Big Debate panelist Q&A profile: IDA

In the leadup to ZDNet Asia's Big Debate on Nov. 28, we put the spotlight on panelist Tan Eng Pheng, senior director of industry cluster group, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

SINGAPORE--There has been a lot of hype about big data, but are companies benefiting from it yet? What are the key challenges Singapore businesses face in capturing relevant data and extracting intelligence from it?

How can technology help resolve some of these challenges, and what is the government's role in helping Singapore companies tap data for innovation? These, among others, are just some of the big data questions panelists will be discussing at ZDNet Asia's Big Debate to be held this week on Nov. 28 at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

Tan Eng Pheng, IDA
Tan Eng Pheng, IDA

Among them is panelist Tan Eng Pheng, senior director of industry cluster group, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

A member of IDA's senior leadership team, Tan currently spearheads several initiatives spanning trade and logistics, finance, transport, tourism, and education under Singapore's Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) ICT roadmap. He also leads IDA's efforts in promoting promote the use of business analytics in both the government and private sectors, as well as driving the development and implementation of a nationwide, interoperable near-field communication  ecosystem.

As a leadup to the panel discussion, we profile Tan in a Q&A here to get some of his initial thoughts on big data. Also catch our Q&A profiles of other panelists in the big debate: 

Q: How would you define big data? And why should Singapore businesses and the general population care about it?
Tan: There is general agreement big data is characterized by the massive amount of data being generated. Big data growth is driven by a variety of new unstructured types of data including images, audio, video, social media, mobile, sensors as well as traditional transactional data. Additionally, data is being created at an increasing speed.

As such, new technologies and manpower capabilities are needed to manage, store, process, and analyze big data in a cost-efficient and operationally effective manner.

Singapore businesses are well positioned to benefit from harnessing value from big data, given the country's strong ICT infrastructure and digital economy. This is relevant in many economic sectors including tourism, healthcare and government.

The general population in Singapore can also benefit from the use of big data in the public sector, resulting in better urban planning, public safety and transportation.

What do you see as the most fascinating potential application/deployment of associated big data technologies?
The potential of big data is significant and can be leveraged to drive value and unlock business insights across public and private sectors. For example, a study by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) identified the behavior of taxi drivers during rainy weather and the difficulties for commuters to get taxis. The study analyzed data from 830 million global positioning satellite (GPS) records, 80 million taxi trips, and two months of weather conditions.

Going forward, the ability to provide short-term forecasts of weather patterns to taxi drivers can possibly ease unmatched demand spikes during bad weather.

There is also strong potential for new big data applications in areas such as social media to generate useful insights, enhance customer engagements, and drive revenue growth.

Where does big data innovation fit in the iN2015 roadmap?
Data analytics is a key priority for IDA, and the government adopts an integrated approach in catalyzing demand and adoption in several industry sectors, developing capabilities of the infocomm industry and cultivating manpower capabilities. These efforts are supported by necessary infrastructure and policies.

The government has kicked off several initiatives such as sharing of public sector data and promoting the greater use of analytics in the public sector.