Invest in A-P telecom industry now, vendors told

Despite the current gloom in the global telecommunication industry, the market in Asia-Pacific is still growing and represents an attractive business opportunity for foreign companies in the information and communication technology (infocomm) industries, according to Yeo Cheow Tong, Singapore's minister for communications and information technology.

In a presentation at the Forbes Technology Conference here Thursday, Yeo said that electronic commerce revenue has been forecast to reach US$338 billion by 2004, principally in the business-to-business (B-to-B) sector.

"There is a significant infocomm sector in Asia, and .... companies should therefore be looking into expanding their market reach in Asia, so that they are well positioned in the region when economic recovery takes place," he said, according to a transcript of his speech.

"Many pure e-commerce intermediaries have faded away and disappeared. However, corporate e-transformation efforts have continued and amplified," he said. "Companies have realized that they need to understand the process of e-transformation and urgently transform themselves in order to survive in this tough and competitive environment."

In Asia countries are realizing they have to cooperate and leverage each other's strengths through programs such as e-ASEAN and the Asian Belt of IT Cities, Yeo said.

"Each country may not have all the necessary elements, but by working and cooperating together, they create a regional cluster with the full range of required capabilities," he said. "This then transforms the region into an attractive investment proposition to companies."

"Japan is good at designing mobile phones, China is a large manufacturing center for electronic devices, and Singapore is an excellent development center and test market for innovative mobile applications because of our sophisticated user base and compact size," he said. "Put them all together, and you get a region that is very attractive to a mobile phone company that wants to develop and test next-generation mobile technologies."

Globalization and interdependency increase some risks, as goods, services, ideas, culture and computer viruses cross borders freely, Yeo said, but despite this, the cost of exclusion from global networks is going to be higher than the risk of vulnerability.

"Governments, businesses and individuals must tap into global networks and engage in global partnerships, and turn these around to their advantage," he said. "Governments must reorient their approach to regional collaboration and cooperation, and businesses must reach out across borders to extend their market reach and access to physical and intellectual resources."

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