New book celebrates Singapore's IT milestones

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, signing an interactive screen to launch the book.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, signing an interactive screen to launch the book.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

It was the 1980s, and information technology was uncharted territory for Singapore. But in government and private offices around the island sat small groups of would-be trailblazers who were looking to make the Republic a leader in the field.

That it is today on the cusp of becoming a smart nation could not have been possible without the efforts of these pioneers.

Yesterday, the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF) launched a book to celebrate them. Intelligent Island: The Untold Story Of Singapore's Tech Journey tells the stories that even industry insiders may not know.

One of the major tech developments documented by the book is the computerisation of Singapore's private and public sectors, said Ms Grace Chng.

Ms Chng, a former Straits Times senior correspondent in technology and co-curator of the book, said the civil service faced the gargantuan task of growing its pool of IT professionals from about 850 people to 10,000, in a bid to computerise Singapore.

Mr Bill Liu, an industry veteran who wrote the chapter on manpower development, told The Straits Times that the first thing to be done was to increase the output at training institutions.

By raising the intake of students at tertiary institutions and training centres, the output of trained professionals reached about 1,000 a year - enough to hit the target of 10,000 by the end of the decade, said Mr Liu, the chairman of venture capital firm Stream Global.

But that was in the past. Mr P. Ramakrishna, the book's other co-curator, said the challenges now are posed by disruptive technology like malware, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

While these can be threats to Singapore's cyber security, he noted that they can also be transformative.

Looking to the future, Mr Ramakrishna, a former director at the Infocomm Development Authority's industry development division, said: "Companies nowadays are born global. What we need to do now is make sure the ecosystem is in place to allow local companies to expand and become international."

The book is available for purchase at $53.50 (with GST) on SiTF's website.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2017, with the headline 'New book celebrates Singapore's IT milestones'. Print Edition | Subscribe