Infocomm and Media
By Lim Yan Wen

As Singapore strives to be an infocomm and media hub in Asia, the communications landscape here is bustling with various initiatives and developments.

The infocomm industry
The hardware sector has traditionally dominated Singapore's infocomm industry. According to the Annual Survey on the Infocomm Industry, 53% of the industry's total revenue in 2006 came from hardware manufacturing. Other segments generated revenue in the following order: software, telecommunications services, IT services and content services. The infocomm industry currently employs more than 130,000 people. Most of them are involved in technical support, programming and software design. The wide range of job opportunities in the industry include software and applications careers (eg, software developer, applications programmer), network and communications careers (eg, network administrator, telecommunications director) and systems management and infrastructure careers (eg, systems analyst, integration engineer).

The Singapore government recognises the importance of an innovative and globally competitive workforce, as can be seen from schemes like the Infocomm Manpower Development Roadmap unveiled by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) in 2005. The S$120 million effort was launched to increase the competency of industry professionals and to reach out to future talent by offering scholarships and outreach programmes in schools.

Established in 1999, IDA regulates and develops Singapore's infocomm industry. By attracting foreign investment and sustaining GDP growth through infocomm technology development, IDA aims to cultivate a vibrant and competitive infocomm industry in Singapore. Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) is a 10-year infocomm masterplan by IDA to ensure that Singapore stays ahead of the competition posed by other countries and technological changes. iN2015's concrete goals include 100% computer ownership in homes with school-going children, the creation of 80,000 additional jobs and a twofold increase in the value-add of the industry to S$26 billion.

IDA's Wireless@SG programme, which has been in place for two years now, has been successful in allowing people to have access to the internet via laptops in public places. The number of Wi-Fi hotspots in Singapore reached 5,000 in September 2007, covering areas such as the Central Business District and Orchard Road.

In December 2007, details for the Next Generation National Broadband Network were announced, and under this proposal, more than half of Singapore homes and offices are expected to have ultra-high speed broadband access by 2012. The ultra-high speed network will improve data-processing speeds and enhance efficiency.

In 2003, the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) launched the Creative Industry Development Strategy, dedicating more than $200 million over five years to position Singapore as a new creative hub in Asia. Since then, various MICA agencies have come up with long-term strategies to develop the country's creative capabilities.

Media 21
One such agency is the Media Development Authority (MDA), which aims to nurture homegrown media enterprises and attract direct foreign investments to the media industry. MDA's vision to develop Singapore into a global media city is captured in Media 21, a strategic plan that seeks to boost GDP contribution from the media cluster to 3% and increase the number of jobs from 38, 000 in 2002 to 50, 000 in 10 years.

An agreement signed in April 2008 saw Europe's FremantleMedia Enterprises (FME) and MDA collaborating to invest in multi-media TV projects set to generate US$12 million over the next two years. MDA and FME will jointly select projects from Singapore-based producers to invest in and FME will be the distribution rights holder across all platforms around the world.

This project is mutually benefiting, as MDA is keen to create branded multi-platform content where global buyers identify 'Made-by-Singapore' content as synonymous with high standards and potential success in the international market, while FME wants to source for more local programming and to offer more diverse factual programming.

In Singapore's bid to establish itself as the region's hub for media businesses and the financing, making and trading of media content and services, there have been developments in various media sectors, particularly the animation and gaming industry.

Interactive Digital Media
Under the International Media Manpower Programme, launched in 2006 to boost local production capability and expertise, MDA has attracted global talents in the animation and gaming industry, and it plans to continue doing so. Talents in storyboarding, conceptualising and project management are highly sought after in the digital media industry here. With rapid growth in the animation and games sector, more jobs such as computer graphics artists, set designers and compositors will be created.

The latest statistics available showed that the industry has brought in over $18.2 billion in revenue in 2005, and employed more than 53,000 people.

In January, the multi-agency Interactive Digital Media Research and Development (IDM R&D) Programme Office hosted by MDA put in place the foundation pieces to build an ecosystem in the Interactive Digital Media (IDM) sector by strengthening the interlocking efforts of four key groups of stakeholders over the past year - individuals, industry, schools and research institutions.

Last year, the IDM R&D Programme Office funded 94 projects started by the four groups. Collectively, they are expected to deliver some 100 new innovative patents and products and will help nurture about 900 researchers and engineers.

These research projects focus on three broad areas: Animation, Games & Effects; Intermediary services which refers to technical capabilities in the organisation, distribution and security of digital media; and On-the-Move Technologies which identify new ways of reaching and interacting with mobile-connected people who are always on the move.

Collaborating with a network of nine business mentors including NUS Enterprises, NTU Ventures and Thymos Capital, IDM R&D hopes to create a supportive climate and infrastructure for young entrepreneurs and start-ups, which will definitely make the media landscape here more vibrant and competitive.

Singapore has also attracted International companies such as EON Reality to set up media R&D activities. US-based EON Reality, the world's leading interactive 3D software provider, recently opened its regional headquarters here with the launch of EONExperience Lab, a research and development centre with some of the most advanced 3-dimensional and holographic display environment. The state-of-the-art visualisation facility will be housed in the new Fusionopolis, an infocomms & media hub that will be fully completed in 2009.

In February, plans for the setting of a gaming studio from Ubisoft, one of the world's largest video game publishers, were announced. The studio will open its doors in mid-2008 in Fusionopolis. A core team of Ubisoft veterans will train the initial team, with a goal of becoming 300-people strong in the years to come. Singapore's pool of talents and unique cosmopolitan mix will be invaluable in designing creative games for global markets.

Film and Television
2007 was a significant year for Singapore films, as homegrown director Royston Tan's '881' was chosen by the Singapore Film Commission (SFC) as Singapore's official entry to the Academy for Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences' Best Foreign Language Film Award. Supported by MDA, '881' is a niche musical film with a uniquely Singapore theme, the ge tai (song stage) culture.

Singapore films also had an exciting start in 2008 with local filmmakers competing and screening their works at prestigious international film festivals, such as the Berlin Film Festival and the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

In July 2007, SingTel, one of the three telcos in Singapore, entered the competition in the pay-TV market when they offered internet protocol-based services in order to give rival Starhub a run for their money. They launched mioTV, which is a pay-TV service transmitted via SingNet's broadband network via Internet Protocol Television, or IPTV service. IPTV refers to the delivery of video or TV signals using Internet Protocol, usually via a broadband connection and a set-top box connected to the TV. This means that SingTel will now be able to compete with StarHub head-on on all three services - TV, data and voice, hence increasing the competitiveness of Singapore's pay-TV market.  

In March this year, MDA issued the first Niche Subscription TV Licence to VeeV Interactive Pte Ltd (VeeV), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sky Media Pte Ltd. VeeV plans to provide a commercial IPTV service focusing on educational content. Using Singapore as its research and development centre, VeeV also has plans to expand its digital media business into the region.

The Niche Subscription TV Licence is part of the two-tier licence framework MDA introduced in 2007 to facilitate the growth of IPTV services in Singapore by offering operators greater flexibility to provide services for different market segments. The other licence category is the Nationwide Subscription TV Licence, which caters to operators targeting the mass market. This pro-business regulatory framework from MDA is helpful in encouraging IPTV service providers to enter the Singapore market and bring more diversity in programming content and technological know-how for IPTV.

With all these developments, Singapore's media and infocomm industries look set to progress in leaps and bounds to be increasingly regarded as the regional media hub. Long-term infrastructural provisions and collaborations with international names will undoubtedly lead to a sustained growth in job opportunities available for media talents from the region and beyond.