Singapore is already making headway in the leading-edge technologies of data analytics and cyber security, but it can do more to create growth opportunities for local businesses, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Wednesday.
He said progress in these areas can also boost the country's position as a leading information technology hub.
Mr Teo, who was speaking at the opening of IBM's InterConnect conference at the Marina Bay Sands, noted that the effort has already begun.
Tech companies like IBM, NEC and Rakuten have already set up research and development facilities here to look into data analytics for areas like retail and supply chain management, he said.
The National University of Singapore has also begun to offer a one-year Master of Science programme in business analytics in collaboration with IBM. Singapore aims to train 2,500 data analytics professionals by 2017.
"If data analytics is the key to unlocking new business value, cyber security will help ensure the safety of data. Having robust cyber security capabilities will allow businesses and consumers to safely adopt next-generation technologies such as mobile and cloud computing," added Mr Teo.
Singapore will gain more expertise in cyber security when Interpol, the international police organisation, opens its global complex for innovation here next year. The centre will facilitate cyber research as a way of combating emerging criminal activities.
The local cyber security market is substantial, Mr Teo added. It was estimated to be worth $63.7 billion in 2011 with expectations that it could grow to about $120 billion by 2017.
IBM chairman and chief executive Virginia Rometty also identified data as a key component to the emerging era of tech "systems that learn".
Ms Rometty told the gathering that a better understanding of data means companies can not only predict future trends but also prescribe possible solutions.
But the new wind that is blowing across businesses comprises not only data but also mobility, social networking and cloud computing, she noted.
There are, for example, more than 2.7 billion mobile devices connected to the Internet today while a quarter of the world's population is on social networks.
"There is more than one thing happening today, and there's a convergence of these four technologies which is creating an environment that has never happened before," she said.
If this new environment is tapped correctly, then it will spur growth opportunities for businesses, added Ms Rometty, who is visiting Singapore for the first time as IBM's CEO.
Corporations that have begun to adopt these technologies have shown results, she said.
IBM's poll of 80 global banks showed that they have improved customer acquisitions by 125 per cent. In the automotive industry, costs have been slashed by 34 per cent.
In her view, corporations must do three things to join the new computing era.
One is that decision-making must be driven by analytics and information. She cited the National Environment Agency here, which used data analytics to predict the next dengue outbreak.
Corporations must also embed intelligence into products and services. Carmaker Honda, for example, has software in batteries that collects data on distance travelled, usage patterns and other information that lets it develop better products.
And lastly, corporations must think of one-to-one marketing or personalisation.
"In the 2012 United States presidential election, President Barack Obama's election team used data analytics to identify who would be most likely to change their vote. They focused on sending customised and personalised messages to those voters," said Ms Rometty.
Being ready and able to act on these characteristics requires corporate chieftains to accept constant re-invention to create services of higher value, added Ms Rometty.
DBS Bank here has been looking into using data analytics to improve customer engagement.
Ms Karen Ngui, its head of group strategic marketing and communications, told The Straits Times on the conference sidelines: "Let's say someone goes in to buy an airline ticket with a DBS credit card.
"We would pick this up and immediately send him deals on hotels, travel insurance and anything to do with travel. This must be done in real time, at that time when the customer is booking the air ticket.
"We've seen better take-up rates of our services of about two to three times the average when we do cross selling."
However, DBS said it is wary of being too intrusive for fear of invading its customers' privacy, said Ms Ngui.
About 2,500 people are expected to attend the three-day event, which is the biggest tech conference IBM runs for growth markets - any country outside of the US, Western Europe and Japan. It is the second time it has been held here.
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