Singapore on track with iN2015

Government says it has made progress on its grand ICT plan to make IT truly available to everyone, and adds new initiatives targeting small and midsize businesses.

SINGAPORE--The government said Tuesday the progress of its 10-year infocomm technology (ICT) masterplan is on track, and announced new initiatives targeting tourism and small and midsize enterprises (SMEs).

Speaking at the launch of imbX2007, Singapore's Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Lee Boon Yang, said: "Last year, I told you about Singapore's ICT Masterplan iN2015. Since then, a number of programs and initiatives had been rolled out collectively by the government and industry...We have made progress. But this is still early days and we have much to be done."

The minister said that Singapore has moved a few steps closer to extending broadband access to public places islandwide.

To date, the Wireless@SG initiative has over 3,400 public hotspots islandwide, with another 1,600 wireless hotspots expected by September this year. To date, about 430,000 people have subscribed to the free unlimited Wi-Fi service.

The country's plan for a next-generation national broadband wired broadband network is also on track for completion by 2012, according to Chan Yeng Kit, CEO of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), in a media briefing.

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Singapore moves closer to iN2015 target
Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Lee Boon Yang gives an update at the opening of imbX2007

Chan said that 12 companies and consortia have been selected in a pre-qualification exercise, but declined to reveal further details of the tender. "The discussion we have with them now is in commercial confidence, so it will not be appropriate for us to share that now," he said.

A draft has been developed for discussion between IDA and the vendors to look at issues such as the industry structure, business model and service required for the new network. "Having a new next-generation network is not just the physical [backbone network] layers. You also need supporting elements, whether it's services or otherwise," Chan said. The formal request for proposal is expected in the third quarter of this year.

Lee also announced a new initiative targeting SMEs, as part of iN2015. Infocomm@SME is the government's latest plan to help the country's SMEs take advantage of the latest infocomm technologies.

For a start, SMBs can seek assistance by visiting the SME Infocomm Resource Center located at Singapore Polytechnic, where they can get advice on commonly used applications such as e-mail, IP telephony, antispyware and antivirus. And to make it easier for SMEs to establish a Web presence, businesses will be able to register their domain name when they register their business, Lee said.

IDA and Spring Singapore--a government body that establishes industry standards--will fund up to S$5 million (US$3.25 million) from the Technology Innovation Program (TIP) to help SMEs innovate and grow.

"By 2010, we target to have at least 80 percent of SMEs using broadband and having Web presence," Chan said. "In any industry or any kind of program, you need champions or icons. We are looking to help some of the more powerful SMEs do a makeover, [and] in the process show other SMEs how things can be done."

Other announcements include an update on the island-state's interactive and digital media (IDM) space.

Lee announced that EON Reality, a U.S.-based interactive 3D software provider, will be establishing its headquarters as well as a research and development center in Fusionopolis, Singapore's info-communications and digital media hub. The lab will showcase the latest 3D and holographic display tools which can be used to enhance online sales, marketing, training and collaboration.

The government also announced a new initiative called the Digital Concierge, which it said could potentially help the national Tourism 2015 goal of achieving 17 million visitor arrivals and S$30 billion (US$19.5 billion) in tourism receipts.

The Digital Concierge will make use of Singapore's islandwide Internet Wi-Fi access or the available cellular network, to offer personalized and location-based services such as recommendations on places to visit, restaurants to eat at and activities to do.