SINGAPORE: Competitive advantage no longer lies with the ability to hoard data, but how it is analysed and used, said Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Programme Office Dr Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday (Apr 12).
Speaking at the announcement ceremony of a new initiative to equip more people with skills in big data and analytics, he said Singapore needs to be ahead of the curve as it pursues its Smart Nation vision. The event was held at Shangri-La Hotel Singapore.
"We believe that this explosion of data is going to put many white collar, middle-class jobs at risk," said Dr Balakrishnan. "The pace of change is so quick now, if our people don't have the skills and we don't have the infrastructure, we're out of the game."
DATA SKILLS TRAINING
Called the Big Analytics Skills Enablement (BASE) initiative, the move by data management and analytics service provider Cloudera will tie industry players such as Dell, Intel, Red Hat, and Microsoft as well as academic institutions like the National University of Singapore and the Institutes of Technical Education to provide training in data skills.
"Just about every industry is going through a digital transformation right now, where they're finding that data is becoming a core asset that's fuelling their growth and success," said Mr Doug Cutting, chief architect at Cloudera. "And they need professionals - people who are skilled in getting the value from the data that's right now passing through their fingers, that they're not effectively using."
Such training is offered at discounted cost. Cloudera provides partner institutions with a complete, industry standard curriculum on their Hadoop software infrastructure - which stores and processes large datasets, under its existing Cloudera Academic Partnership (CAP) programme.
Said Mr Damien Wong, senior director (ASEAN) and general manager of Red Hat: "Providing a platform whereby we can produce more trained and certified IT professionals that meet the needs of industry players like ourselves, as well as some of our customers and partners who are impacted by this technologies, is going to be very important for success.
"The reason for that is that when we're looking for trained IT professionals who have these skillsets, we're going to look for people who do possess the requisite certifications so that we know that they'll be able to meet the needs of what we need them to fulfil."
On completion of their training, the data professionals will then be matched to suitable job vacancies.
Cloudera hopes that this will go some way in addressing a shortage of skilled IT talent in this field. The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore has projected a shortfall of 30,000 data professionals in 2017, particularly in the fields of cybersecurity, data analytics and applications development.
BUILDING UP PROFESSIONAL CAPABILITY IN THE AREA
To this end, the Ministry of Communications and Information announced during this year's Budget debates that it has set aside S$120 million to build up professional capability in this area, which Cloudera hopes it can also tap.
However, manpower development and building infrastructure are not the only pieces in the equation, according to Dr Balakrishnan.
"Whether you're an open-source or proprietary company, service company or system integrator, there still needs to be a viable functioning business ecosystem. The key thing even in a business ecosystem - and this is what Silicon Valley does so well - is not just the presence of money but 'smart money'," he said.
"Meaning, we need investors, angels (investors). We need private equity that actually knows enough about technology, about the products and services to make informed bets as to whether you're going to succeed or not."
He added that such investors - who understand the market and the products and services it offers - can nurture, guide and expand the network of these companies as they grow.