Focus on proposal to create Asian IT hub

By Yeoh En-lai, The Straits Times, 10 January 2001

The two countries will study the Asian IT hub plan with the Republic proposing a direct connectivity between itself and Japan

SINGAPORE and Japan are exploring the possibility of creating an Asian information technology hub which will eventually complement Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s e-Asean initiative discussed at the Asean+3 summit last year.

Speaking at the close of the fourth Japan-Singapore symposium, Professor Tommy Koh said that while the e-Asean initiative looked at a synergy of possible Silicon Valleys in Asean, the Asian hub discussed was more of a physical nature.

At the moment, there is no physical infrastructure. And sometimes, you have to go through a third country. What we propose is direct connectivity between two countries, said Prof Koh.

The symposium welcomed the idea of involving the private sector which co-chair Lim Chin Beng said was not only beneficial but essential.

In line with the IT hub proposal, the symposium also looked at ways to close the digital divide between developed and developing nations in Asia.

Already, Japan was intent on sending missions to developing countries to see how it could best help develop IT infrastructure there.

It unveiled a five-year, US$15 billion ($25.5 billion) package to help developing countries eliminate the digital divide last year.

As for the Economic Agreement for a New Age Partnership between Singapore and Japan, co-chair Yoshio Okawara said his government had placed talks between the two nations high on its agenda.

Mr Lim, former Singapore Ambassador to Japan, is understood to be heading the Singapore delegation in talks that will begin later this month.

This is going to be more than the normal FTA. This is a new-age FTA, bringing in communications and new economy ideas, he said. Talks resume this week.