Inaugural Address by Senior Minister of State Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee at Map Asia 2009
18 Aug 2009 Posted in Speeches
President of GIS Development, Doctor Narayanan
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning. I am happy to be here at the opening of Map Asia 2009. It’s good to see so many overseas and local participants gather to exchange ideas, share experiences and discuss new trends for the geospatial industry.
Map Asia is widely regarded as the premier event in Asia for geospatial experts and enthusiasts from government, private and academic sectors to discuss issues affecting the geospatial community. This is the first time Map Asia is held here, a positive collaboration between the Singapore Land Authority and GIS Development. This event is timely as organisations, businesses and individuals increasingly recognise the importance of geospatial information, and are integrating more location-enabled services into their activities.
Geospatial Landscape in Singapore
- Despite the global financial crisis, I believe this is an exciting time for the geospatial industry, particularly in Singapore. Let me share with you the reasons for my optimism.
- The potential for geospatial information is immense. There is no running away from it. Indeed, tapping geospatial information is already part of our daily lives. In the morning before leaving for work, some of us check our mobile phones for the day’s weather forecast. We listen to the radio for traffic updates to ensure a smooth journey to the office. At noon, some use Google earth to locate a restaurant that they want to patronise. And in the evening, we navigate to a popular nightspot using our on-board car navigation system. All this is possible because of people like you.
- Geospatial information can now be made available to end-users with great ease, be it a map in your mobile phone or a navigation system inside your vehicle. The availability of geospatial information is no longer a premium service. It has evolved into a necessity for many. What this means is that people are getting more “location-savvy” and the importance of geospatial information in decision-making is now widely-acknowledged.
- To meet these needs, fundamental map information has to be made freely available. The government has, over the years, initiated several programmes to achieve this objective. The Singapore Land Authority, SLA, has, for example, through STREETMAP @ SINGAPORE, provided free access to an online map containing useful street information.
- Our businesses have also become more “geospatially-aware”. This is partly due to the presence of local and international companies here in Singapore involved in geospatial applications, technologies and equipment. Through practical and innovative services provided by these companies, businesses have become more proficient in tapping avenues to create “geospatial” business value. For example, Wheresoft Geo-commerce has provided budding entrepreneurs with a service to locate the ideal place to set up shop. Another example is MapKing, which has been developing applications for navigational purposes. In both instances, data from the SLA has been used.
- I believe the decision to deliver geospatially-enabled services in Singapore was taken based on the recognition of the potential for such solutions to be translated into real value. Industry players must continue to create even more innovative products and services for their clients by taking advantage of their position at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies, and strive even harder to educate users on the benefits of integrating geospatial processes into their activities and businesses.
- Even in schools, GIS has been introduced as a tool for students to solve problems. To enable this “geospatial-value” to be inculcated from young, the SLA has organised a competition for students to come up with innovative GIS solutions to everyday problems. Started last year, the annual SLA Spatial Challenge was well-received and has allowed our youths, through their projects, to understand and harness the benefits of geospatial information. I understand that at this conference, there will be a dedicated forum for geospatial educators to share best practices and experience. This will be an excellent platform to facilitate the discussion of issues pertinent to the teaching of geospatial disciplines. This way, eventually, our next generation will be geospatially-enabled.
Geospatial Survey of the Public Sector
- Next, let me share with you some findings of a recently concluded survey conducted by SLA that gives us an indication of how “geospatially-ready” our public agencies are. 65 agencies were surveyed; 83 per cent responded that they rely on the spatial and spatially-enabled data available in the government to support or enhance their operations. This clearly demonstrates the public sector use of geospatial data which I am sure will grow over time.
- Another finding is that the public-private information flow is not one-way, but is actually a two-way flow, with 25 public agencies using geospatial data from private entities in their functions. This is to be expected as the government alone cannot possibly collect all the data required. This is where the industry has to step in and fill the gap by providing value-added content on top of those collected by the public sector. This partnership will leverage on the expertise of industry experts to create and harness better use of geospatial information to benefit everyone.
- A good gauge of how advanced our public agencies are in the use of geospatial information is the extent to which GIS is integrated into their workflows. 23 agencies are already using GIS in their work, with another 13 starting to explore GIS in their processes and the rest indicating that they are looking into harnessing geospatial technologies.
Geospatial Focus Areas
- Moving forward, Singapore recognises the economic, environmental and social benefits of geospatial information and technologies, at the national, organisational and individual levels. Our strategy is simple, but our plan, ambitious. We take a Whole-of-Government approach to spatially-enable national data hubs containing information on LAND, PEOPLE, BUSINESS and SECURITY. This national spatial data infrastructure, which we have named SINGAPORE GEOSPATIAL COLLABORATIVE ENVIRONMENT or SG-SPACE in short, will provide a co-ordinated effort to better govern the collection, storage, dissemination and use of geospatial information across all government agencies.
- To do this, the government will be investing $27 million over 5 years to build the infrastructure and develop the collaborative environment that will not only benefit inter-government activities but ultimately extend to the private sector, and eventually, to the man in the street as well. SG-SPACE will include the setting up of a mechanism to network with existing data hubs, improvement to existing systems and spatial data in public agencies, creation of fundamental datasets which are in demand and widely used by many and the development of tools to convert non-spatial data to spatial data.
- A crucial component of SG-SPACE is the establishment of a one-stop data exchange platform for geospatial information for government agencies. Implementing such an infrastructure will unlock the vast potential of geospatial information residing in the government by placing geospatial information at the fingertips of users. To put it simply, data suppliers could publish data that is available and users in the government agencies could view, search and access data they need using the same integrated platform.
- Over the next few months, an intelligent map will be introduced. This initiative will be a launch pad for all public agencies to build their own geospatial services using a common and consistent map. In addition, it will be the gateway for the private sector to mesh content from various sources with their own collection of geospatial information. For individuals, the map could be used for day-to-day social activities, such as guiding friends to a dinner location.
Singapore’s Geospatial Future
- The industry must show the way in developing geospatial capabilities to serve specific market segments and communities so that these advances will benefit all and improve the way people work, live and play. Only when the industry is leading product delivery from the foundation established by the government will the geospatial sector be sustained. The government will continue to work with stakeholders and the industry to achieve the outcome of “a geospatially-enabled nation”, where geospatial information is used effectively, extensively and efficiently. Ultimately, the public will be the key beneficiary of these value-adding services.
- Let me conclude. The possibilities afforded by geospatial concepts and technology are immense. They can be applied in diverse key areas such as environmental protection, urban planning, crisis management and homeland security. I am sure you will make full use of this conference to create opportunities, generate business deals and have meaningful discussions on these issues. I wish you a fruitful conference ahead and, for our overseas friends, a great stay in Singapore.
- With this, I declare the Map Asia 2009 Conference Open.
Last updated on 26 Nov 2012