Top: Huang Liang | Bottom: Ng Choon Guang
Singapore is one of the most connected countries in the world, with more than 80% of the population possessing an Internet broadband connection. And the industry is taking even more rapid strides towards becoming a global infocomm hub, with companies such as HP Labs, IBM and Oracle setting up critical IT functions in Singapore to serve the region. Two National Infocomm Scholarship recipients share their ventures into the burgeoning frontier of technology.
By Mabel Tan
Unlike other revolutions that happen once, the world of technology is constantly experiencing revolution, rapidly evolving from one stage to the next. In the 1990s, the Internet was just a budding technological discovery. Today, the Internet has become an essential and central component of our lives.
25-year-old Ng Choon Guang, a Systems Engineer from Avaya, admitted that he never thought the world would be as connected as it is today.
Choon Guang: “In the past, IT was solely used by enterprises. But with the rise of Wi-Fi and instant messaging systems, the Internet has become a global village, connecting people from around the world. The infocomm industry is fast-moving and rapidly growing as technology becomes more ‘consumerised’. To me, this is really exciting!”
An example of a consumer technology set to be launched in Singapore by mid-2012 is the Near Field Communications (NFC) mobile payment project, adds 29-year-old NFC Project Manager Huang Liang, who is an Assistant Manager at the Finance, Tourism, and Business Services Department with the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).
Huang Liang: “NFC is a new technology in the payment and advertising market. When fully implemented, consumers will be able to use their mobile phones to interact and transact. For example, scanning a poster which currently only consists of words and pictures can bring you to an advertiser’s website. It’s like the current 2D QR codes, where people can use an application to tap on a picture in order to receive additional information, except the NFC system is much more seamless. Our objective is to establish a vibrant ecosystem for this technology so people can enjoy its services. With our team spearheading the efforts for local NFC development, Singapore can become the first country in Asia to have a large number of companies like banks and telcos to collaborate in the implementation of interoperable NFC services.”
The Chosen Path
As Generation Y-ers who grew up alongside technology as it progressed, the discovery of the wonders of technology early in their lives was what prompted Choon Guang and Huang Liang to further explore the infocomm industry.
Huang Liang: “I was first exposed to infocomm in secondary school, where I was introduced to Pascal – a programming language. I was fascinated by how programmers could come up with a string of commands which the computer could carry out on screen! I have been drawn to this field ever since.
I took up the NIS programme because of the opportunity to pursue my Masters via a fast-track programme at Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU). CMU is one of the most recognised universities in the world in the information systems field. Also with the NIS, I could work in IDA after graduation, which gives me the opportunity to work on projects that can impact the nation.”
Choon Guang: “The NIS programme is focused on infocomm and allows scholarship recipients to choose from a selection of more than 30 private and public sector organisations to serve their bond at upon graduation. Another good thing about this programme is that it offers local scholars a six-month overseas attachment with the sponsorship company. I got the opportunity to work in Avaya’s Kuala Lumpur office where I experienced a whole new business culture. My role there was to drive sales and increase our market share among the small and medium businesses.”
While infocomm is generally associated with the scientific aspects of computing such as scripting, hard coding, and developing of software and hardware, infocomm is also focused on the social aspects of computing, such as the use of Web 2.0 and mobile phone applications, to enhance the flow of digital information among individuals and organisations.
This is perhaps why the duo, despite holding vastly different positions, enjoys a similar aspect of their jobs.
Huang Liang: “There are two parts to my job. The glamorous part is where I meet up with representatives from banks, telcos, and other companies to understand their needs, and then think of solutions to address these needs. This is my favourite part of the job since I enjoy interacting with people. The not-so-glamorous part involves the administrative work needed to monitor the progress of our tasks or projects. (Laughs)”
Choon Guang: “Although I’m from the sales department, my job focuses primarily on designing and offering enterprise technology solutions to solve our clients’ needs. A typical day usually sees me meeting a client, followed by a discussion with the team to design new solutions or rectify existing ones. We will then present our proposed solutions to the clients. I like how my job involves a hybrid of roles between meeting customers and applying the technical know-how that we possess.”
Indeed, with its rapid rate of advancement, the possibilities of what can be achieved with new technology can only be limited within the constraints of our minds.
Huang Liang: “I recently read about a technology that is able to scan human minds by decoding the messages in brain waves. That means I’ll be able instantly know what you’re thinking about. If a proper framework is put into place, I believe it can greatly improve the lives of the disabled.”
Choon Guang: “In the future, I’d like to see a multi-functional device that is able to act as an identity card, a credit card, an EZ-Link, a passport, and so on. Perhaps I can get rich selling this! (Laughs)”