and benefit society. This shared vision has made it possible to coordinate actions across the civil service, to build shared databases, integrated applications, and a national IT infrastructure, so that we can make full use of ICT to enhance national competitiveness. The results of this strategy have borne significant results for the country.
This article was contributed by Sarath Menon, Orissa Associates Pte Ltd, the International Business Group Office in Singapore. For inquiries, contact the local IBG office in Nigeria on