National information infrastructure

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New NII vision and goals

The beginning of the 1990s coincided with the initiation of a political leadership transition in which the premiership was transferred from Mr. Lee Kuan Yew to Mr. Goh Chok Tong in Nov. 1990. The new vision of the new prime minister was put forth shortly in a document called The Next Lap. The document likened economic development as a marathon race in which Singapore had done well in the first lap as an NIE. In the next lap of the race, it envisioned Singapore joining the rank of advanced, developed nations by the end of the century, and challenged Singaporeans to prepare for the tougher competition in the "top league" of nations. Information, knowledge and technology were identified as the most important factors for success in the next lap (Government of Singapore, 1991).

IT2000 vision plan

Right after the release of The Next Lap, an "IT2000" study was initiated by NCB in Jan. 1991 to examine how IT can create new national competitive advantages and enhance the quality of life in Singapore to the year 2000. The study involved extensive consultation with industry leaders, academics and senior government officers, grouped into working committees covering eleven major economic sectors: Construction and Real Estate; Education and Training; Financial Services; Government Services; Healthcare; IT Industry; Manufacturing; Media, Publishing and Information Services; Retail, Wholesale, and Distribution; Tourism and Leisure Services; and Transportation.

The result of the study was the drafting of an IT2000 Vision Plan. The plan was subsequently approved by the Cabinet and later released to the public in the form of a report called The IT2000 Report: Vision of an Intelligent Island in March, 1992. This was one and a half year before the Clinton-Gore Administration announced the National Information Infrastructure (NII) initiative in the US.

The IT2000 report set forth the vision that, within 15 years, Singapore will:

"... be among the first countries in the world with an advanced nation-wide information infrastructure. It will interconnect computers in virtually every home, office, school, and factory. The computer will [by then] evolve into an information appliance, combining the functions of the telephone, computer, TV and more. It will provide a wide range of communication modes and access to services. Text, sound, pictures, videos, documents, designs and other forms of media can be transferred and shared through this broadband information infrastructure made up of optical fibres reaching to all homes and offices, and a pervasive wireless network working in tandem..."

The vision further identifies five strategic thrusts for Singapore to leverage this nation-wide information infrastructure (NCB, 1992, pp. 19-36):

· Developing a global hub: Singapore has prospered in the past by plugging into the global business networks as an efficient regional business hub. The key strategic role of NII is thus to further enhance and sustain Singapore as a highly efficient center for goods, services, capital, information and people. Through NII, Singapore aims to become a global business, services and transportation hub.

· Boosting the economic engine: The second strategic role of NII is to boost productivity in existing industries as well as to create whole new businesses for the economy. NII will be used to enable Singapore to move towards high value-added manufacturing with coordinating links to lower cost manufacturing centers in the region. NII will also constitute an important infrastructure to promote Singapore as an intelligent commerce and distribution center. Other perceived economic spin-offs include re-engineering the construction industry and enhancing the tourism sector.

· Enhancing the potentials of individuals: Recognizing that skills, creativity and knowledge will become even more critical in determining success in international competition in "the Next Lap", the third strategic thrust is to exploit the multimedia capability of the NII and the availability of more powerful and affordable information devices to enhance the learning capability of individuals. Potential areas of exploitation range from extensive use of multimedia technologies in schools and tertiary institutions, interactive distance education, enhancing indigenous media industries and cultural institutions through the creation of an electronic media marketplace, facilitating access to international and local databases, and providing extra help for the disadvantaged.

· Linking communities locally and globally: The fourth strategic thrust is to use NII to help Singaporeans to extend and strengthen their personal ties with others locally and globally through the creation of electronic communities. Potential areas include the establishment of community telecomputing network to help create more involved and cohesive communities, and the development of a "Singapore International Net" to help provide access to Singaporeans who are overseas and to promote Singapore to foreigners.

· Improving the quality of life: The fifth strategic thrust is to enrich the lives of Singaporeans by exploiting the NII to increase their discretionary time and to create more options for leisure. Potential areas of application include reducing the need to travel for business or government transactions through the availability of "One Stop, Non-stop" government and business services on the NII, teleshopping, cashless transactions, telecommuting, easy commuting via electronic road pricing and intelligent transport system, better healthcare and intelligent buildings.

At the heart of the new IT2000 plan is a '3C' view of IT - Compute, Conduit and Content. The plan stressed that, while computation was the focus of the previous National IT Plan, IT in the 1990s and beyond will be increasingly driven by the development of more advanced, ubiquitous information networks and the digitalization of contents.

To turn the vision into reality, therefore, the plan proposed two major paradigm shifts: the need to develop an integrated and advanced national information infrastructure (NII), and the need to promote content digitalization and the development of multimedia content industries.

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