The Lion City: Information Technology in Singapore


I had the pleasure of working in Singapore for nearly 3 years, from April 1998 to December 2000, and I am glad to share some experiences with you. During my time in Singapore, I was a founding director at the Centre for Advanced Media Technology ( CAMTech), a joint research and development (R&D) centre of the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics ( IGD) in Darmstadt, Germany, and Nanyang Technological University ( NTU) in Singapore. CAMTech is located on the campus of NTU in Singapore and is member of the International Network of Institutions for Computer Graphics ( INI-GraphicsNet).

With its central location within the Asia/Pacific region, Singapore is an excellent place for carrying out R&D. Many multinational corporations maintain manufacturing and R&D facilities or regional headquarters here, which opens up many opportunities for cooperation. In particular, the Singapore government is very keen to continuously advance the country's R&D capacity and is therefore very supportive of R&D-related matters. The country and its people embrace new kinds of information technology (IT) very positively, and innovative technologies and applications are introduced speedily on a broad scale. For example, don't be surprised by the high density of mobile phones and mobile commerce applications or by the fact that electronic road pricing and GPS-guided taxi booking have been a reality here for several years. Singapore is a very interesting, high-tech microcosm in which you can expect that new technologies, wherever they're developed on the globe, will be made available promptly.

You can learn more about IT in Singapore by reading the CAMTech report Information and Communication Technology in Singapore--A Market Survey From a German Perspective (see the link from the CAMTech home page). This report provides an extensive country profile, with an emphasis on R&D in Singapore. More than 100 enterprises, research facilities, and other organizations are presented, and collaboration possibilities are identified where applicable.

A special section of the report is dedicated to existing German-Singaporean collaborations, of which CAMTech itself is an example. Its collaborative efforts draw upon the strengths of both IGD and NTU in the fields of computer graphics and advanced media technology to build a centre that meets the Asia/Pacific region's demands for R&D, technology, innovation, and training in the fast-growing and -changing IT industry. CAMTech's competencies include high-speed virtual environments for prototyping, manufacturing, and other collaborative work; virtual and augmented reality; digital publishing; visual computing and scientific and medical visualisation; application of Internet and multimedia technologies in education and commerce; geographic information systems; and digital media security. CAMTech addresses primarily the Singaporean and Asian market, and it works with INI-GraphicsNet on international projects.

If you have a degree in an IT-related discipline, you are likely to find many good employment opportunities in Singapore. The local universities cannot supply enough fresh graduates to meet the demands of IT businesses, and therefore Singapore is attracting foreign talent. If you have a doctorate and are looking for a research post, you might be interested in a research fellow or postdoc position with a university or other research organization. Depending on your track record, you may also consider a faculty position at a university. In any case, polish your English language skills (if English is not your native language), because this is the business and teaching language. As in any other country, I would recommend visiting any prospective employer and touring its facilities in order to see the infrastructure and to meet future colleagues before signing any contract (or even better, before submitting an official application). In Singapore, you can arrange this hassle-free. Geographically speaking, this is rather a small country, and two or three visits can easily be scheduled in a single day.

The education system is a very high priority for Singapore, and therefore the universities are equipped with the latest state-of-the-art technology. In my opinion, they can compete very well with universities in Europe and the United States. And when studying or working in Singapore, you will become part of a truly international and multicultural environment, which adds another dimension to your professional development. I enjoyed working with people from so many different cultural backgrounds a great deal. A word of warning, though--if you consider working in the public sector (e.g., at a university), don't be surprised to find that, for the time being, Saturdays are still official half-working days at many organizations.

When it comes to living in Singapore, you should know that the weather gets really hot and humid year-round. The costs of living are on the high side, especially renting an apartment and owning a car. But you don't really require a car, because the public transport system is very efficient and inexpensive, although it can sometimes be troublesome to get a taxi. One definite highlight is the great variety of excellent food everywhere. Much information about living in Singapore as an expatriate can be found on an expat web site. If you want to know the concerns of the country and people, I recommend reading The Straits Times , the major local English-language newspaper.

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