M’sia, Singapore lead SE Asia in communications infrastructure

By NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Pic By AFP

Malaysia and Singapore are far ahead among all other South-East Asian countries in terms of communications infrastructure extensiveness and quality, as well as connectivity, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

According to PwC’s report titled “Smart Cities in South-East Asia: The Opportunity for Telcos”, all 10 countries in the region scored well along several metrics that indicate the capacity and reliability to support the high number of connections in a smart city.

“Scores were totalled and the countries ranked to produce an overall rank.

“A quick scan of the absolute values of each metric indicates that Singapore (and to a lesser extent, Malaysia) is far ahead of all other South-East Asian countries in terms of communications infrastructure extensiveness and quality, as well as connectivity,” it said.

The report also revealed that there is plenty room for improvement in the area.

“The Asian Development Bank has forecast that the region will require approximately US$600 billion (RM2.51 trillion) between 2010 and 2020 to fund infrastructure capacity-building and maintenance, of which US$64 billion would go towards telecommunications-related infrastructure.

“With South-East Asian governments experiencing budget deficits, the region is expected to face a large financing gap,” it said.

According to the report, Singapore’s mobile SIM penetration stands at 154%, and Malaysia 136%.

The average mobile data speed for Singapore is 16.90Mbps, and Malaysia 3.16Mbps. Trailing behind the two countries in technological readiness rankings are Brunei, Thailand and Vietnam, it noted.

Meanwhile, Sage Asia MD and VP Arlene Wherrett said artificial intelligence (AI), cloud-based solutions and connected platforms are projected to be the top three technology trends in business.

“AI has been on the radar for years now, but we see (that) it is key in helping businesses cut back time spent on repetitive tasks and better allocate resources to boost productivity in the coming year.

“At the time of writing, Sage’s real-time productivity tracker estimates that lost productivity due to administrative work has cost businesses in Singapore over S$8 million (RM24.33 million) in 2018,” she said.

Wherrett added that automation via AI can help traditional professions, such as in the accounting field, to dedicate more time to drive greater business value instead of being tied down by menial tasks.

“Embracing emerging technologies such as AI will also be key for smaller businesses that may face great challenges in managing cashflow and hiring skilled resources.

“AI can ease some of these demands by taking on some of the mundane or repetitive tasks, freeing up human workers to redirect their attention to higher-value, profit-driving or more strategic activities,” she said.

Wherret also said cloud-based solutions — such as pay-as-you-use software as a service (SaaS) — will become more popular in Asia.

“Cloud technology works well in supporting mobility solutions, which is necessary for smaller businesses that are keen on cost management and driving growth, while maintaining scalability.

“Today’s mobile workers also need quick reliable access to applications while on the move,” she said.

According to a recent report by International Data Corp, the SaaS market in Asia Pacific is projected to hit US$4 billion next year, with 80% of new software from independent software vendors being delivered in a SaaS-based model.

As such, Wherrett said businesses will push towards stronger collaboration and connection to customers and partners.

“Cross-border trade will not be much of a barrier, especially with the explosion of e-commerce and m-commerce.

“This trend is pushing businesses towards the adoption of connected platforms as they strive to lead data-driven initiatives,” she said, adding that several Asian cities have already embarked on connected projects that span across the public and private sectors.