Pushing Singapore's ICT ahead to 2015

Singapore's sixth infocomm technology blueprint aims to bring economic and social benefits to the island state's people and companies.
Written by Sol E. Solomon, Contributor

One of the region's early technology adopters, Singapore first embarked on its National Computerisation Plan for the Civil Service in the 1980s. It is now into its sixth masterplan and aims to extend the reach of ICT services across the island-state.

Singapore's latest technology blueprint, called Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015), was announced in 2006. It is designed to help the nation achieve various economic and social benefits through more sophisticated and innovative use of infocomm technologies.

Through iN2015, Singapore is aiming for a two-fold rise in value driven by its infocomm industry to S$26 billion (US$17 billion) and a three-fold increase in infocomm export revenue to S$60 billion (US$39 billion). It is also targeting for this industry to create 80,000 new jobs.

With a goal of achieving 90 percent home broadband usage, the country is building a next-generation national infocomm infrastructure (NGNII) that comprises two components. The first points to the Wireless@SG network that currently boasts about 8,000 hotspots, offering registered subscribers free wireless broadband access island-wide.

The second component looks at the next-generation national broadband network (NBN), a nationwide ultra-high speed broadband network touted to be able to support speeds of up to 1Gbps. It is targeted for completion in 2012, where 60 per cent of homes and offices will be able to access it by 2010.

Wholesale prices of S$15 (US$10) per month for fiber connection to residential homes and S$50 (US$32) per month for non-residential fiber connection, will be offered to companies that build and operate the network's active layer. These wholesale prices are expected to encourage competitive retail prices in the local broadband market.

Meanwhile, Singapore has also begun building its national grid infrastructure that brings together commercial grid service providers offering pay-per-use access to compute, storage and software facilities.

The three appointed grid service providers--Alatum, nGrid and PTC Systems--have already commenced offering high-performance computing, starting with 2,400 compute cores in November 2008, and immense storage capacity of up to 30 terabytes.

Greater research efforts
To support the country's future growth and development, Singapore has also committed to building its research and development (R&D) capabilities and talent.

To this end, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) partnered another goverment agency, Spring Singapore, to run the Technology Enterprise Commercialisation Scheme (TECS). This initiative provides technology entrepreneurs and small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with early-stage funding for R&D projects, for Proof-of-Concept (POC), as well as Proof-of-Value (POV) grants.

The POC grant aims to help SMBs develop technology ideas from the conceptualization stage by providing full-funding of up to S$250,000 (US$162,000). The POV grant provides 85 per cent co-funding of up to S$500,000 (US$324,000) to support R&D efforts and develop the company's first working prototype.

The IDA also lends its support through initiatives that create opportunities for infocomm local enterprises (ILEs) and multinational IT companies (MNCs) to collaborate and innovate.

Two such programs are the Overseas Development Programme (ODP), and the infocomm Local Industry Upgrading Programme (iLIUP). Under these initiatives, MNCs partner ILEs to develop products and services and build new capabilities in innovative and emerging technologies.

Through these schemes, ILEs also get access to the global marketing and distribution networks of their MNC (multinational corporation) partners.

In the three years leading to 2008, the ODP recorded a compound annual growth rate of 33.8 per cent for ILEs export revenue, mainly in the software and IT services market segments. To date, iLIUP said it has helped ILEs develop 219 new or enhanced products and services and trained more than 900 infocomm professionals.

Power to the people
Manpower development is another key aspect of the iN2015 blueprint.

To help infocomm professionals upgrade their skills and capabilities, the IDA--together with Singapore's Workforce Development Agency--developed the National Infocomm Competency Framework (NICF). This roadmap articulates the competency requirements of key infocomm jobs to help employers put in place employee training and development programs based on industry standards.

Infocomm professionals can also look to the NICF to plan their personal skills upgrading and career development. At the same time, training providers can use the NICF to develop high-quality courses and certification programs required by the industry.

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