Singapore to benefit from 'app economy'

The building blocks for developers to create mobile apps are in place, but it is important to equip app developers to build products that benefit both businesses and the wider local community.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The coming together of publicly-available data from local government agencies, good broadband infrastructure, and high smartphone penetration provides a conducive environment in Singapore to create mobile apps that will drive a vibrant "app economy" and contribute to the social good.

S.P.T. Krishnan, co-founder of the non-profit Google Developer Group (GDG) Singapore, said while these factors lower the barriers of entry for app development in the city-state, it does not necessarily mean software developers are being spoonfed.

"The kitchen is ready with the recipe and ingredients, and the dining room has guests, but you still have to do the cooking. That is something very important [to note]," Krishnan said. He was speaking to ZDNet ahead of the inaugural PlugFest International Programming Competition, which was jointly created by GDG Singapore and another non-profit, IEEE Computer Society Singapore.

A coalescence of publicly-available data from government agencies, good broadband infrastructure, and high smartphone penetration makes a primer for a strong "app economy" in Singapore.

The melding of the various factors will, in turn, spur a greater "app economy", he stated. This means giving the means to developers to create apps which will benefit the society in general, he said. For instance, apps leveraging traffic camera data from the Land Transport Authority can help motorists find the quickest alternative route to their destinations. The same data and app can also serve a commercial need for those in the food delivery or courier business, he noted.

"This adds new revenue channels--besides the usual in-app advertising that most developers rely on--and that translates back to taxes for the government," Krishnan said.

Empowering local developers
To help develop the app economy, Yap Chern Nam from IEEE Computer Society Singapore said PlugFest can act as the platform to generate ideas and apps from participants.

Both men said the objective of PlugFest is to train local talent in mobile app development with a cloud emphasis. This broader focus ensures developers experience not just the front-end application development, but also the back-end management with cloud computing in mind, Krishnan noted.

"[It is not teaching them] to manage the physical server, but to stand on the shoulders of IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) and PaaS (platform-as-a-service) giants," he said.

Developers, for example, need to understand scalability in terms of peak user traffic and have business acumen, such as choosing a vendor or how to grow the business. If a developer wants to expand to target enterprises, knowing how to scale his application appropriately and cost-effectively and making it enterprise-ready does matter, Krishnan said.

As such, the mentors at PlugFest IPC will range from government officials to professional app developers and business development executives, according to them.

Participants in the competition--which is divided into two categories for tertiary students and working professionals--will receive mentorship from February 15 to March 15 as they develop Web-based mobile apps meant for social good, using public datasets from data.gov.sg. The top 20 percent of apps submitted from each category will go on as finalists and compete at an awards ceremony on April 3.

The organizers said they expect to have 75 participants in total, with 60 already signed up.

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