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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Technology and Innovation Hubs In Singapore....

 Media Development Authority (MDA)

The Media Development Authority (MDA) was formed in 2003 by the merger of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority, the Films and Publications Department and the Singapore Film Commission, to champion the development of a vibrant media sector in Singapore. The primary purpose was to create an organization that nurtures homegrown media enterprises and attracts direct foreign investment for economic growth, new jobs and greater economic dynamism. This was in line with a national media industry blueprint called Media 21 – endorsed by the 2002 Economic Review Committee Chaired by then Deputy Prime Ministry Lee Hsien Loong – is part of the Creative Industries Development Strategy to propel the growth of Singapore’s creative economy.

When I visited the MDA offices I had the pleasure of meeting with Dennis SNG, the Program Director of the Interactive Digital Media Program office. A primary function of Dennis’s role is to find, develop, and fund interactive technologies, specifically targeting the development of software platforms mobile applications coming out of all of South East Asia. 

The conversation was great and it was extremely eye opening to see 1) all of the various MDA partners and who the MDA work’s with all over the world, including The University of Pennsylvania, and 2) receive a good background and idea of the various mobile applications that they help fund and develop through the MDA resources.

What I liked and admired about the MDA is that this “partially government / partially private sector” funded and operated organization, is working to create a very focused and in depth eco system for digital interactive media for Singapore.  I LOVED how much that innovation was a priority, so much so, that the MDA has already invested and funded 400 projects, many of them mobile applications and/or gaming platforms.
Dennis explained that the MDA has also signed several Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with government partners in the world. These MOUs are agreements of collaborations, which set out guidelines facilitating activities and collaborations. With these MDA government partners, industry initiatives have been launched to spur more media collaborations between Singapore and many other countries. Very progressive.
Singtel Innov 8  

While in Singapore I also met with Edgar Hardless, Managing Director of Investments for Sing Tel Innov8. Sing Tel is one of Singapore’s major telecos and also has a division called “Sing Tel Innvo8”, which main purpose is to create new revenue streams for Sing Tel in the areas of gaming, mobile apps, social media, and e-commerce. 

Meeting with Edgar was again, very eye opening and informative. First, the offices were amazing. Very high-tech, colorful, new, and had all of the nuances to spur “innovation and imagination”. During our meeting Edgar explained how one of  Innov8’s mission is to provide value and a richer customer experience for its subscribers. One way that they do this is to look for platforms to deploy and offer access to various applications. For instance, in Singapore there is a 200 Million fund that just invest in platforms. Yes, Just platforms. In addition, all of the mobile applications that have obtained investments are apps specifically tailored to users, ie…e-health, and e-education.

Edgar also spoke about Innvo8’s middle mile network and how there is major investment to upgrade and keep current on technologies so that all of the feature phones, applications, and platform deployments will be sustained and will grow for the users. One statement that struck a cord in my conversation with Edgar was this “our Networks are our greatest strength, but also our greatest weakness”.  So true.  As many know, Wilco also has been working to upgrade and improve our infrastructure for our own marketplace.  The expense to do this is great. BUT, in order to provide the best services for your customers and stay relevant within the marketplace, it has to be done.  So, the search for investors, ideas, and innovative ways to make implement and deploy our own middle mile, is one of the main reasons why this Fellowship occurred and why speaking with individuals and organizations such as Sing Tel’s Innov 8 and others, has been so helpful.

Ultimately, I loved how Innov 8, like the MDA, was so entrenched in building the IT and technology eco system in Singapore. I know that many in the US have opinions on government intervention and participation with these types of initiatives. There are pros and cons. But I will say, a “pro”, is that when the Government does have a stake in the development of innovation and programs to spur growth of technology and IT, the speed of development is definitely quickened and the success and rate of return strategically investment as well as financial investment,  is seen and felt within the economy moreso by the people rather than just large corporations.

Innov8 holds a start-up weekend where they provide a boot camp weekend for mobile developers to create and pitch their applications to investors and Sing Tel execs. The event takes place in the Spring and the Fall of each year. I was extended an invitation. Hope to make it sometime soon.

Thank you Edgar! Great work.

When I first decided to come to Singapore, one of the main organizations that I wanted to visit was the A*Star Institute for Infocomm Research.   The organization is funded by the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Commerce.  The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and six consortia & centres, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their immediate vicinity.
A*STAR supports Singapore's key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, hospitals, research centres, and with other local and international partners.
An additional primary purpose of A*STAR is to develop technology that will be deployed and integrated  within Singapore’s fiber network.  This was why I specifically wanted to meet with this very interesting group.

During my meeting I learned that A*Star is working on numerous Fiber to Home technologies, platforms, and services for Singapore consumers, some of which could do very well in the US marketplace.  Some of these services included video and surveillance products, interconnections of appliances and devices, smart meter technologies, and the use of “White Space” ( unused spectrum / bandwidth for TV) in order to foster advanced use, metering, and deployment of high end technologies.

This was one of the most informative meetings I had in Singapore. I literally felt like I was in a technology candy store. Everything being developed is amazing and could benefit not only Singapore consumers, but US consumers in MANY ways.  Throughout many of the countries I visited these services are merely value added offerings for the consumer. Although the US is of course developing and offering these services as well, unlike in South East Asia, we will not see these technologies in large numbers until the private sector is ready to deploy and scale. In Countries like Singapore, since the government does have a stake, these technologies are offered and utilized by consumers more quickly and affordably. 

All in all, my visit to A*Star increased my opinion that Singapore is very progressive and ahead of the pack, in regards to broadband development, deployment, and usage by its citizens.  One has to admire and greatly respect a Country such as Singapore, that caught on early and was able to capitalize its competitive edge; The Edge being the realization that the diffusion of broadband in Singapore has to be seen against the backdrop of its overall economic development goal of being a first-world nation. Now of course size has much to do with the rapid speed of this deployment, however, the early vision of the use of broadband to empower and educate its citizens, provide the platform for innovation within every industry, and spur massive amounts of economic growth for the government and its people, has to be noted.

Please Note  (#Justsaying): In a 2011 World Broadband Rankings report, The United States, where just 60 percent of households had broadband as of last year, ranked 19th and falling…. The survey of 58 countries by Boston-based Strategy Analytics. Five of the top 10 countries or territories in the survey were in Asia and the firm predicted the broadband subscriber base in the Asia-Pacific region will grow on average by a further 15 percent a year between 2009 and 2013.  Strategy Analytics said South Korea's highly urbanized population and its government-backed broadband policy accounted for its high rate of broadband penetration. Singapore ranked second on the list with household broadband penetration of 88 percent, followed by the Netherlands (85 percent), Denmark (82 percent), Taiwan (81 percent), Hong Kong (81 percent), Israel (77 percent), Switzerland (76 percent), Canada (76 percent) and Norway (75 percent).’s-broadband-ranking-declines-again-19-and-falling

My Last meeting in Singapore was with the IDA. As the Chief Information Officer for the Singapore Government, IDA is responsible for masterplanning, project-managing and implementing various infocomm systems and capabilities for the Government. It oversees IT standards, policies, guidelines and procedures for the Government, and manages the infocomm security of critical infocomm infrastructure.
As already mentioned, Singapore sees the importance of infocomm as an engine of growth for the economy. The building of a vibrant infocomm ecosystem is key to supporting the vision of An Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015), A Global City, Powered by Infocomm.
For this last meeting, I was told to meet in the bottom level of Singapore’s underground Shopping Mall and transit System. At first, I thought this was a peculiar place to meet to discuss policy, broadband, etc… However, when I arrived I got it. The meeting place was the location of the model for the Singapore public to view, get information, and seek any knowledge of Singapore’s Next Generation Fiber Broadband deployment infrastructure. I thought to myself “This was great”.  One this type of public display of governemtn money offers 1) transparency, 2) a way to really understand what the government is doing and will provide for Singapore citizens, and 3) it is located in a place that is easily accessible to the public. If only we had more of these models in the US.
During the meeting, it again was stressed that through building the Singapore ecosystem, three strategic thrusts have been articulated, namely encouraging sophisticated demand for infocomm, fostering the creation of innovative services and knowledge capital, and strengthening Singapore as an economic hub. Innovation is key to each of these thrusts, and IDA will continue to encourage innovation and seed more opportunities for the creation and adoption of innovative solutions 
and services.
Ultimately, IDA, like our own US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), plays four key roles in driving Singapore's transformation into an Intelligent Nation and a Global City through infocomm.
1) IDA aims to build a vibrant infocomm ecosystem by attracting multinational corporations and innovative foreign companies to Singapore to complement local infocomm enterprises and start-up companies;
2) One of IDA's key responsibilities is creating a conducive, innovative, and competitive infocomm environment that is both proconsumer and pro-business. As the telecommunications regulator, IDA puts in place policies and regulatory frameworks to ensure free and fair competition in the telecoms market in Singapore so that consumers of infocomm products and services benefit from greater choices;
3) IDA also seeks to build a Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure to meet the needs of the government, businesses and people. The wired component of the infrastructure - the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN) - will deliver ultra-high broadband at speeds of up to 1Gbps and beyond, to all homes, offices and schools while the complementary wireless component - the Wireless Broadband Network - will offer pervasive connectivity on the move;
4) Lastly, IDA promotes the adoption of infocomm technology as a key enabler to enhance Singapore's economic competitiveness. It works with both public and private organizations to spearhead the strategic use of infocomm in the various sectors such as education, healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, tourism, transport, entertainment and finance.

Thank you IDA for the focus and support of the Eisenhower Program and for offering such an in-depth view into the policy framework of technology in Singapore. Well done! 



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