SINGAPORE: The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and the Media Development Authority (MDA) will be restructured into two new entities: The Infocommunications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Government Technology Organisation (GTO), announced Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim on Monday (Jan 18).
The restructuring follows the introduction of the integrated Infocomm Media 2025 masterplan in August last year, and aims to better capitalise the ongoing convergence in areas such as pay-TV and telecommunications. It also takes into account the evolving responsibilities IDA has taken on in recent times such as cybersecurity and the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA).
Explaining the move, Mr Koh Boon Hwee, chairman of the Infocomm Media Masterplan Steering Committee said: “Advances in technology have blurred the distinction between broadcasting and telecommunications. The reorganisation of IDA and MDA is therefore, not only timely, but a positive development.”
He noted that the infocomm media sector is important for Singapore to nurture as it offers “many opportunities to improve in productivity growth, create high-skilled jobs, support an ageing population and foster a cohesive society in the midst of globalisation.” The newly merged IMDA will also help bring the country closer towards its goal of establishing of a value-creating economy, Mr Koh said.
In a Facebook post, Dr Yaacob said the convergence of the infocomm and media sectors has accelerated in recent years, and brought up considerations to merge IDA's and MDA's development and regulatory functions "from time to time".
The move to restructure the two regulators will help Singapore to stay ahead and prepare for the future, he said.
"IMDA will have a more comprehensive view of the industry developments and regulations. The GTO will lead the digital transformation of the public sector; improving the delivery of public services to our people," he said.
INTEGRATED REGULATORY FRAMEWORKS
The reorganisation will take place from Apr 1 this year, with current IDA Managing Director Jacqueline Poh heading GTO, while existing MDA CEO Gabriel Lim to be appointed to lead the IMDA, said Dr Yaacob during the International Telecommunication Union Standardisation Sector (ITU-T) Study Group 20 (SG20) meeting on Monday. However, the official establishment of both bodies will only take place in the second half of 2016, he added.
IDA Executive Deputy Chairman Steve Leonard will take on Deputy Chairman (Non-Executive) at IMDA, Channel NewsAsia understands.
IMDA will develop and regulate the converging infocommunications and media sectors “in a holistic way”, and will implement the latest 10-year roadmap. It will play a dual role in promoting the industry and helping create opportunities for enterprises to capitalise on the converging media landscape, as well as be the regulatory body for this sector including telecommunications and media.
The new body aims to deepen regulatory capabilities, safeguard the interests of consumers and fostering pro-enterprise regulations, according to the minister. Channel NewsAsia understands that legislative amendments will be proposed in Parliament in the second half of the year to recognise both agencies’ regulatory oversight and, during the formative stage, there will not be too many changes to current regulatory frameworks.
Dr Yaacob cited the example of telcos that offer both connectivity and pay-TV content, noting that they had to go to IDA and MDA for regulatory oversight now. In the future, they just have to go to one entity, the IMDA.
Commenting on the merger, Singtel Group CEO Chua Sock Koong said: "We warmly welcome the very timely merger. Technological advances have hastened the convergence of the telecommunications and broadcast industries, totally changing the way our customers communicate as well as consume media.
"As a telecoms company striving to lead and shape the new digital economy, we’ve had to manage the challenges of the fast-paced and complex nature of infocomm and media convergence. This merger of IDA and MDA will certainly help accelerate our innovation efforts. Being more optimally structured, the new IMDA is well-positioned to drive the national innovation agenda and ensure a consistent regulatory framework."
She added that the company is looking forward to continue to be a strategic partner in the Government's drive to further Singapore's Smart Nation vision.
Another telco, M1, also lauded the move. Mr Chua Hian Hou, Assistant General Manager for Corporate Communications at M1, said: "We welcome the formation of the IMDA and look forward to working closely with the IMDA to further develop Singapore's infocomm landscape."
The Personal Data Protection Commission will also sit within IMDA, as the agency looks to ensure that public confidence in the private sector’s use of personal data is safeguarded.
EMERGING TECH FOR PUBLIC SECTOR
As for the GTO, its aim is to lead the digital transformation in the public sector such as in the areas of robotics, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and big data. This means it will focus on providing a citizen-centric user experience and encourage the participation of citizens in creating public digital services.
The push towards creating citizen-centric online services is an ongoing initiative. Dr Yaacob in April announced the Software Design and Development Centre of Excellence, called Hive, which Government agencies can use for areas such as research and data analytics. The 13,000 sq ft facility, which was officially opened last October, houses various departments such as a design experience lab, which is fitted with sensor technology.
The existing Government Chief Information Office (GCIO), which is headed by Mr Chan Cheow Hoe, will be housed under GTO and will form the heart of the new entity. The GCIO “drives and oversees ICT initiatives to maintain the Singapore Government’s leadership position as an innovative user of infocomm technologies to delight customers and connect citizens”, according to its website.
The GTO will also play a “vital role” in supporting the nation’s Smart Nation push, particularly in delivering the Smart Nation Platform and its accompanying applications, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said. Last August, the IDA announced S$2.2 billion in ICT tenders, and the key areas of procurement will be focused on digital and data services, Web services, infocomm infrastructure and the development of the Smart Nation Platform.
It will also leverage the Smart Nation push to try and attract top-tier engineering talent, both Singapore and foreign, so that there will be a “strong foundation” for the initiative.
NO REPLICATION WITH SNPO, CSA
Channel NewsAsia understands that there will be no overlaps between the two new bodies with related agencies such as the Smart Nation Programme Office (SNPO) and the Cyber Security Agency (CSA).
For instance, in the area of cybersecurity, CSA has national oversight and is working with respective sectors’ regulators to strengthen their IT security. For Government ICT initiatives, it will work with GTO in the area of cybersecurity, but the latter will be in charge of enforcing regulations in the public sector.
SNPO, which is under the Prime Minister’s Office, remains the coordinating body in the public sector where Smart Nation initiatives are concerned. However GTO, not SNPO, will be the agency that implements Smart Nation's core infrastructure, Channel NewsAsia understands.