Opportunities abound in data analytics sector

As trade in physical goods continues to slump, one pillar of growth that will support the economy in the future could well be virtual.

Modern information and communications technology (ICT) services are expected to play a more important role in supporting growth this year, according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore, through the delivery of high-value information technology services.

These include emergent technologies like data analysis or cyber security, which follow a natural evolution of having a hyper-connected population, thanks to convenient and easy access to the Internet.

One area primed to become even more relevant is data analytics, the sector which collects, analyses and uses large amounts of data.

"Over the next five years, the ability to deal with data is the single most important thing for trends in e-commerce, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things," said Mr Vikram Mengi, chief executive of data management firm Latize.

According to the Economic Development Board (EDB), the data analytics sector will likely add $1 billion in value to the economy by 2017. The Infocomm Media 2025 masterplan, a government road map for the ICT sector over the next 10 years, ranks big data as one of the key strategic thrusts for the nation.

"Singapore recognises the seminal role of analytics in unlocking the value of data, and has identified it as an important growth sector for our economy," said Mr Tung Meng Fai, EDB's deputy director of infocomms and media.

  • INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS SECTOR IN 2015

  • Share of GDP (nominal value added) in 2015: About 4.2 per cent

    Sector employment in Sept 2015: 124,900

    Growth: Grew by 4.2 per cent last year

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) said demand for data analytic professionals continues to grow.

IDA's Infocomm Manpower Survey 2014 showed the total demand for data analytics professionals then was about 2,100. From 2014 to 2017, there will be a projected demand for 650 more data specialists, said an IDA spokesman.

The same survey showed that technical ICT specialist roles, such as those in development, network and systems, data analytics, IT security and infocomm research and development are expected to grow by about 14,800 by 2018.

Big names in software and data analytics have set up shop in Singapore, including German software major SAP, global information firm Nielsen Holdings and computer giant IBM, which runs its IBM Analytics Asia-Pacific headquarters here.

Mr Jason Jameson, the HQ's director for Asean, said: "The real value of big data comes from what it actually enables. So while there is growth in jobs that are directly related to the processing of big data - such as data scientists - the real growth and shift in jobs will be in the areas where the insights from big data are turned into tangible actions to drive competitive advantage and innovation."

The good news is that small and medium-sized enterprises will also be able to grab a slice of the growing pie.

Analytics solutions need domain expertise and data engineers.

There is a shortage of expertise in these areas,which presents opportunities for smaller and niche players to co-exist with the big players, said Mr Stephen Chow, founder of local data analytic firm Sense Infosys.

Lester Hio

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Opportunities abound in data analytics sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe