Singapore is set to become an Intelligent Island by the year 2000, Reuter reports. Singaporeans can already press a few buttons on a bank’s automated teller machine and apply for shares, get stock market data on a pocket-sized pager, dial up for pointers on health care and phone in tax returns on incomes of up […]
Singapore is set to become an Intelligent Island by the year 2000, Reuter reports. Singaporeans can already press a few buttons on a bank’s automated teller machine and apply for shares, get stock market data on a pocket-sized pager, dial up for pointers on health care and phone in tax returns on incomes of up to $12,740 a year. And, under the government’s Information Technology 2,000 plan, all computers in virtually every home, office, school and factory will be interconnected. One in four Singapore households already owns a computer but only about 10% have modems. The vision is to transform Singapore into an Intelligent Island where the people will have access to on-line information and services, anywhere, any time, says state National Computer Board chief executive Ko Kheng Hwa. The National Computer Board said that by 2000 it would be technologically feasible for Singaporeans to work, shop and bank from home via a large electronic screen, that will receive and send pictures and information to other screens, by pushing some keys or using voice commands. It will be a computer, television, telephone, a video camera and a player all rolled into one. For example, a person could be able to dial up from home to connect a home computer screen with a tailor’s shop and select the design, size and colour of garments on display. Next, an image of the home dialler would come on screen wearing various electronic mock-ups on the screen to help the person decide what to order. The key question, however, will be market demand. The National Computer Board’s major partners include Singapore Telecom Ltd, equipped with satellite earth stations, trans-oceanic cables and Broadband Integrated Services Digital Network. Broadband ISDN enables a single telephone cable to handle multiple simultaneous transmissions and provides many more channels of video than are available through wireless broadcast. Some of the projects hitched to the year 2000 vision are about to take off now: borderless libraries link local and overseas libraries and enables users to access multimedia information databases from their homes, offices and libraries.
In 1996, Singapore will launch an Electronic Road Pricing system, where some of the entry points will automatically debit a motorist’s stored value Smart Card fixed to a vehicle as it passes a point to enter restricted business districts. Road Pricing is now undergoing a trial run in some areas. By around the end of the decade, it should also be possible to touch an icon on a television screen placed at an information kiosk, read the reviews of the latest concerts or cinemas and select and pay for seats from bank accounts. The fast-paced networking process undertaken at a cost of billions of dollars is maintaining Singapore’s competitiveness. Last year, the public and private sectors spent over $1,900m buying computer hardware and software. Additionally, Singapore Telecom spent over $320m in developing telecommunications infrastructure. About 4,000 private companies and 20 government agencies hooked to the computerised Tradenet system introduced in 1989 can complete trade documentation within 15 minutes against two hours earlier. The Singapore port loads and unloads a container in four hours, against eight hours earlier. The government gets a return of $1.73 for each dollar spent on computerising the civil service, the National Computer Board said. Shortages of computer engineers and programmers pose a challenge but Hwa believes Singapore has the professional staff to implement the plan, and any shortfall will be supplemented by external sources, already one in five computer professionals is a foreigner, mostly from India and China.