Singapore looks to boost mobile transactions

Government says it will focus some projects toward driving mobile transactions in country, including a national security framework to win user trust.

COMMUNICASIA, SINGAPORE--The government has highlighted several key economic sectors it expects will benefit from infocomm projects, which will see some of its investments go toward the delivery of a mobile services infrastructure, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said Tuesday.

During a media briefing held at the CommunicAsia tradeshow here, IDA CEO Ronnie Tay gave an update on the country's iN2015 infocomm masterplan, noting that the infocomm industry grew its revenue 66 percent since 2005 to hit S$62.7 billion (US$44.8 billion) last year. Export revenue also expanded 83 percent over the same period to reach S$40.4 billion (US$28.8 billion).

Singapore's connectivity is also one of the world's highest, reaching 80 percent home broadband penetration last year and mobile phone penetration at 137.5 percent, said Tay.

To capitalize on the country's IT assets, the government said it has identified finance, and tourism, hospitality and retail as some key sectors that will benefit from mobile services.

Digital Concierge over mobile
One project targeted at the tourism industry is Digital Concierge, which is aimed at growing the local mobile services ecosystem with the delivery of personalized and location-based services. The IDA selected six companies in April with which it will collaborate and jointly invest S$10 million (US$7.14 million) over the next two years to drive the initiative.

One of the companies, PayPal, is looking to help make mobile payment more seamless.

Another collaborator, Maven Lab, will create a mobile content platform to allow businesses to develop and host mobile Web sites. This infrastructure will also be open to taxi companies so they can plug in and integrate their own system, to provide mobile booking service. Incidentally, Maven Lab created a taxi-booking application for ComfortDelGro, Singapore's biggest taxi company.

Tay said Digital Concierge will allow local establishments to easily offer mobile services and provide infrastructure elements that would otherwise be prohibitive for retailers to set up themselves. These include a payment system, location positioning and a shared business directory to allow F&B (food and beverage) establishments to be more visible.

Besides businesses, mobile app developers are also expected to benefit from the platform since they can tap these shared elements to reduce development time, he said.

The IDA has targeted a base of 1 million active users for Digital Concierge by 2012.

National authentication framework
To encourage online transactions with financial institutions, the government will also set up a fully-owned subsidiary to operate a common security layer--the National Authentication Framework (NAF)--for businesses looking to offer such services to customers.

First announced in 2005 as part of a nationwide infrastructure to authenticate transactions between the government, businesses and citizens, the NAF has since gone through multiple rounds of review including a call for collaboration in 2008 with the deadline for submission extended into 2009.

Khoong Hock Yun, IDA's assistant chief executive of infrastructure development group, explained the delay as a result of feedback from the private sector which eventually prompted the government to subsume the project under its own effort.

He said institutions such as banks are especially stringent on security requirements, and after an initial call for proposal in setting up the framework, the government realized one of the big challenges the framework faced would be in gaining trust from businesses.

As a result, the government decided to lend its assurance to the effort, leading to its decision to set up the subsidiary, said Khoong. The entity may be passed onto the private sector eventually after this initial kickstart by the government, he added.

The NAF body will fully own the infrastructure, which will be padded with the necessary redundancies and the network made fully private to avoid security exploits, said the IDA.

The ICT regulator added that one of its first services offered will be a one-time password (OTP) system. Businesses can use this to fulfill a two-factor authentication method of validating users.

In particular, said Khoong, the availing of the OTP via a central system will come in handy in cases where users have to carry multiple tokens or have more than one e-transaction provider. The unified platform will simplify the log-in process for users and leave the authentication layers to the backend, he said.


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