From a grand but vague vision, Singapore's IT2000 Vision plan is slowly but surely taking shape and moving in promising directions, despite some initial uncertainties caused by rapid technological change, market fluidities and impending telecommunications and broadcasting policy reforms. Although the more focused approach of NCB now emerging represents a more scaled down vision, it has benefited from greater coherence and clarity in the policy framework over telecommunications and broadcasting. Indeed, the implementation framework that has emerged over the last few years actually represents a return to a development strategy that has enabled Singapore to excel in exploiting IT the past. In essence, this strategy has two major thrusts:
1) an applications-driven orientation, focusing on combining Singapore's strengths and capabilities in some existing niche area where she already excels with the exploitation of new technology to achieve even greater excellence. Rather than seeking to be technological leaders in mass markets where many large, global players are jostling for position, Singapore is content to be fast followers in these markets, while concentrating her main energies in becoming lead users in selected applications where she is strong (e.g. sea and air transport/logistics, urban planning and development, public transport, government information services, multicultural media contents, etc.). In this thrust, the government will continue to play an important role as many of the potential application areas will involve government agencies working in collaboration with private firms or industry groups.
2) an external market-technology driven orientation, focusing on attracting worldclass MNCs and talents to use Singapore as a regional hub, thereby ensuring that the leading-edge business users would drive the country's future infrastructure deployment, and in turn, transfer advanced technologies and lead customer knowledge to local firms
The above two-prong strategy does not preclude Singapore from investing substantial public R&D efforts to attacking niche technology markets that may be relatively neglected by the big players, or where technological shifts have created new opportunities for small players. Indeed, key NII-related technologies are likely to be given more priority focus in future national technology plans being formulated by the National Science and Technology Board (NSTB), and R&D investment by local IT firms will increasing substantially over the next few years. Nonetheless, this indigenous innovation thrust will remain complementary to the larger two-prong strategy outlined above for some time to come.
Future NII development on a global scale will continue to be driven by significant technological and market fluidities. What we understand as NII today has evolved beyond recognition from when it was first conceived just five years ago, and by the year 2000 our understanding of what constitutes NII will no doubt be very different again from today. Such uncertainties notwithstanding, the policy framework and implementation strategy that have been put in place by the Singapore government over the last few years provided sufficient ground for cautious optimism that much of the original goals of the IT2000 Vision will indeed be realized, although perhaps not by the end of the year 2000 and not necessarily in the form originally envisaged. It is also likely that many of the IT applications inspired by this IT2000 Vision will be seen, in retrospect, as crucial to sustaining the competitiveness and productivity of the Singapore economy at the dawn of the next millennium. If this happens, the IT2000 Vision would have truly served its purpose.
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