S'pore wants 'digital abundance' to be reality

Country needs its ecosystem to support bid to enable "unlimited bandwidth" and "supercomputing-on-demand", says industry regulator.

SINGAPORE--The country envisions a future of unlimited bandwidth and "supercomputing-on-demand", and companies are hoping to tap into this "digital abundance" to ramp up their services, according to Singapore's industry regulator.

Speaking at a seminar Thursday, Ronnie Tay, CEO of Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), urged delegates to look to future technology and find ways to support the realization of the country's "digital abundance".

"Imagine a future where having high-performance computing and unlimited bandwidth is the norm. Imagine a future where such resources are pervasive and can be accessed anywhere, anytime," Tay said.

And Singapore is well on track to achieving that, he said, pointing to the country's current "high level of mobility and connectivity"--where there are some 7,200 free Wi-Fi hotspots sprinkled across the island--the recent seaport WiMax initiative, and the planned next-generation national broadband network.

This high level of connectivity will complement the country's desire to embrace high-performance computing, and bring its people to the next technological era, Tay said.

Derek Callow, Google's Southeast Asia marketing lead, said businesses here enjoy relatively advanced technology compared to those in neighboring countries. This, he said, places users in a better position to embrace and take advantage of cloud computing, which the search giant sees as a fundamental part of the Web's future.

Callow said: "It is difficult to ensure people enjoy [Google's] products on 386s and 486s [computing systems]... Digital abundance [in Singapore] is ahead of a lot of regions, where people do not have as advanced systems."

However, the country must now take the next step in figuring out how to get users to understand the "cloud", and determining further efforts to get users to work out privacy and trust issues that come with placing their data online, he said.

Lucas Chow, group CEO of local broadcaster MediaCorp, expressed hopes that Singapore's people--having grown accustomed to advanced technology--will also be ready for the "future of media consumption".

Chow said the company is looking at experimental technology such as 3D TVs, which can be viewed without special eyewear.

He painted a picture of future media delivery he termed "media-mashing", in which entertainment will require input from the user, making it more interactive than watching TV, which he said is comparably more passive.

Hospital medical records could also see a boost from advanced connectivity.

Dr. Sarah Muttitt, CIO of Ministry of Health Holdings, said Singapore's current electronic medical record (EMR) system needs improving to keep up with technological advancements.

"Healthcare is one of the world's most information-intensive industries... We need to push digital investments to 4 percent to 5 percent of total spend for the next five years," Dr. Muttitt explained.

"Digital abundance will enable the future of medicine in fields such as predictive care," she said, on systems which can alert a user to potential health problems before they actually occur.

Yet, noted Muttitt, while there is a lot of data collected in the healthcare industry, most of it still remains on physical paper.

"While [other industries] are pushing the 22nd and 23rd Centuries, technology-wise, I feel like I'm dragging healthcare from the 20th Century into the current one," she quipped.

The healthcare industry must also invest in allowing better patient-doctor communication, so that doctors can be alerted if there are emergencies, she added.

"This will happen only through investments in digital abundance," said Muttitt.