RADM (NS) (Rear Admiral, National Service) Ronnie Tay is the CEO of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA). Prior to joining IDA, RADM(NS) Mr Tay served in the Singapore Navy, including as the Chief of Navy. He was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Gold) (Military) in 2005 and the Long Service Medal (Military) in 2007. RADM (NS) Tay was awarded the Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship to pursue undergraduate studies at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in Engineering Science. He also obtained a Master of Science in Management degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in USA. RADM (NS) Tay attended the Advanced Management Programme at Insead, France.
Singapore is one of the most highly networked countries in the world; it has long recognised the importance of ICT as a driver of economic growth and social development and has systematically exploited ICT to accelerate the country’s development. Most Singapore households and businesses have computers and access to broadband Internet. The government is now investing heavily in its long-term plan, Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015), to meet new demands and to prepare the nation for the next phase of digital technologies.
Singapore was recently ranked second in the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2009-2010, for being one of the most networked economies in the world. Singapore has long recognised the key role that ICT plays as an enabler for economic growth and social development. Over the last three decades we systematically exploited ICT to accelerate Singapore’s development. Today, about 83 per cent of households in Singapore have access to at least one computer at home, 81 per cent have Internet access and 80 per cent have broadband access. The proportion of enterprises using Internet and broadband reached 75 per cent and 69 per cent respectively. Mobile phone penetration remains strong at 138 per cent - more than 6.8 million mobile subscriptions as of March 2010. According to the Measuring the Information Society 2010 report published by the International Telecommunication Union, Singapore is one of the economies with the lowest price of ICT services relative to income. The ICT Price Basket combines the cost of fixed telephone, mobile cellular and Internet broadband services. Pervasive connectivity Moving forward, Singapore will continue to make timely and carefully planned investments in ICT to sustain our economic competitiveness in the global economy. More than a decade ago, Singapore invested in her first broadband infrastructure and this has greatly enhanced Singapore’s connectivity within the country and with the world. In 2006, as part of the ten-year ICT master plan, Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015), Singapore laid out its plan to build a Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure (Next Gen NII) to meet new demands and prepare the nation for the next phase of digital technologies. The Next Gen NII comprises a pervasive wireless network and an ultra high-speed wired network. The wireless network, Wireless@SG, was launched in December 2006. This free Wi-Fi broadband service has over 7,000 hotspots and some 1.5 million subscribers, with the average user clocking about 6.7 hours of usage a month. Free access to this service has been extended to March 2013. To meet the increased demand, the access speeds were doubled from 512kbps to 1Mbps early this year and an automatic log-in feature, known as Seamless and Secure Access, was introduced to enable an ‘always on’ experience. The wired network, Next Gen Nationwide Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN), will offer symmetric broadband access with speeds of up to 1Gbit per second and beyond. Deployment of this ultra high-speed network is on track and the Network Company (NetCo) of Next Gen NBN, OpenNet, has started commercial operations. By 2012, the network coverage of Next Gen NBN is expected to reach 95 per cent of all homes and businesses in Singapore. Beyond faster download and upload speeds, the availability of pervasive, cost-effective and ultra-high-speed broadband will lead to greater opportunities for consumers and businesses. Consumers can look forward to innovative services such as interactive IPTV, remote office and high definition video -conferencing. Businesses will find it more cost-effective to access Next Generation services such as cloud computing, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and other bandwidth-intensive remote back-up and collaboration applications that will help increase their operational efficiency. Enabling businesses Affordable connectivity is also important especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in growing their business and enhancing their competitive edge in an increasingly globalised market environment. In Singapore, 68 per cent of SMEs have broadband access and 34 per cent have established a web presence to expand their market reach. To encourage more SMEs to be connected, IDA’s Infocomm@SME programme provides, among other things, assistance to SMEs who wish to have broadband connectivity and online presence. SMEs can also take advantage of the faster connectivity from the Next Gen NBN to tap into new emerging technologies like cloud computing to enhance their business operations. SMEs can, for example, choose ‘quick to implement’ infocomm solutions by subscribing to Software-as-a-Service. This will not only help to reduce costs, but also enable interaction with partners and potential customers around the world. Enabling all citizens As connectivity becomes more pervasive, it is important to ensure that all are able to benefit from it. In Singapore, programmes and initiatives are thus put in place to encourage the less ICT-savvy and less privileged to be part of the digital revolution. The government, for example, launched the CitizenConnect community project to provide an easy and convenient means for the public to transact with the government online. Supported by IDA and targeting citizens who do not have computer or Internet access and need help with using government e-services, CitizenConnect Centres located around Singapore offer free access to the Internet with staff on-hand to help citizens and residents access the eCitizen portal and perform online transactions with government agencies. Similarly, under IDA’s NEU PC Plus Programme, low-income households can receive assistance to get affordable new computers bundled with free three-year broadband access and software. The programme has allowed students from low-income households to connect online and capitalise on exciting learning possibilities, thus enabling them to take learning beyond the classroom. IDA has also rolled out the Silver Infocomm Initiative to help senior citizens aged 50 and above to adopt a digital lifestyle. Under the programme, Silver Infocomm Junctions (SIJs) are set up to help senior citizens pick up infocomm skills, including making video-calls on the Internet, socialising online and playing computer games. They can also look forward to multi-lingual training, such as Chinese Internet surfing. IDA will also be setting up 100 Silver Infocomm hot spots island-wide to provide convenient access to computers and Internet services for senior citizens free-of-charge. Targeted for deployment by 2012, these hot spots will be located at places easily accessible by senior citizens such as Community Centres, Senior Citizen Connect areas or clan and society buildings. With the pervasiveness of the Internet and an ICT-savvy population, the demand for greater and faster connectivity is set to grow. In Singapore, plans are in place for a pervasive and future-ready infocomm infrastructure to meet the challenges ahead. It is also important to ensure that connectivity is accessible and affordable, so that citizens and businesses can all take advantage of it. This in turn will contribute towards the next phase of Singapore’s social and economic development.