The Singapore infocomm Technology Federation (SiTF, www.sitf.org.sg) is the national trade association representing the infocomm industry. It was formed in 1991 from a merger of the Singapore Federation of the Computing Industry (SFCI) and the Microcomputer Trade Association of Singapore (MTAS).
To better represent and champion the interests of its 500 members, which include both multinationals and SMEs, SiTF has formed eight interest groups or chapters along specific industry segments – ASP/IDC Alliance Chapter, Digital Media Chapter, eLearning Chapter, Singapore Enterprise Chapter, Security Chapter, Web Services Chapter and Wireless Chapter. Early this year, it formed the e-Government chapter with the support of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA). These chapters provide the necessary focus of events, marketing and branding, market development and other initiatives.
Last year, the SiTF organised 92 events in Singapore and overseas, an average of two events a week. These activities are organized along six
strategic areas – Marketing & Branding, Networking, Business Intelligence, Internationalisation, Education and Development, and Representation
One key area of focus is Internationa-lisation. Since 2001, SiTF has been promoting the branding of the local IT industry through its ‘Made in Singapore & Proud of IT!’ (MIS) branding.
“Singapore is well known and highly respected as a regional IT hub,” explained Koh. “But our companies are relatively unknown in foreign markets. The brand association will help them market and promote themselves more effectively.”
SiTF’s internationalisation efforts include mounting business missions to emerging markets. Several missions have been organised in the past three years to China, Thailand and Vietnam, and several others are planned – mainly funded under IE Singapore International Marketing Promotions Programme (IMAP).
“These missions are not only designed to open new markets and identify local business partners for our local IT companies,” said Koh. “They also enable our companies to plan ahead to go into markets which may not be fully developed yet.”
According to Koh, Singapore’s rapid development in IT has been a double-edged sword for our IT companies. “On the one hand, our companies have developed the skills and competencies to develop leading-edge solutions such as in eGovernment,” he explained. “On the other, the small size of Singapore tends to keep our companies small, which means they don’t have the size and scale to handle big projects overseas.”
To overcome this inherent limitation, SiTF has been pushing for its members to work together in clusters. The best expression of this has been in the Singapore Solutions Centre (SSC) in Shanghai, China. This S$3 million centre, which was set up jointly with IDA, brings Singapore IT companies together in five industry clusters. By collaborating, the cluster members gain the size and scale to seek out large projects they cannot otherwise do on their own.
While SiTF has done and achieved much in opening up foreign markets for local IT companies, it counts the Government as a key strategic partner. The support from Government agencies such as IE Singapore and IDA is a critical success factor, he said.
Government assistance programmes such as IMAP and IDA’s Overseas Development Programme (ODP) have enabled Singapore IT companies to venture abroad. Bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) have helped.
But it is in the eGovernment space that the Government has made the most meaningful impact. After many years of lobbying by SiTF, the Government has finally agreed to allow IT companies to retain the intellectual property to solutions they develop in Government IT contracts.
Previously, the IP on these solutions rested with the Government agency which awarded the contract. This prevented the IT developers from redeveloping and commercialising their solutions to overseas buyers.
The move now enables IT developers to expand their product offerings. “The Singapore Government has a strong reputation for insisting on quality and our developers can now show an impressive track record,” said Koh.
The Government’s decision is the result of a long-term relationship that SiTF has built up with the Government. This, together with win-win relationships with foreign industry partners, delivers substantial value to SiTF members directly and provides the foundation for a robust export-oriented IT industry.