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Singapore’s ABC approach to grow its digital economy and enhance digital readiness

Singapore’s ABC approach to grow its digital economy and enhance digital readiness

Today, speaking at the Committee of Supply Debate, Singapore
Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim responded
to Members of the Parliament (MP) and outlined how the Government will to create
opportunities and improve lives for Singaporeans in a digital age.

Minister Yaacob started his speech saying that “digitalisation
has created many exciting opportunities and improved Singaporeans’ lives”.

He outlined the plans of the Ministry for Communications and
Information (MCI) to develop Singapore’s digital economy and enhance the
digital readiness of Singaporeans.

On the same occasion, Senior Minister of State (SMS) for
Communications and Information, and Education Dr Janil Puthucheary elaborated
on how workers, businesses, and citizens can benefit from the country’s digital
economy and digital readiness efforts, while SMS for Health and Communications
& Information Mr Chee Hong Tat explained MCI’s efforts to transform and
grow the media sector.

ABCs of growing the digital economy

to Minister Yaacob, digital transformation is the most important issue facing
businesses today.

cited findings from a recent study by the Singapore
Business Federation
(SBF) which showed that the majority of Singapore’s
businesses fully appreciate the importance of digitalisation because the
payoffs are enormous. He also quoted another study by Microsoft that estimated
that the digital economy would contribute another US$10 billion to Singapore’s
GDP by 2021.

response to Mr Zaqy Mohamad’s enquiry on the government’s plan to ensure
that Singapore businesses and workforce can thrive in the digital future, Minister
Yaacob stated that the government will take an ABC approach: (1) Accelerate
the digitalisation of existing sectors, (2) Build up Singapore’s infocomm media
(ICM) companies, and (3) Create future digital technology sectors.

Accelerate digitalisation of existing sectors

Yaacob pointed out that digitalisation affects every sector, but not all of
the sectors have responded equally quickly. Some sectors like banking and
finance, and retail have done relatively well.

Government is taking a cluster approach to encourage SMEs to go digital by
working with influential partners in various key sectors. The SMEs Go Digital Programme was
launched last year also focuses on key sectors where digital technologies can
improve productivity significantly. Last November, the Industry Digital Plans (IDP)
for the Retail
and Logistics
Sector were launched.

Kampong Glam transformation

For retail
sector, MCI is collaborating with SPRING, Singapore Malay Chambers of Commerce and Industry
(SMCCI), and One Kampong
Gelam Association
to develop Kampong Glam into Singapore’s first digitally
enabled retail neighbourhood.

200 merchants in the core area of Kampong Glam would adopt digital solutions to
improve their business operations. This would include adopting integrated
point-of-sale systems which enable cashless payments, inventory tracking and
financial accounting. By automating these backend administrative processes, the
merchants will have more time for their products and customers. A key partner
for these business solutions would be StarHub.

the same time, visitor experience will be enhanced by digital products, such as
immersive walking trails, and working with Temasek Polytechnic School of
Business to increase merchants’ online presence. The project will also see a
collaboration with Grab to offer an additional cashless option and increase
accessibility to the area.

1 of the Kampong Glam transformation will be launched in 2Q 2018.

Building infocomm media (ICM) sector in Singapore

a strong ICM sector to support businesses with good products, we will not go
very far in our digitalisation journey,” Minister Yaacob stated in his speech.

year, the IMDA launched the ICM
Industry Transformation Map
(ITM). Under the ICM ITM, Singapore aims to create
13,000 new PMET jobs, and the industry’s value-added is expected to grow at
around 6% annually.

Government aims to strengthen the workforce and help ICM companies to both
reinvent themselves and internationalise.

example, IMDA’s Accreditation@SG
helps to scale innovative Singapore-based ICM companies to build
deep capabilities locally and grow internationally. Currently, 24 companies have
been accredited. The Government hopes to quadruple the number in 5 years

The Open
Innovation Platform of IMDA is another initiative that help ICM companies
collaborate with end-users to build new and innovative solutions with potential
to be scaled and exported. It is a crowd-sourcing platform to facilitate
collaboration between problem owners and a community of solution providers, to
co-develop digital solutions that address actual business problems.  

Creating future digital technology

has identified 4 frontier technology areas to invest and develop deeper
capabilities in – (1) data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), (2) internet
of things (IOT), (3) cybersecurity and (4) immersive media.

response to an enquiry by MP Mr Cedric Foo on what Singapore is doing to
prepare itself for the digital economy, including giving enterprises access to
data sets for machine learning applications, Minister Yaacob said that the
Data Innovation Programme Office under IMDA is trying to bring companies together
to realise the value of sharing data, and brokering partnerships for mutual

For example,
the one-stop public portal for Government datasets is constantly improved
to provide more useful datasets for businesses and citizens to co-create
solutions. The Personal Data Protection Act is also under review to ensure that
it keeps pace with technological developments and regulatory trends while
safeguarding consumers’ trust.


the same time, Minister Yaacob pointed out that “cybersecurity is integral to
the digital economy”. It is also a cornerstone of trust in the country’s Smart
Nation initiative.

is a fast-growing sector in Singapore, with the potential to generate S$900
million in revenue by 2020.

his reply to MP Ms Sun Xueling on plans to assist businesses, including SMEs,
and educate the public on how to prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats,
Minister Yaacob shared that the Cyber
Security Agency
(CSA) is partnering the Association
for Information Security Professionals
(AISP) to equip SMEs with
cybersecurity knowledge so they can better respond to cybersecurity threats.

also works with partners such as the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC)
to raise awareness of the importance of cybersecurity and personal data
protection among students, and with IMDA and the National Library Board to
provide seniors with infocomm training, which includes cybersecurity.

To grow a strong cybersecurity ecosystem in Singapore, Singapore will set up
its first cybersecurity-focused accelerator. CSA and IMDA are supporting the
development of the Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem at Block 71. This
initiative will be done with National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singtel

will also introduce a Co-Innovation
and Development Proof of Concept Funding Scheme
to support the development
of cybersecurity solutions for national security, critical infrastructure and
classified system users. This will catalyse the commercialisation and adoption
of cybersecurity solutions to address emerging needs.

Immersive media

build up immersive media (IM) capability in Singapore, Singapore will: (1) advocate
for IM adoption by facilitating business matching and information sharing to
raise awareness on IM’s potential, (2) build innovation capacity by encouraging
experimentation and development of proof of concepts, and (3) develop talent
for the IM industry.

Talent development and regulations

To grow
a talent workforce, the Government will invest another S$145 million to create another
20,000 training places in TechSkills
(TeSA) by 2020. New sectors like manufacturing and professional
services will be included.  

Dr Teo Ho Pin also asked the Minister if there are plans to introduce
regulations for AI applications. Minister Yaacob stated that currently, the
Government has no such plans as the field is still nascent and to avoid
stifling innovation. However, it does acknowledge public anxiety about AI. IMDA
is working with sector regulators to study issues and mitigate potential risks
from deploying AI.

Efforts on creating a rule-based international
environment for digital economy

this year’s Chairman of ASEAN, Singapore is advocating open data flows and
facilitating cyber norms discussions in ASEAN. 

Singapore is also committed to
improving digital literacy in ASEAN, to help our people reap the benefits of

ASEAN, Singapore is also participating fully in international mechanisms to
provide digital flows. Singapore’s applications to join the APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules and Privacy
Recognition for Processors systems, two multilateral certification mechanisms
to promote cross-border data flows, were approved on 20 Feb 2018.

the certification scheme is in place, certified organisations in Singapore will
be able to exchange personal data with certified organisations in participating
APEC economies much more seamlessly, while consumers can be assured that the
cross-border transfer of their personal data will be subject to high standards
of data protection.

Smart Nation & digital readiness

To improves
Singaporean’s lives in the digital age, Smart Nation is a whole-of-nation
movement that is inclusive by design. 

To ensure digital readiness, the
Government has set out a digital readiness blueprint to empower Singaporeans
through: (1) digital access, which is the means to transact digitally, (2) digital
literacy – the skills, attitudes and values of a digital citizen, and (3)
digital participation – the ability to make use of technology to improve daily

possibilities of the digital future are endless. It is up to us to seize them.
Everyone will have a role to play in our broader digital transformation, and we
will work with everyone to ensure that we all gain from this shared journey,”
Minister Yaacob concluded.

Feature image: CEphoto,
Uwe Aranas
/ CC BY-SA 3.0


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