Enterprise Singapore (ESG), Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the SG Digital Office (SDO) announced that 10,000 stallholders – more than half of Singapore’s stallholders – have adopted e-payments. 10,000 hawkers using e-payments, with transactions growing four times since June 2020
Transactions volume and value for January 2021 also crossed the 1.2 million and S$14 million mark respectively for the first time. This is a four times increase compared to June 2020, when the Hawkers Go Digital programme first launched. More than 7,400 stallholders have also since received the e-Payment Bonus.
The Hawkers Go Digital programme, launched in June 2020, aims to reach out to and encourage 18,000 stallholders to adopt the Unified e-Payment Solution by June 2021. Stallholders will receive a $300 E-payment Bonus for up to five months, for every month which they achieve at least 20 transactions.
The Government first rolled out the unified e-payment solution for hawker centres (cooked food and market stalls), coffeeshops and industrial canteens operating in government-owned (HDB, JTC and NEA) premises in June 2019. The initiative provides a single, interoperable system, lower merchant discount rate and quicker transaction of credit for stallholders.
The multi-agency effort to drive e-payment adoption among hawkers and stallholders nationwide is led by ESG and IMDA, supported by SDO’s Digital Ambassadors, Housing and Development Board (HDB), JTC Corporation (JTC) and National Environment Agency (NEA).
Extended e-payment bonus
To provide more time for those who have not adopted e-payment to make use of the E-Payment Bonus, the eligibility period has been extended from 31 December 2020 to 31 May 2021.
The bonus complements the government’s efforts to help stallholders adopt e-payment solutions to improve their productivity and to encourage the sustained use of e-payment.
Stallholders will get monthly instalments of $300, if they fulfil at least 20 transactions (of at least $1) each month by 31 May 2021. All applicable bonus will still be paid by 30 June 2021.
Lucky draw campaign extended to encourage more consumers to use e-payments at hawkers
The Hawkers Go Digital “Scan Pay Win” lucky draw campaign that was launched on 1 November 2020 has been extended to 30 April 2021 to encourage more consumers to support stallholders by using e-payment for their purchases.
Safeguarding against fraudulent transactions
IMDA and SDO have collaborated with NETS to enhance the features of the NETSBiz app to make it easier for stallholders to track their payment transactions.
The improvements, to be rolled out progressively from March 2021, will include a bigger font size to make it easier for hawkers to see the transaction from a distance, the use of colour to highlight the latest transaction and a distinct audio alert for incoming transactions that will be loud enough to be heard in a hawker environment.
Most of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in New Zealand have realised the reality of conducting their businesses in the digital space. Systems encrypted with ransomware, data breaches, business disruptions, frauds and other forms of cyber-attacks can be fatal to an online business especially to an SME.
Companies have seen small businesses brought to the edge of extinction due to a range of cyber-attacks. COVID-19 has made this worse as remote access solutions (such as Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are often not effectively deployed leaving vulnerabilities that are easy to find by even low-skilled cybercriminals. The costs of having a professional cybersecurity programme are often out of the question for most SMEs.
In light of this, a New Zealand-based start-up is trying to push down the cost of cyber-security and make a business for itself by encouraging other small businesses to take control of their systems. The developer has a homegrown, software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering that looks to disrupt the traditional consultant-dominated industry model. Currently, six businesses have completed a beta program with the tech company.
The tech start-up wants to give small tech businesses the ability to self-assess and confidently operate their cybersecurity programmes. Cybersecurity practice has been confusing, inaccessible and left to the domain of industry consultants, says the founder and CEO.
The developer is looking to “democratise” cybersecurity practices in the country. According to him, cybersecurity help has been traditionally out of reach for many businesses due to cost, and while the quality of service available is of a very high calibre, many businesses are starting with the basics and looking to improve from there.
He also said that they are born out of the real need to make it easier and more affordable for technology companies to improve and begin to operate their security programmes with confidence.
The company plans to give SMEs an understanding of where the gaps are, a custom roadmap of what to do next and a world-class product experience to run and operate their security programme over the long term. They believe that they are filling an important gap in the market for an offering that comes in between the thoughts “wish we were doing better” and “prohibitively expensive professional services”. There is certainly a time and place for professional help, but most do not need it in the beginning.
Accordingly, leading innovators in the country said that with the emerging situation as an unprecedented crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way people work, live, consume, and travel. To adapt to these transitions, SMEs are actively seeking ways to reinvent themselves as per next-normal operating models. Businesses can no longer count on pre-coronavirus data and analysis that have substantially changed across different industries.
The coronavirus crisis has made it compelling for SMEs to endorse digital transformation to evolve and survive in the post-COVID world. This unexpected change has opened a slew of opportunities for SMEs to become future-ready and set the stage for a digital revolution.
Looking beyond the pandemic, the sector is already gearing up for this revolution. Cyber resilience and innovative customer service programmes will be critical. SMEs can boost its growth prospects by continuing to innovate for the sake of sustainability. Besides, no business ever grows without having to evolve into something more. In addition to these practices, SMEs can also explore venturing into new verticals that are gaining prominence in the new normal environment.
Speaking at The Global BioIndia 2021, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu said that India’s biotechnology industry is built on the 4 core beliefs of entrepreneurship, innovation, development of local talent and demonstrating high value-based care. He acknowledged that the field has emerged as the backbone of several areas in recent times. With its strong tech and industrial capabilities, India is in a unique position to transition from the biotech industry to a bio-economy.
The Vice President exhorted upon scientists and researchers to be prepared to combat new and emerging diseases. He stressed the need to leverage the huge potential of the biotechnology sector to create and generate new interventions to address the challenges faced by agriculture and allied sectors. The current pandemic has reinforced the need to be ever vigilant to tackle an outbreak of sudden and unforeseen epidemics and pandemics.
In fact, in large part, the pandemic was a catalyst and accelerator of development in the sector. Major disruptions of supply chains including imports of critical products and raw material further concretised the resolve for the nation to become atmanirbhar (self-reliant).
The Department of Biotechnology deserves recognition for working relentlessly to mitigate the COVID-19-induced crisis through the development of high-tech diagnostics, innovative protection equipment and vaccines. It scaled up production capacity and streamlined regulatory response to ensure the rapid and safe rollout of necessary measures.
With the immense potential the biotech sector presents, the government has eased compliance and approvals for the ecopreneurs. The proactive initiatives have resulted in a multifold impact reflected in the number of innovators, technologies and products, incubation space and IPs generated in the last year.
Citing the attractiveness of India’s value proposition and comparative advantage in the bio-economy, the ‘Make in India’ initiative and Atmanirbhar Bharat ideology will help to achieve the paradigm shift from biotech to bio-economy.
Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Health & Family Welfare, emphasised that the global impact of COVID-19 has brought greater recognition of the biotech sector’s influence on innovation and technology adoption in pharma, medtech, agriculture and allied areas, clean solutions, and industrial bio-manufacturing.
The industry is divided into five major segments: bio-pharma, bio-services, bio-Agri, bio-industrial and bioinformatics. The biotechnology sector in India has been growing at 14.7% year-on-year, with it being evaluated to about US$ 51 bn in 2018. While it may account for only 2% of the global market share, it is 3rd in the Asia Pacific region in terms of the number of companies.
About 40% of these are in the biopharma segment and the rest are in agribiotech, bioinformatics, industrial biotechnology and bioservices. India has the tremendous potential to become a global player in the biotechnology sector because of its cost-effective products and services.
The Global BioIndia 2021 showcased India’s strength in the biotechnology sector. India’s biotech sector has the ambitious target of US$ 100 billion bio-manufacturing hub and becoming a US$ 150 billion industry by 2025.
As the nation strives to become a knowledge- and innovation-driven economy, it is imperative its development is holistic – academia and industry must collaborate. India needs to focus on developing skilled manpower – all stakeholders must actively look at training and upskilling the workforce. In addition, the country must address infrastructure, quality compliance, venture funding and regulatory and IPR issues.
Registering a corporation with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and tax transactions with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) are now simpler, faster, and more convenient as the government launched the first phase of its Central Business Portal (CBP).
The CBP is an online system that offers a single site/one-stop-shop for all business-related information and transactions, such as registering a corporation, registering a business, and securing business permits/certificates, licences from said government agencies. It is created under RA No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business Act and is a project spearheaded by the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), in collaboration with the Department of Information Technology (DICT), BIR, SEC, PhilHealth, and Pag-IBIG.
For its initial implementation (Phase 1), the CBP shall be available to the domestic corporations, particularly one-person corporation, corporations with two to four incorporators; regular corporations whose incorporators are juridical entities and/or the capital structure is not covered by the 25%-25% rule, who intends to register their businesses.
The portal provides a Unified Application Form (UAF) for all agencies involved in the business registration process. Thus, citizens who are registering a corporation no longer need to accomplish and file several registration forms in different government agencies.
Also, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) expressed his optimism that with the recently launched online registration platform, more taxpayers will find it easier and faster to comply with the registration requirements of the government. He hopes that it will put delays, bureaucratic gridlocks, and inefficiencies behind them. It will likewise put more taxpayers into the tax net thereby strengthening revenue collection efforts and eventually pump more lifeblood into the veins of government operations, the Commissioner added.
Among the BIR-related features of the CBP are online generation/issuance of Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) of new corporations; identification of the national internal revenue taxes which the new corporations will be liable to; online payment of the annual registration fee (ARF) of PHP500 and Documentary Stamp Tax (DST) of PHP30 and generation of BIR Electronic Certificate of Registration (COR). The electronic COR bears a Quick Response (QR) Code that serves as a security feature to prove the authenticity of the COR.
New corporations registering through CBP are likewise given an option to pay their ARF and loose DST manually. However, when they choose this option, they shall complete their business registration at the respective Revenue District Office (RDO) by submitting the printed CBP-generated documents, and other documentary requirements prescribed by the Bureau in its Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 15-2021.
Taxpayers that opted to pay electronically through the CBP shall, after securing/printing the BIR electronic COR through the CBP, proceed to the RDO indicated in the electronic COR, to buy its BIR Printed Receipts/Invoices (BPR/BPI) to start its business operation immediately after its registration. Otherwise, it may apply for Authority to Print (ATP) its receipts/invoices to be printed by BIR Accredited Printers.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, DICT has committed to eliminate bureaucratic red tape as well as streamline business registration processes in the country through the CBP.
The Director-General of the Anti-Red Tape Authority is also positive that the CBP will suppress corruption in the government. He further said that this will be possible by the lack of human intervention in the process. Every signature, every stop in the process, wherein there is a need to speak with a government employee is an opportunity for corruption. Therefore, streamlining the process online removes the stress caused by lining up and removal of fixers and corruption. It is also envisioned to cover the Department of Trade and Industries (DTI), social agencies in the country.
The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) will launch the SG Cyber Safe Programme to help Singapore enterprises to raise their cybersecurity posture.
The programme is part of the Safer Cyberspace Masterplan launched in October 2020, which aims to raise Singapore’s general level of cybersecurity.
In a speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information at the MCI Committee of Supply Debate 2021, he said “Cybersecurity, therefore has to be a collective effort and a core part of our lives in this digital age-integrated into the products we use and the way that we behave online.”
“As more enterprises go digital, our exposure to cyber threats grows in parallel. Cyber attacks on companies have a far-reaching impact on our wider economy. So, as part of the Safer Cyberspace Masterplan, CSA will launch the SG Cyber Safe Programme to support companies in strengthening their cybersecurity.”
The SG Cyber Safe Programme is a concerted effort by the Government to help enterprises better protect themselves in the digital domain. Under this programme, initiatives to be introduced include:
The toolkits, targeted at key enterprise stakeholders such as enterprise leaders, technical teams and employees, will provide leaders with a deeper understanding of cybersecurity issues and threats. It will also enable them to implement cybersecurity measures, including employee training, within the organisation.
CSA will be rolling out the employee cybersecurity toolkit by the end of 2021. For a start, CSA has worked with Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) and Civil Service College (CSC) to adapt existing cybersecurity modules – originally developed for public officers – for employees in the private sector.
Tools for enterprises to self-assess their cybersecurity posture.
This includes the Exercise-in-a-Box Singapore incident response simulation tool, which will be launched in partnership with the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre in the later half of 2021. CSA will also develop assessment tools on enterprises’ Internet domain, connectivity and email health.
SG Cyber Safe Trustmark.
The Trustmark will serve as a mark of distinction for enterprises that have put in place good cybersecurity measures that correspond to their risk profiles.
CSA will start industry consultations on the SG Cyber Safe Trustmark from April 2021 to seek views on the concept and implementation. CSA intends to introduce the trustmark by early-2022.
As the trustmark is intended for companies or projects with higher cyber risk, a separate cyber hygiene mark will also be developed to complement the SG Cyber Safe trustmark. More details on the trustmark and cyber hygiene mark will be announced in due course.
Building Cybersecurity Talent Base in Singapore
The Minister added that “Our cybersecurity talent base is a key enabler of these efforts and we are working closely with industry partners and Government agencies to nurture and grow our cybersecurity workforce.
He said that first of all, to meet near-term demand, the government will facilitate the training and upskilling of cybersecurity professionals, as well as fresh and mid-career non-cybersecurity professionals for cybersecurity jobs, through programmes such as IMDA’s Tech Skills Accelerator.
And secondly, to strengthen the talent pipeline for the longer term, the government encourages youths to pursue a career in the field through cyber outreach initiatives like SG Cyber Talent. There has been over 7,000 participants to-date.
The government has also launched the SG Cyber Leaders programme to create a community for current and developing cyber leaders to exchange ideas, and learn about global best practices.
The minister called on all Singaporeans to do their part to stay cyber safe. “All of us need to play our part to create a safer, more secure cyberspace. There are things we can do as individuals. We should enable two-factor authentication, update our software in a timely manner, choose a passphrase rather than a password and staying vigilant to spot signs of phishing.”
Leading digital workflow company, ServiceNow, launched the first of its’ global service offerings to Singapore organisations in highly regulated industries – with the Now Platform available on Microsoft Azure.
Singapore customers are among the first in the world to use the Now Platform on Azure, to deliver business-wide transformation, while meeting data residency requirements for how sensitive information is stored, shared, protected and used. The level of digital adoption and market readiness has been a catalyst for ServiceNow’s continued growth and investment in Singapore, supporting the nation’s digital agenda.
ServiceNow Managing Director and Asia Vice President Mr Wee Luen Chia said, “ServiceNow is highly committed to supporting Singapore’s Smart Nation agenda. This announcement is a major milestone in support of this agenda; and is an outcome of regular, open conversations on how to help Singapore organizations leverage digital transformation to deliver smart experiences and improve productivity.”
Country Manager for Singapore Karen Chong said highly-regulated customers won’t be getting a new platform, but rather a new option to scale digital offerings at speed and this has been adopted quickly by leading organisations in Singapore.
Karen said organisations in highly regulated industries can now access the same Now Platform – the platform of platforms – that is already helping so many Singapore customers scale their digital investments and make work better.
“For organisations to embrace this workflow revolution they need to leverage one platform, one data model, to deliver business efficiencies and drive productivity. Integrating software applications at scale means you can reach your business’ transformation goals, faster and without added complexity. ServiceNow offers a platform that connects all your workflow and software applications across customer service, IT, supply chains, ERP, finance, employee and more.”
To help Singapore’s highly-regulated industries better understand this opportunity, Karen shared that ServiceNow has teamed up with various agencies in the public sector.“We work closely with Singapore government authorities by having the Multi-Tier Cloud Security (MTCS) test-ready, we received level 3-certification, the highest in MTCS. We also achieved strict data security compliance in accordance with government regulations and standards to ensure we meet the needs of highly-regulated industries in Singapore.”
“Most organisations considering transformation investments look closely into the availability of physical data infrastructure when investing in technology,” Karen said. “ServiceNow’s investments in local data storage ensures that it can support seamless, secure workflows to meet the breadth of products and services offered by Singapore’s enterprises.”
ServiceNow’s collaboration with Microsoft Azure in Singapore will enable the city state’s public sector to be among the first in the world to take advantage of a potent mix of automation processes, connectivity and seamless experiences to deliver smart, simple ways to work. Several Governments, including GovTech, use ServiceNow’s Now Platform. Also, NCS, a ServiceNow and Microsoft technology partner to Singapore Government and highly regulated industries such as banking, healthcare and transport have a proven track record in digital transformation for government and enterprises.
NCS Managing Director, Global Delivery, Keith Leong said, “With ServiceNow and Microsoft, NCS is able to offer best of breed solutions for our clients to enable them to accelerate the implementation of secure, digital workflow automation, especially for highly regulated organisations that rely on local data residency.”
The Ministry of Communications and Information has made building an inclusive digital society one of their main priorities for 2021. Their aim is to ensure that ‘all Singaporeans can reap the benefits of digitalisation.’
In order to reach this goal, the National Library Board (NLB) is transforming libraries into hubs for digital learning.
The Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025 (LAB25) looks at how NLB’s roles and priorities will evolve from 2021 to 2025, in response to social, economic and technological changes.
‘A key component of LAB25 is working with communities, individuals and industries to innovate and explore new solutions to address the needs of citizens.’
Since January 2020, NLB has carried out various types of public consultations to understand what Singaporeans would like to see in their libraries and archives.
The National Library Board has identified five areas to focus on:
Champion lifelong learning
NLB will prepare its patrons for a fast-changing world through programmes such as on career and personal development. These include the Future of Work series and the My Digital Life series, which promote public awareness of how technology affects our life.
NLB has also revamped its library makerspaces in 2020, with a rebrand from PIXEL Labs@NLB to MakeIT at Libraries, to reflect the need to shift Singapore’s DIY and innovation culture into the next gear. There are three makerspaces which comprise activities such as hands-on workshops in 3D printing and robotics, jointly organised by NLB and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
Bridge the digital divide
NLB will continue to partner IMDA and other government agencies to help communities, especially our seniors, to be comfortable and confident when using digital services and technology. For example, Library Learning Journeys will be conducted monthly at 25 public libraries from late February 2021, with capacity of four participants for each session. Led by digital ambassadors, these sessions teach seniors how to use the NLB mobile app and other digital services in libraries, such as connecting to Wireless@SGx, accessing eNewspapers and scanning QR codes.
Document and tell Singapore stories
NLB will continue to involve the community in its efforts to build the nation’s contemporary collection and collect its history. An ongoing “Documenting COVID-19” collection drive organised by NLB and the National Museum of Singapore has so far received over 740 submissions of more than 3,600 photos, personal stories, videos, ephemera, webpages, blog, diaries and creative responses.
NLB has also recorded 61 in-depth audio interviews as part of the oral history component of Documenting COVID-19. NLB aims to record at least 120 interviews from now until 2022. The public will be able to access them on the Archives Online website.
Strengthen citizen engagement
The NLB will continue to step up efforts to ensure that libraries are safe and inclusive spaces for the community to interact with one another. Communities are encouraged to pursue their passion in learning through setting up their own interest groups and reading clubs at the various libraries, where they can interact with like-minded people from all walks of life.
Promote information literacy
NLB has been actively promoting information literacy through the Source. Understand. Research. Evaluate. (S.U.R.E.) campaign, which promotes the importance of information evaluation and discernment. Over 25,000 participants have benefited from S.U.R.E. programmes in the last three years, with increased interest during COVID 19.
In the coming years, NLB will step up its efforts on S.U.R.E. and will weave the campaign into programmes across interest areas, such as combining a love of reading with being wise consumers of information at NLB’s Read Fest 2021.
Revamping libraries – part of Libraries of the Future Masterplan
In line with the Libraries of the Future Masterplan, NLB will continue to develop public libraries with seamless access, both physically and digitally. Since 2015, six revamped public libraries have been launched. The revamped Choa Chu Kang Public Library will reopen in the second half of 2021.
Choa Chu Kang Public Library will be the first Libraries of the Future library to be redesigned with sustainability as its main theme, and will feature digital services which aim to encourage the appreciation of natural landscapes and biodiversity.
The Vice-Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, Duong Anh Duc, recently approved a programme on artificial intelligence (AI) research and development in the city for the 2020-2030 period.
It aims to make the city a hub for AI research, implementation, and technology transfer in Vietnam and among the leading such facilities in Southeast Asia at large. Nine projects and tasks will be carried out to 2030, with a detailed timeline. AI is hoped to play a major role in building innovative urban areas and smart city development in the southern metropolis, facilitating sustainable economic growth.
According to a press release, HCM City aims to complete a portal for AI solutions and conduct a survey on demand for the application and development of the technology for 2021-2022. It has set a target of concluding projects on building digital infrastructure and AI-related policies and establishing centres for AI research, technology transfer, and human resources between 2021 and 2025. A day for information technology and AI businesses will be assigned in the time to come.
The HCM City Department of Information and Communications will be the coordinator of the programme. The budget will come from the city and sectors in science-technology, along with social sources.
The city is also working to develop more 5G products to meet the demand, which has been growing since the successful launch of 5G piloting programmes by Vietnam’s three major mobile network providers Viettel, VinaPhone, and MobiFone.
During a recent interview, the Deputy Director of the HCM City Department of Information and Communications, Le Quoc Cuong, explained that the programmes have opened the door for the city’s IT businesses to develop corresponding apps that use the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI. It is expected that more and more software pieces in the field of healthcare, traffic, and education will be introduced to the public shortly.
Currently, HCM City has nearly 10,600 Base Transceiver Stations (BTS) for 3G and 4G networks, ensuring the quality of calls and Internet access on mobile devices for users. Based on this, the city will be able to help telecom businesses install the 5G network in 2021. The new BTS for 5G will be eco-friendly and modern and will be shared among related businesses.
However, Deputy Director Cuong mentioned that not all areas in HCM City are the focus of 5G development. The priority should be in places like Saigon Hi-tech Park and the urban areas near Vietnam National University – HCMC, where high interactions and real-time communications are vital.
The municipal authorities encourage IT enterprises to invest money and labor in developing applications for smart traffic, construction management, environment monitoring, and tasks in the city’s AI programmes. State agencies can then hire available apps or order new ones to use.
The Deputy Director noted that the availability of the digital infrastructure is a critical factor that decides the success of both the digital transformation process and the creation of a smart urban area. Therefore, the city needs to make sufficient investment in this field to be ready for the use of 5G technology in forming internet connections and accessing data. These investments include a wider coverage of 4G and 5G networks, appropriate telecom equipment, powerful computers, and useful software.