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New infocomm media body to lead way into future: Yaacob

IMDA will seek to empower possibilities for all, not just select few, he says at its launch

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VIRTUAL VIEW: Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim (third from left facing camera) trying on a pair of virtual reality goggles.

Singapore

SINGAPORE'S future is digital and exciting, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said at the launch of the agency created from the merger of the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) and the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA).

The new body, called the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), will lead in running 10 programmes in the field of infocomm media (ICM).

Dr Yaacob said: "The opportunities are there. It is up to us to ... harness the full potential of tech and media to empower a future of possibilities for Singapore."

At the launch attended by more than 700 industry players, programme partners and beneficiaries, he underscored the need for an institution like IMDA to lead Singapore into a digital future, one marked by a convergence of infocomm and media.

The two sectors are "coming together to transform our lives", he said, adding that Singapore's economic well-being will depend on her remaining relevant in the face of change, the biggest of which is digital disruption.

The Republic is well-placed to thrive in this digital economy, he said.

IMDA's strategy is threefold: to develop a strong ICM sector, to build an environment of trust through regulations and to improve the lives of Singaporeans through ICM.

Dr Yaacob said: "IMDA's success depends on whether it has used ICM to empower possibilities for all Singaporeans, and not just a few."

Doing this is not easy, and open minds, hard work and, most importantly, partnerships among the government, industry and the people will be needed.

He said: "While other countries grapple with digital divides, IMDA will help generate a digital multiplier for our people."

Chan Yeng Kit, the permanent secretary for defence, has been appointed chairman of the IMDA board.

GovTech, another agency born from the restructuring, will be launched on Oct 7.

Meanwhile, IMDA has embarked on an urban logistics project to boost delivery and logistics processing in malls. For this, it is working with Spring Singapore and CapitaLand to implement in-mall distribution, dock scheduling and queue-management solutions to reduce waiting and queuing time for deliveries, and the number of trucks needed.

BT learned that this productivity-boosting project is still nascent and being reviewed, although in-mall distribution solutions have been implemented at Tampines and Bedok malls since June.

New areas of automation will be taken into consideration later.

IMDA will also team up with Mediacorp's incubation programme, Mediapreneur, to scout for startups in the media sector for its A@IMDA (Accreditation@IMDA) programme, which gives accredited companies first dibs when government agencies and local enterprises undertake procurements.

There are currently 15 accredited companies.

Asked by BT whether this collaboration would compete with SPH Plug & Play, an accelerator programme by Singapore Press Holdings and Infocomm Investments (a subsidiary of the former IDA), IMDA chief Gabriel Lim said it will be "complementary". He said at a briefing on Thursday that A@IMDA targets later-stage startups, and that IMDA is open to working with all media companies.

Other IMDA programmes unveiled on Friday include a smart-facilities management service that seeks to improve the cleaning, security guard and landscaping work in buildings; a collaboration with animation firm Side Effects Asia-Pacific to explore the use of virtual reality in clinical training; and partnerships with non-profit bodies and tech firms to bring healthcare to homes.

Mr Lim had said on Thursday that IMDA would play a regulatory role in ICM matters, and that it would strike a balance between being progressive and protective, and support sectoral lead agencies in developing regulations.

At Friday's launch, Dr Yaacob indicated that IMDA will facilitate the setup of more "regulatory sandboxes", controlled spaces to test new technologies and where regulations are loosened to promote innovation.

Steve Case, co-founder of Internet company AOL, said in his book The Third Wave that the government is central to a new digital economy, so innovators ought to work with regulators, and convey how their companies operate and respond to proposed policies.

He said: "If you ignore government, a lot of governing will get done without you."