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5G to power Singapore’s digital economy

By Shirish Nadkarni

Most countries use 5G for high-speed fixed-wireless last-mile coverage. However, Singapore sees a different 5G use-case, envisioning it as an enabler to support the development of innovative applications and services that will power the country’s digital economy.

This was stated by Tan Kiat How, chief executive of Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), at the opening ceremony of ConnecTechAsia 2019, at Marina Bay Sands on Tuesday. Tan was inaugurating one of the region’s largest telecommunication, media and technology events that incorporates BroadcastAsia, CommunicAsia and NXTAsia.

“Put simply, it is not just about how fast our 5G network is, or how soon we have it; it is about how smartly we use the 5G networks to create value and deliver benefits to our businesses and people,” he said.

“This means Singapore’s 5G networks will have to offer more than just higher speeds. They will need to deliver next-generation network capabilities, such as full network slicing, ultra-reliable low-latency [services that?] support massive numbers of devices and greater intelligence at the edge.”

To do this, the government envisages that the 5G networks will need to be built on standalone architecture. Standards are expected to be finalised next year.

“IMDA will also facilitate network roll-out by allocating 3.5GHz to two nationwide networks, through a call for proposal,” said Tan. “We expect more 5G networks with more spectrum availability to be deployed in the coming years.”

The other major topic that Tan dwelt on was artificial intelligence (AI), admitting that such frontier technologies had immense potential to deliver benefits to businesses, workers and citizens.

However, in harnessing the value of such new technologies, the authorities were often confronted with difficult trade-offs, like giving sufficient space for the industry to develop innovative applications and services while ensuring that the interest of the end-users and society’s trust in the digital systems were protected.

“To that end, we have been working on several initiatives to promote the responsible and accountable use of AI,” Tan said. “One example is the Model of Governance Framework, released earlier this year for adoption and feedback.

“The framework is the first in Asia to provide private sector enterprises with readily implementable guidelines on how to address key ethical and governance issues when deploying AI solutions. The framework exemplifies Singapore’s commitment to investing and building capabilities in AI.”

At the regional level, IMDA has helped set baseline data protection principles by contributing to the ASEAN Framework on Digital Data Governance. The authority supports multilateral certification mechanisms such as the APEC Cross-Border Privacy Rules and Privacy Recognition for Processors systems.

“We will continue to work with fellow regulators to nurture such an environment of trust,” said Tan. For example, we have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with both the UK and Hong Kong to foster greater collaboration in this area.”

Earlier, while welcoming the IMDA chief as well as Harriet Green, CEO and chairman of IBM Asia Pacific, Ian Roberts, regional executive director – ASEAN business of the ConnecTechAsia show organiser, Informa Markets, remarked that the organiser

had worked hard with knowledge partners to enhance the quality of content.

“This year’s theme, ‘Shaping Future Societies’, draws the focus on the key forces driving digital transformation across the region,” said Roberts. “We have greatly enhanced the number of networking sessions; this year will see over 30 networking sessions, enabling people to interact, share ideas and provide solutions for the challenges affecting the industry.”

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