Thursday, June 21, 2007

iX2007 Singapore - day 1 deep thoughts


iX2007 started today here in Singapore. The first conference that really caught my eye for quite some time. Today was keynote day.
iN2015 Update - Optimism in the air?
Interesting to see Mr Chan Yeng Kit (iDA) presenting his update on Singapore's iN2015. When you look at the progress being made in key areas like digital infrastructure upgrade and undergraduate admissions in ICT programmes, I think it reflects accurately the "mood" in the industry, which I'd summarise as "optimistic, with increasing confidence". SARS, dot.bomb and the Asian financial crisis are still recent memories but slowly receeding into history ...
Business Forum - a Truely Interactive Panel Discussion!
The Business Forum ran as a panel discussion involving Pek Chew Yai (SiTF), Lim Chin Hu (Frontline), Craig Gledhill (Cisco) and Phey Teck Moh (Pacific Internet). Robert Chew (Accenture) did a great job as moderator by feeding the discussion with comments coming from the chatroom. I've got to say that this resulted in the most interactive and interesting panel discussion I've ever experienced in this part of the world. Amazing to see the realtime flow from keyboard to chatroom then having a direct impact on the discussion. I think The Digital Movement cashed in on a really good bet by setting up the chat (running 37 Signals Campfire) and providing SMS and free wireless access. We may be too paisei here to step up to a microphone, but in the chatroom the speech runs free and wild!

Great to see the conference assuming a web persona; Jeremiah Owyang has already blogged on his Day 1 thoughts.
Singapore - Producers or Consumers?
All this enthusiasm to use the technologies at hand to enhance the conference experience really underscored for me one of the topics that got a bit of an airing during the panel: are we clear on our aspirations as both consumers and producers? I think so much of the focus in iN2015 is geared towards the consumption ... improving our already-great infrastructure, ensuring we have an ICT-savy workforce. I think we are still struggling with the production aspect, the irony being that there appears to be a huge amount of energy and creativity pent up in Singapore just waiting to be unleashed on the production side. How many of the grads from SMU, NUS, NTU and the like are destined to face the choice of (a) stay in Singapore but end up in a less exciting role than they had hoped for, or (b) head overseas to pursue their dreams? I guess they can take comfort that going overseas is at least a realistic option once again!

Meaning no disrespect to any of the pioneers doing amazing work in Singapore, ICT and Digital Media production is still niche here. And I don't see too many signs this is changing. There seems to be a defacto assumption that its good enough to be a "hub". After all, that is what has made Singapore so successful in logistics, corporate and financial services. But I wonder if that necessarily has to be the case for ICT? Its almost like we are afraid to dream the big dream.

I'll throw a hypothetical out there:
  • Singapore has a skilled workforce, an attractive base for foreign workers, great infrastructure, stable and transparent government (in most things;), cultural ties to India, China and the West, high proficiency in English in addition to many other languages, and lower salary costs than most western countries.
  • So why don't we see, for example, large software companies basing development centres here?
  • Sure, the prevailing view is that if its not in China or India, you must be crazy. But what would be so crazy, for example, of a US company maintaining corporate HQ in the US, development centres in China or India, but running R&D, product management and lead development out of Singapore?
  • Personally I think the net result would be a huge benefit for the company concerned. I think you would also find managing offshore development in India and China from Singapore surprisingly effective.
  • And as a result, all these creative, innovative technopreneurs being groomed in Singapore would find much more opportunity to do big things in their own backyard.


Solutions? Well of course, in true Singaporean style, we could say the gahmen needs to do more to set a bold vision, attract and support ventures of this nature. That means EDB, SiTF and iDA. But I think the real change needs to come from within the ICT community in Singapore (inlcuding those working in the multinationals). Be big, be bold, be best. Believe.
Tomorrow...
Anyway, looking forward to the track sessions tomorrow. My only problem is that I want to be in 3-4 places at the one time. Hard to decide between the 6 tracks: digital media, eGovernment, security, SOA, wireless and eLearning. I think I want to participate in them all ... now is there a technology solution for that?

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