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Can Singapore be Asia’s Innovation Hub?

Zafar Anjum | Nov. 6, 2013
Can Singapore become the Silcion Valley of Asia—experts at the recently held Google Big Tent deliberated on this matter and shared some sharp diagnoses and exciting suggestions.

During the discussions at the Google event, Singapore was compared time and again with the Silicon Valley. Why innovations happen there and not here (at least not at a similar pace and not at a scale that is global in terms of the effect of the innovation)?

While the panelists carried on the discussion on innovation, my thoughts went to a book by Salman Rushdie. In 2012, Rushdie published Step Across This Line, a collection of essays. To paraphrase a review of the book published in The Guardian, Rushdie's line falls on the side of free speech, intellectual liberty, frontier-crossing, national and individual tolerance and multiplicity, a refusal to be co-opted (what he calls "unbelonging"), and, above all, scepticism. Isn't this what defines America or at least defined that great land of opportunity until recently? And by default, the Silicon Valley too?

If I can use a metaphor, I see the Silicon Valley as the new Wild Wild West. As a country, the United States pushed its boundaries by daring men who were hungry for success and were looking for riches (remember the Gold Rush?). To extend the metaphor to Silicon Valley, success in the field of IT through innovation is what defines the rush for innovation in the Valley.

Most of the innovators who came to the Valley and built world changing companies often came from outside California and even outside America: Jeff Bezos started in Seattle, Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg started his networking site in his Harvard dorm, and the founder of Tibco, Vivek Ranadive, came from Bombay as a student and made his way to the Silicon Valley after studying at MIT and Harvard.

And they were hungry for success and wanted to change the status quo of things. And the available ecosystem in the valley, with universities and venture capital firms lined up to offer them the necessary resources, helped them scale up globally and achieve success. More success stories attracted more hungry fellows. Most failed, but many succeeded, and their stories attracted others, thus forming the perpetuating circle of innovation.

The key thing for me to understand was to see if the same was happening in Singapore and if more of this could happen here. And I was glad to see that the technology leaders in Singapore not only understood this point but they even believed in it.

Innovation is core to Singapore's economy: IDA Chairman

IDA Chairwoman

IDA Chairman Yong Ying-I delivered the opening address at Google Big Tent on October 29, 2013.

In her opening address, IDA Chairman Yong Ying-I made several points that showed how Singapore fostered a culture of innovation. 


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