On Friday morning the 20th of April CIONET enabled commissioner Neelie Kroes to meet with Ms Choy Peng Wu, Group CIO of the Neptune Orient Lines. Ms Wu is also the former Government CIO of Singapore and the “Asia Pacific CIO of the Year” in 2011, conferred by IDC. Ms Wu was one of the keynote speakers at the CIO CITY event. Given her background both in public administration and the private sector, CIONET took the opportunity of Ms Wu coming to Europe to set up a meeting with Commissioner Kroes to discuss the Asian experience and view on IT.
At the end of the meeting Ms Wu concluded that in Singapore eSkills are just assumed by government, organizations and citizens to be there. This conclusion did not come by itself and was not easy. As early as 1981 Singapore established a ‘National Computer board’. It’s objective was to exploit and export ICT and bring Singapore in the 21st century. Initially, the government lead the way and the first 10 years were used to show by example, automate the government and learn. After those 10 years effort was made to automate the interactions with government and support SMEs to use IT. And online filing of your income tax is just a 2 minute exercise which gets a time reward above paper based filing which one has to hand in earlier. Also eSkills education starts early in life in Singapore. Every library and all primary schools have broadband access and at least 15 PCs per classroom, there are common PCs in the school labs and there is a requirement that at least 30% of the normal school curriculum should be IT enabled. Furthermore, a major investment is made to train teachers in the use of IT. Ms Wu sees IT enabled education as a great ‘social leveler’ where poorer families now get the same access to information and opportunities. Afterwards, Commissioner Kroes indicated to be very satisfied with the meeting.
It is clear to me that Europe and the rest of the world can learn a lot from Singapore. It is a pilot nation and a great example of what IT can bring a nation: prosperity and being prepared for the 21st century. It does require one to have a long term vision and to hold on to the long term focus.
Frits Bussemaker, Liaison European Relations – CIONET