New Media in Singapore

Singapore has decided to make Interactive Digital Media its priority area.  I have been hearing about this, but on this trip I got a chance to meet several decision makers in this initiative.  It is clear that SIngapore has right intentions.  They want to create an ecosystem in this area involving research, education, entrepreneurship and major companies.  They have a good budget for this.  They want to become hub for media creation, distribution, and technology in this part of the world and then globally.

So will they do it?  They definitely have resources to start the process and desire to do it.  But then Malayasia wanted to do it about 10 years ago — they even started a multimedia university.  So desire and resources are good and required but are not sufficient.  For one thing, every country when they want to get in such new areas, make interesting moves.  In the given situation, SIngapore has already attracted George Lucas to establish an operation here.  That is good, but to build the ecosystem, one has to attract budding entrepreneurial companies.  You don’t want to waste resources and energy in attracting Google in 2006.  That would have been the right move in 1997-98.  To find and attract budding promising companies, you should be willing to take risks and bet on promising entrepreneurs.  Same is true in research.  Many research projects and scenarios that you hear about in such situations — not only in Singapore — are not bold enough.  In many cases they are the projects that have been talked about by people in academia and industry for several years — just an adaptation of those. 

It will be interesting to see how this effort progresses.  Singapore has record of doing impressive things.  But it also has reputation of being conservative and a top-down beaurocracy.  I hear that they want to do things differently.  But then what else would they say?  Time will show whether they will be successful in this ambitious effort.

In closing I must mention that I have been requested to help in this effort and I am considering seriously.  I already come here to interact with researchers at NUS.  This may change my role a bit.  I am inclined to participate but will decide soon.

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