Singapore IT roadmap churns talent, drives industries

Country's iN2015 blueprint producing more skilled IT workers to meet market demands and spurring IT adoption across industries such as healthcare, as well as small and midsize businesses.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

Spanning across a decade, Singapore's iN2015 infocomm roadmap  has three years before it reaches the end of its timeline, but its imprint on the local IT scene, particularly on talent development and industry adoption, is already felt.

According to a spokesperson from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), when the country's sixth ICT blueprint was first proposed, the key objectives of the plan was to establish an ultra high-speed, pervasive and trusted infocomm infrastructure, develop an infocomm-savvy workforce and globally competitive manpower, and spearhead the transformation of key economic sectors, government and society through the use of IT.

With regard to the next-generation nationwide broadband network (NGNBN), IDA's assistant chief executive, Khoong Hock Yun, earlier told ZDNet Asia that the fiber network had been deployed to 83 percent of all residential and non-residential buildings as of end-November 2011.

Elaborating on the progress of iN2015 in the development of local IT talent, the IDA spokesperson pointed out that the Infocomm Manpower Development Roadmap v2.0 (MDEV 2.0) was introduced in March last year to prepare workers here for high-end, high value-add jobs. This was to meet industry changes and evolution, she added.

Within MDEV 2.0, there are initiatives that have been updated to address new and emerging areas such as cloud computing, business analytics and green IT, she said.

The Critical Infocomm Technology Resource Program (CITREP), for one, has been updated and expanded to include these emerging areas with the aim of "deepening the capabilities of infocomm and non-infocomm professionals in these domains", she noted. The IDA will be subsidizing training over four years  for 16,000 trainees to undertake courses, thereby, imparting skills in these areas.

The National Infocomm Competency Framework (NICF), updated last July, currently comprises 312 job roles and 587 competency units, the IDA spokesperson said. The framework is a roadmap that guides IT professionals in assessing the types of skills and competencies required for various IT-related jobs, and to acquire these skills through accredited training providers, she explained.

At the same time, new programs have also been rolled out to increase the country's talent pool. One example is the Hybrid Skills Development Program, with which the IDA will appoint training providers to develop specialized courses and collaborate with reputable overseas institutions to help produce professionals who are able to transform businesses in four key economic sectors: financial services, healthcare, logistics, and hospitality and tourism.

The IDA spokesperson revealed that some 2,000 professionals are to be trained under this program over four years.

In terms of attracting people to join the IT industry from other industries, Azzli bin Jamain, director of creative and professional services division at Singapore's Workforce Development Agency (WDA), noted that four fulltime Professional Conversion Programs (PCPs) have been rolled out for the ICT sector to date. These programs are targeted at software developers, systems analysis professionals, systems administrators and enterprise resource planning (ERP) professionals, and the course duration ranges from 6 to 11 months, Jamain added.

"As at the end of 2011, over 140 PCP trainees have completed the training, with more than 120 placed in infocomm companies like NCS, IBM, Accenture as well as end-user companies like OCBC, Siemens and Coca-Cola," he stated.

Transforming industries
The iN2015 roadmap is also effecting the development of non-IT industries such as healthcare and the financial services, the IDA spokesperson pointed out.

Healthcare, in particular, has benefited from the National Electronic Health Record (NEHR) initiative which was introduced in 2009. The integrated healthcare record system extracts and consolidates all clinically relevant information of one patient's encounters across the healthcare system, throughout his life. This allows for data sharing among authorized healthcare providers in the country, she explained.

The first phase of the initiative, which cost the Singapore government S$176 million (US$140 million), was rolled out last April and this encompassed putting the infrastructure in place, including the physical system components and data center equipment, she added.

The second phase is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of 2012, and will focus on reconciling patients' information and presenting the cleaned-up information to clinicians automatically when requested, she disclosed.

As for the financial services industry, the IDA spokesperson pointed to the government's plans to deploy a nationwide interoperable near-field communication (NFC) infrastructure for mobile payment services, as part of its next-generation e-payment initiative, as an example of how IT was impacting the sector.

She noted that IDA and the winning consortium--which comprises Gemalto, Citibank, DBS Bank, EZ-Link, Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel), M1, and StarHub--will be investing S$40 million (US$31.5 million) through the Call-for-Collaboration (CFC) partnership to deploy a neutral, Trusted Third-Party (TTP) infrastructure, and over 10 NFC mobile payment and value-added services by 2014. The services will be rolled out progressively, with at least three NFC mobile payment services to be made available from mid-2012, she added.

"When the rollout of NFC services commences in mid-2012, consumers can look forward to using their NFC-enabled mobile phones to pay for their purchases at retailers, meals at restaurants and F&B outlets, taxi rides, and so on," the spokesperson said.

Boosting SMB IT adoption
As for reaching out to the small and midsize business (SMB) community, the IDA spokesperson said its iSPRINT program was started to address the different infocomm adoption needs of these businesses and make it easy for them to seek assistance for their computerization projects.

The program supports a suite of IT offerings, including subscription to software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, so that SMBs can get started easily with minimum infrastructure investments, she added.

Last April, iSPRINT was expanded to include two enhancements. These included the increase of quantum of support from 50 percent to 70 percent for SMBs adopting ICT for the first time, and support of purchases of specialized hardware or software that will "enable large productivity gains in respective industries", the spokesperson noted.

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