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The Essential Little Red Speck – Singapore to establish a Digital Exchange

IDA unveils the vision to digitise Singapore’s physical assets through the establishment of a physical exchange

Singapore has always been a hub for trade. Since Raffles claimed Singapore for the British Crown, Singapore has always been an important exchange of physical goods and services.

But with intense competition in physical goods and services, Singapore’s government has seen the need to fly up the value chain, and key to that strategy is to establish Singapore as a digital exchange where Singapore will be a trusted node in the management and delivery of digital assets.

The potential is enormous. According to PWC: Entertainment and Media Outlook 2003-2007, “Global entertainment and Media Spending will reach record US$1.4Trillion by 2007 and digital assets and digital services will contribute compound annual growth of 4.8%.”

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has established an ambitious program to digitise existing assets and create new value chains in the development, processing, management and distribution of digital assets
Singapore has resources to achieve this ambition. Singapore is already Asia’s most connected city with some 13 Tbps of direct internet connectivity. Its multi-racial society combined with some of the strongest laws and enforcement on intellectual property provides Singapore with the potential of realising the vision to become a valued digital exchange. IDA is also helping Singaporean companies to develop opportunities to learn from the best in the world. For the first time Singaporean companies were brought to the world famous Games Developers Conference in March 2004. IDA is creating opportunities for Singaporeans at home. And leading lights in the world of digital technology, games and animation have come to Singapore to support IDA’s vision.

Singapore’s technology industry was given such an opportunity on Friday 23 April, 2004 at a networking event held by IDA and SiTF at the Legends in Fort Canning. Participants at the event were given the privilege of being presented with bold and ambitious plans for the future.

The evening began with an address by Mr Thomas Lim, director of games and entertainment at IDA. Mr Lim highlighted the potential of the digital exchange. He pointed out that the online games market in Asia alone would reach a billion US dollars by 2006 (online gaming in AP, May 03-IDC.) And Singapore already had the world’s first digital cinema multiplex that was bought by the Eng Wah group.

After Mr Lim’s presentation, Professor Thomas Furness International Director HIT Lab NZ & Director HIT Lab US gave a presentation on “Supermedia” and a new approach to the collaborative creation of Digital Content. Professor Furness has been called the “God Father,” of virtual reality. And during his presentation, he showed the audience how technologies like virtual reality could change the way people approached aspects of their lives like learning.

The final speaker of the evening was Mr Scott Houston, Chief Technical Officer, WETA Digital Ltd. WETA Digital lab is the academy award-winning studio behind the special effects of Lord of the Rings. Participants at the event were treated to a description of how many of the special effects like Golum were created. Mr Houston ended his presentation by highlighting the similarities between Singapore and New Zealand. Both were small countries with clever people who are willing to learn. He encouraged Singaporeans to work with New Zealand.

Dinner was served after the presentations were concluded. At dinner, guests were given the chance to mingle and share ideas. Mr Choy Heng Wah, Director of Special Projects at ST Teleport described the event as, “Encouraging. When you see another small country like New Zealand break new boundaries and achieve what it did with Lord of the Rings, it gives you tremendous belief that we in Singapore can also achieve great things.”

Nick Arathimos, Director of East Asia for Investment New Zealand was equally enthusiastic about the possibilities that a digital exchange in Singapore could create. He said, “ We’re keen to work with Singapore. Singapore has all the raw material in place to build a fantastic digital exchange. We are keen to work with Singapore to create a very strong partnership in this enormous and dynamic industry.” Professor Furness supported this sentiment. “ I think Singapore has got what it takes,” he said. “It has the facilities, it’s connected into the global system but more importantly it has the people who want to make the possibilities happen and I really look forward to seeing Singapore play its part in the digital world.”

Could Singapore create its own version of Lord of the Rings? Or could it even play a part in the next Lord of the Rings. IDA will certainly be working to make sure that there is every reason that a Singaporean company in a Singapore that is a digital exchange will be able to do so.

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