Turbotodd

Ruminations on IT, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Singapore Redux

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I mentioned in an earlier post I would share a little information about Singapore.  Much of this, I crowdsourced liberally from the Wikipedia entry on Singapore, along with some of my own observations thrown in for good measure.

First, the city-state is formally referred to as the “Republic of Singapore.” If you’ve ever flown here from the U.S., you know that it’s one of the longer plane rides one can take.

I left Austin around 8 am last Friday morning, catching connecting flights in Atlanta and then Tokyo’s Narita, with both flights lasting around close to 24 hours flight time, and arriving here early Sunday morning (around 1:30 AM).

Singapore is an island country consisting of 63 islands, and separated from Malaysia by the Straigts of Johor to the north and from Indonesia’s Riau Islands by the Singapore Strait to its south.

The British founded modern Singapore when it obtained sovereignty over the island in 1824, and was later occupied by the Japanese in World War II. It later declared independence, uniting with other British territories to form Malaysia in 1963, then separated from Malaysia two years later.

It is known as one of the “Four Asian Tigers,” and is the world’s fourth leading financial center, with its ports being among one of the five busiest in the world.

Its economy depends heavily on exports and refining imported goods, and has the third highest per capita income in the world with slightly over 5 million citizens.

Its population is very diverse, and has four official languages: English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil, and is one of the five founding members of the Association of South East Asian Nations.

It’s manufacturing base includes electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, mechanical engineering, and biomedical sciences. It also produces about 10% of the world’s foundry wafer output, making it an integral part of the globe’s semiconductor industry supply chain.

It also has majored heavily in tourism (including so-called “medical tourism”), and to attract more tourists it legalized gambling in 2005 (The IBM InterConnect conference is being held at Royal Sentosa Resorts, which has one of those casinos).

This is my second visit to Singapore (my first being in early 2010), and my impressions on both visits have been quite favorable. For a Westerner who doesn’t know Chinese, Malay or Tamil, it’s quite easy for an English speaker to find their way around.

The city-state itself reminds me of Dallas or Houston, what with its shiny, chrome and beige skyscrapers and ports surrounding parts of the island.

But it’s also very futuristic and forward-thinking, having invested early on in commercialization of the Internet and hosting a robust mobile computing infrastructure. Singapore is one of the most ubiquitous Internet penetrated of nations in the world, with over 77 percent of its citizens having online access.

And the “Intelligent Nation 15″ ten-year blueprint I mentioned earlier has refined that digital capability, and in fact, the country has emerged as a vital foundry for Internet-based companies.

By way of example, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin relocated here in 2009, announcing plans to invest in “companies with strong interests in the Asian markets.”

Singapore’s National Research Foundation selected eight new incubators for its Technology Incubation Scheme earlier this year, and through that program, the NRF will co-fund up to 85 percent of total investment in each company (up to U.S. $400K).

And talk about a mobile-friendly country. I only needed walk through either Singapore’s Chinatown or “Little India” yesterday afternoon to find mobile phones from around the globe available to me (and settled on an old-school Nokia 1280 to serve as my new GSM “world phone”).

I paid $20 to a local mobile retailer catering to the Indian market, and within minutes (along with the purchase of an $18 SIM card) was up and running.

For the casual visitor, though the city itself can seem expensive compared to other industrialized countries, deals abound, including for food (the cuisine here runs the gamut, from Chinese to Malay to Japanese to India to American, etc.), and that most national of Singaporean pasttimes, shopping.

If you’re a night owl, you’ll certainly find plenty to do here, what between the casinos, the food, and yes, even the nightlife.

As for me, the rest of this week I’ll mostly be stuck in front of the camera or my laptop covering IBM InterConnect here on Sentosa Island, but I hope and expect to sneak in a few noodles or pieces of dim sum along the way.

IBM InterConnect begins first thing tomorrow, so don’t forget to tune in to our Livestream channel and to Twitter hashtag #ibminterconnect so you can keep up with all the emerging announcements and news from IBM in this important and digitally vital part of the world!

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