RealTime IT News

Asia's Cyber-Hubs: Competition for Silicon Valley?

A pair of Asia's Internet elites have highlighted Singapore and Beijing as hotspots for Asian "cyber-hubs".

Speaking at a two-day conference hosted by The Economist Conferences, part of the Economist Group, Michael Yap and Lee Kheng-joo outlined their vision of the region's immediate cyber-future.

Yap, Chief Executive of Singapore's National Computer Board, spoke of "The Digital Hurricane" as a new Asian economic force. He pointed to Singapore's aggressive IT policies as proof of Asia's abilities to "leapfrog" intermediate technologies and embrace newer satellite and wireless methods.

Yap stressed the growth rates of Asia, saying that while the USA should experience a 251 per cent increase in Internet users from 1997-2002, that would be dwarfed by Asia's 878 per cent gain over the same period. He said that Asia had added 1.5 million new users every month over the past year. And Yap mentioned Singapore's accomplishments in implementing country-wide IT policy, pointing to the Lion City's 40 per cent Internet penetration and a staggering 98.4 per cent broadband accessibility.

Lee, Group General Manager of Greater China for Hong Kong-based Asia Online, spoke of efforts to "clone" Silicon Valley at an Asian location. He highlighted several key criteria for producing such a phenomenon, including good universities, a healthy entrepreneur spirit, professional management and savvy financiers. In Hong Kong, Lee said that the property developers were just beginning to wake up to the possibilities of the Internet, citing Richard Li's Cyberport development as the catalyst.

However, Lee chose Beijing over the HKSAR, Taiwan and Singapore as Asia's hotspot for Internet growth. Among the reasons he cited were the large number of mainlanders living in the USA, an affinity on the part of Beijingers for science and technology, and a readiness to embrace new technologies.

Lee pointed to the Chinese government continual lowering of Internet access fees as a positive signal. He also predicted a significant boost to China's Internet businesses during the next two to three years.