Christopher Chia



Christopher Chia (Dr) (b. 1954, Singapore–) is the former chief executive of the National Library Board (NLB) and of the Media Development Authority (MDA), former director of the Information Technology Institute and founding deputy director of the Information Communication Institute of Singapore. He was instrumental in transforming the library system in Singapore, including the introduction of a digital, networked and borderless library system using cutting-edge technology.1 Under his leadership, NLB was named the Innovative Organisation of the Year in 2001.2

Education
Chia received his early education at St Gabriel’s Secondary School in Singapore, before leaving for the United Kingdom to continue his studies at Wellington School Somerset. He received a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Salford in Manchester and went on to pursue postgraduate studies in information technology (IT) at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, where he attained a Master of Science degree and then a doctorate in computation.3


IT career
Chia worked in various IT companies in Britain before joining Singapore’s National Computer Board (NCB) in 1983. During his 11 years with NCB, he was involved in manpower planning, development and training of IT professionals, and promotion of IT in the public sector including the implementation of the IT Masterplan 2000.4


In 1988, Chia was seconded to the newly formed Information Communication Institute of Singapore as deputy chairman. The institute was a joint project between the NCB and American telecommunications company AT&T.5 Subsequently, in 1992, he assumed the position of director at the Information Technology Institute under the NCB, which was tasked to develop advanced IT innovations in organisations in Singapore. In August 1994, the Information Technology Institute was conferred the Annual Innovative Applications in Artificial Intelligence Award by the American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) for developing an advertising layout system for The Straits Times newspaper.6

After more than a decade with the NCB, Chia left the board in 1994 to join Aztech Systems as the vice president of its research and development division.7 After only 10 months with the private company, Chia resigned to join the NLB as its chief executive in September 1995.8

Chief executive of NLB
In line with the recommendations of the Library 2000 Review Committee, the NLB became a statutory board on 1 September 1995. Chia was appointed as its first chief executive and was entrusted with the task of creating a world-class library system.9 Though not a librarian by training, Chia’s vast experience in the IT field proved instrumental in transforming National Library’s operations and its service delivery.10


Achievements
Under his stewardship, NLB made bold changes in the management of libraries and in the provision of library services, making it a more relevant organisation in the new knowledge-based economy. The concept of self-service was introduced in the libraries, which resulted in operational efficiency, a shorter customer-servicing time and thus huge savings in terms of manpower.11

IT was utilised for setting up digitally networked libraries that offered users information in multiple formats including electronic databases and various multimedia services. An electronic library, e-LibraryHub, one of the first in Asia, was introduced.12 Introduced in 1998 and patented the following year, the Electronic Library Management System (ELiMS) is the world’s first library system that employs radio frequency technology for lending and returning books. The implementation of ELiMS brought about S$50 million in savings.13 New services such as remote user answering services, self-check machines, cashless payments and library transactions using SMS were also introduced.14

Chia was able to fulfil the goals specified in the Library 2000 report within a span of five years, using only a quarter of S$1 billion budget allocated. By the year 2000, NLB had achieved the following: 1.8 million members, 25 million loans and 21 million visitors to the library.15 In recognition of its innovative use of IT, NLB won the National IT Award in 1998 and the Innovative Organisation of the Year Award in 2001.16 In 2004, Chia relinquished his post as NLB’s chief executive to head the Media Development Authority. He remained MDA’s chief executive until 2010.17


Timeline
1983–1986: Assistant director, Software Engineering, NCB18
1986–1988: Deputy director, IT Manpower, NCB19
1988–1992: Deputy director (secondment), Information Communication Institute of Singapore, NCB20
1991–1992: Director, Research and Development, Information Technology Institute, NCB21
1992–1994: Director, Information Technology Institute, NCB22
1994–1995: Vice-president, Research and Development, Aztech Systems23
1995–2004: Chief executive, National Library Board24
 2004–2010: Chief executive officer, Media Development Authority25
2004–2016: Chairman, National University of Singapore’s Institute of Systems Science26
2012–: Professor (practice), National University of Singapore Business School27

Other appointments
Senior adviser, Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts28
Executive chairman, NTUC (National Trades Union Congress) Media
Senior adviser, NTUC29
Chairman, executive board, Congress of Southeast Asian Librarians XI
Board member, Info-Communications Development Authority
National Healthcare Group, IT Steering Committee
Member, National Institute Education Council
Member, National IT Literacy Steering Committee30

Awards
2000: Friend of IT Award, Singapore Computer Society31

2001: International Management Action Award (awarded jointly by the Singapore Productivity and Standards Board and the Institute of Management Singapore)32
2015: Singapore Computer Society’s Hall of Fame33

Selected publications
Transformation of libraries in Singapore. (2001). Library Review, 50, (7/8), 343–348.

(Call no.: R 020.5 LIB-[LIB])

The personalisation challenge in public libraries: Perspectives and prospects. (2002). Gutersloh, Germany: Bertelsmann Foundation.
(Call no.: R 025.1974 CHI)



Author

Sitragandi Arunasalam



References
1. Tan, C. (1998, November 13). National Library chief executive is a techie. The Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chang, A.-L. (2001, November 13). Innovation award winners announced. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Tan, C. (1998, November 13). National Library chief executive is a techie. The Business Times, p. 16; Lim, K. (1994, May 4). Catalysing industry with IT R&D. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Rajendran, J. (1994, November 12). Director of NCB unit to head Aztech’s R&D division. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Institute to train telecoms specialists. (1988, October 24). The New Paper, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. NCB makes senior management changes. (1992, September 9). The Straits Times, p. 36; Lui, J. (1994, August 2). ITI and SPH win award for use of artificial intelligence. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Rajendran, J. (1994, November 12). Director of NCB unit to head Aztech’s R&D division. The Business Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Aztech’s head of research resigns. (1995, August 19). The Business Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Library board to start operations next month. (1995, August 19). The Straits Times, p, 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tan, H. (2001, June 27). Making the library a bestseller. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Hallowell, R., et. al. (2001). Transforming Singapore’s public libraries. Boston: Mass, Harvard Business School Publishing, pp. 1–13. (Call no.: RSING 027.45957 HAL-[LIB])
12. Gwee, J., & Neo, B. S. (2013, March). A library for the people: A case study of the National Library Board. Retrieved from Civil Service College website: https://www.cscollege.gov.sg/Knowledge/Pages/A-Library-for-the-People-A-Case-Study-of-the-National-Library-Board.aspx
13. New system saves National Library up to $ 50m a year. (2000, August 23). The Business Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Cheng, G. (2002, August 7). The logistics of lending. The Straits Times, p. 36; Chua, H. M. (2001, October 29) NLB goes on an upgrading spree. The Business Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Gwee, J., & Neo, B. S. (2013, March). A library for the people: A case study of the National Library Board. Retrieved from Civil Service College website: https://www.cscollege.gov.sg/Knowledge/Pages/A-Library-for-the-People-A-Case-Study-of-the-National-Library-Board.aspx
15. Chua, H. M. (2001, October 29) NLB goes on an upgrading spree. The Business Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Chang, A.-L. (2001, November 13). Innovation award winners announcedThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2004, February 18). Media Development Authority appoints new CEO [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, October 9 from https://www.mci.gov.sg/mobile/news/media/media-development-authority-appoints-new-ceo; Christopher Chia to step down as MDA CEO. (2010, September 9). The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tan, C. (1998, November 13). National Library chief executive is a techieThe Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Tan, C. (1998, November 13). National Library chief executive is a techieThe Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Lim, K. (1994, May 4). Catalysing industry with IT R&D. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Computer Board’s research arm to handle more business development. (1991, December 10). The Straits Times, p. 40. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Executive moves. (1992, September 14). The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Tan, C. (1998, November 13). National Library chief executive is a techie. The Business Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. National University of Singapore. (2016, June 13). Confessions of a CEO: The one thing I look for in a CIO. Retrieved 2016, December 8 from National University of Singapore Institute of Systems Science website: https://www.iss.nus.edu.sg/community/newsroom/news-detail/2016/06/13/confessions-of-a-ceo-the-one-thing-i-look-for-in-a-cio; Christopher Chia to step down as MDA CEO. (2010, September 9). The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Christopher Chia to step down as MDA CEO. (2010, September 9). The Business Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. National University of Singapore. (2016, April 11). New chairperson for ISS [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, December 8 from National University of Singapore website: https://news.nus.edu.sg/highlights/10261-new-chairperson-for-iss
27. National University of Singapore. (n.d.). Chia, Christopher: Academic experience. Retrieved 2016, December 8 from NUS Business School website: http://bizfaculty.nus.edu/faculty-profiles/321-christopher-chia
28. Wong, A. (2010, September 9). MDA to get new chief executive in Nov. Today, p. 58. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. National University of Singapore. (2016, June 13). Confessions of a CEO: The one thing I look for in a CIO. Retrieved 2016, December 8 from National University of Singapore Institute of Systems Science website: https://www.iss.nus.edu.sg/community/newsroom/news-detail/2016/06/13/confessions-of-a-ceo-the-one-thing-i-look-for-in-a-cio
30. National University of Singapore Business School. (n.d.). Chia, Christopher. Retrieved 2017, June 30 from National University of Singapore website: http://bizfaculty.nus.edu/faculty-profiles/321-christopher-chia?print=1
31. Singapore Computer Society. (n.d.). IT Leader Awards 2000. Retrieved 2017, June 30 from Singapore Computer Society website: https://www.scs.org.sg/it-leader-awards/winners-by-year.php?year=2000
32. National University of Singapore. (2016, June 13). Confessions of a CEO: The one thing I look for in a CIO. Retrieved 2016, December 8 from National University of Singapore Institute of Systems Science website: https://www.iss.nus.edu.sg/community/newsroom/news-detail/2016/06/13/confessions-of-a-ceo-the-one-thing-i-look-for-in-a-cio
33. Mehta, K. (2015, March 10). Prof Chris Chia inducted into Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2016, December 8 from Outside-In website: http://outside-in.nus.edu/scshalloffame/



Further resources
Blocksidge, D. (March 2000). People: Dr. Tan Chin Nam, Dr. Christopher Chia. Asia Library News, 3(1).
(Call no.: R 027.05 ALN-[LIB])

Buckell, J. (2002, May 22). Cybrary superhero. The Australian, p. 29. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg

Hallowell, R. (2001). Transforming Singapore’s public libraries. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING q027.45957 HAL-[LIB])

National Library Board. (1997–). Annual reports. Singapore: National Library Board.
(Call no.: RSING 027.05957 SNLBAR)

National Library Board. (1999). National Library Board. Singapore: National Library Board.
(Call no.: RSING 027.55957 SIN-[LIB])

Yeoh, J. (1999). Books to bytes: Journeying with the National Library. Singapore: National Library Board.
(Call no.: RSING 027.095957 BOO-[LIB])



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Chia, Christopher, 1954-
Personalities
Library administrators--Singapore--Biography
Law and government>>Culture and community>>Public libraries
Personalities>>Biographies
Chief executive officers--Singapore--Biography