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‘Data is the new currency’, Singapore Government to invest S$120 million in ICT and Cloudera rolls out Big Analytics Skills Enablement initiative

This year, the Government of Singapore has made great strides towards investing in the future of the ICT workforce. With the recent 2016 Budget, it was announced that a top-up of $1.5 billion would be provided to the National Research Fund in 2016 to support RIE 2020 initiatives.

Also, the Government aims to set up TechSkills Accelerator, a new skills development and job placement hub for the ICT sector.

This past Monday, Singapore Government Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) announced they will invest S$120 million in building ICT manpower requirements. This is to meet the expected 30,000 new jobs to be filed in the ICT sector by the year 2020.

In line with these efforts, Cloudera introduced its BASE (Big Analytics Skills Enablement) initiative yesterday, in collaboration with public and private sector partners, which will work towards grooming the future workforce of data professionals.

BASE pulls industry players and academic institutions together to equip more people with necessary skills in the areas of big data and analytics. OpenGov has been invited to be one of the key partners of this initiative. The initiative encompasses elements whereby trained data professionals will be matched to opportunities across sectors where their skills are required.

The Initiative is also complementary to the Cloudera Academic Partnership (CAP) program, where the company partners with accredited, non-profit institutions around the world to help develop the next generation of data professionals.

The BASE initiative matches the work of the Government’s 2016 Budget and MCI towards building the knowledge capacity of the Singapore workforce, in a greater effort to close the growing skills gap in the ICT sector.

During the launch of the BASE initiative, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation programme, explained the idea of ‘data is the new currency’ and how Cloudera’s efforts go hand in hand with the Government’s vision for a more tech-savvy workforce.

“I believe data is the new currency… If you think about Singapore, what comes to mind? Many people think of Singapore as a strategic port, as a hub that for many centuries connected the flow of trade,” said Dr. Balakrishnan, “If you fast forward another 10 or 20 years, what do you think will be traded, distributed, and produced. I think you will see another revolution, we will be trading bits and design.”

Dr. Balakrishnan foresees a lot of transformation will take place within the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. It is believed that Singapore is working to position itself as a digital port, where we are looking at the exchange of bits, data, and information.  

“If you accept that paradigm, that data is the new currency, the new basis for trade, the new way in which ideas and designs will be transmitted, then you want to have a share in that data flow throughout the world,” exclaimed Dr. Balakrishnan.

The point is that there is a whole new world in IT. Competitive advantage no longer lies in the ability to haul big data, but the ability to analyse it, use it, gain insights from it, and to deliver services.  

That is where the BASE initiative comes in, aiming to support organisations by training the future labour force.

 “It is really about jobs, and it is believed that this explosion of data, big data analytics, and real time analysis, is going to put many white collar middle class jobs at risk,” Dr. Balakrishnan stated, “Because the pace of change is so quick now, if our people do not have the skills and we do not have the infrastructure, we are out of the game.”

With this, Dr. Balakrishnan threw his support behind the BASE initiative as it addresses a key pain point in the Government’s ability to deal with the IT skills gap.

doug cutting

After the remarks by Dr. Balakrishnan, we sat down to talk with Doug Cutting, Co-Founder of Hadoop and Cloudera Chief Architect. He explained to us why he believes the Singapore community will be so receptive to the BASE initiative and how the Government’s efforts have work hand in hand with the private sector vision to build IT skills.

“We are working with the public sector to help create a virtuous cycle which will pave the way to build end to end data skills which will pave the way towards a Smart Nation. Right now is a good time to try and build these skills, especially in Singapore as the rate of adoption is so high,” said Mr. Cutting, “When you think of Singapore’s economy, it is a particular set of technologies for these sorts of business, which is a data intensive country given its lack of natural resources and they rely on their people as resources.”

When we asked Mr. Cutting for his opinion on the Minister’s analogy about data being the new ‘currency’, he agreed with the statement and explained how it reflects the way that industries are headed.

“Data is the commodity that people are finding most valuable. What people care about these days, is the data from both their successes and failures,” Mr. Cutting explained.

“We see this in many industries as it helps them grow and be more efficient. It is the common thread that data is the common thread that fuels the growth of their business. When you get people who are skilled in getting value in data, then you can grow faster. I think Singapore is really investing in this seriously as they see the benefits.”

Mr. Cutting’s greater vision for the BASE initiative is to see more folks get involved and building their IT skills. In turn, he hopes the embrace of these technologies will lead to growth in the market and economies.

daniel ng

We later sat with Daniel Ng, Senior Director, APAC, Cloudera, to discuss how Cloudera’s efforts are aligned with the Government’s Smart Nation vision and why the BASE initiative must be seen as a whole unit working together, to drive understanding of the need for collaboration.

“Singapore is one of the most business friendly Governments. We see it as the first place to launch BASE because of the Smart Nation initiative,” said Mr. Ng, “We believe that at the heart of soul of a Smart Nation, is data and big data analytics. Also, there is a lot of alignment with what we are doing with BASE, and what the Singapore Government is trying to achieve.”

The growing skills gap in the IT sector is expected to leave 30,000 jobs unfilled by the year 2020. This is a statistic which resonates with the IT community.

As we discussed the growing skills gap in the IT sector, Mr. Ng mentioned that this challenge is not isolated to the region and the BASE initiative is trying to address this.

“The one common trend, not just in [APAC] but around the world, is that organisations are dealing with where they can hire data professionals,” Mr. Ng stated, “That was why BASE was developed, so that we make sure the parts are bigger than the whole. How do we work with a partner ecosystem to bring forth accelerated adoption of data science as a profession? And by doing so, bridging the gap that everyone is looking to bring together.”

To wrap up our discussion, Mr. Ng emphasised that we look at BASE in its entirety because it is essential that the components of the initiative are integrated. He told us that he looks forward to the day where the efforts of the BASE initiative begin to reflect on the nation’s growth and economy.

“We encourage professionals to look at BASE at a whole… We have to be focused that the value we contribute must be bigger than the value that we contribute. It will leave the world in a better and more positive position. That epitomises what BASE is about, it is about the integration of mind sets that want to contribute to a national agenda,” Mr. Ng told us.

“When BASE is successful, it will create enough data professionals to be hired. With that, the government will incentivise people to come into Singapore, and also, heighten employment in the years to come.”


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