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Singapore Ideal Hub for Expansion of Southeast Asian Tech

The 649 million digitally-dominant Southeast Asians and the region’s nascent infrastructure are driving an unprecedented boom for startups in the e-commerce, financial services, healthcare, and education sectors. Despite the relatively small size of its market, Singapore acts as ideal for cross-regional expansion because of its international reputation and government initiatives to cultivate investment, talent, and connections.

The tech ecosystem in Singapore is unique thanks to its strategic state intervention and its position between East and West. The island nation is home to over 600 investors and 200 accelerators and incubators, not to mention various state and government-linked initiatives.

Funding aside, Singapore is also a conducive environment for startups looking for a gateway to the rest of Southeast Asia. The country has consistently ranked as one of the best in terms of ease of doing business because of access to talent and business-friendly regulations. Singapore’s government has been especially progressive in helping startups find connections to not just funding, but also global partners and tech talent. In 2021, EDB’s investment arm helped 25 startups raise US$216 million in funding from private investors.

​​Singapore’s progressive approach to regulation has promoted strong partnerships between government and business. Singapore takes a different approach by working closely together with tech companies to develop and test new technologies that may not be ready for the real world. The country’s wellspring of businesses has naturally made it attractive to talent from all over the world.

As big tech firms set up regional headquarters and scale up their tech hiring, the pinch in talent will be more acutely felt by smaller tech firms and might hurt the long-term vibrancy of the tech ecosystem. However, the government’s efforts to cultivate tech talent through educational institutions like the National University of Singapore’s Overseas College and upskilling programs like SkillsFuture is one step in the right direction.

Singapore has also teamed up with countries in the region to develop partnerships that provide companies with a steady pipeline of tech talent. One of the examples is a Batam-based tech hub that trains and hires Indonesian tech talent to complement and support the operations of Singapore-based companies as part of a holistic and integrated regional tech strategy. The tech hub also serves as a digital bridge between Indonesia and Singapore enabling companies from both countries to collaborate and innovate to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

To ensure that Singapore remains an attractive place to do business, government agencies need to closely follow global innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley, New York, and London. However, simply copying their policies and strategies wholesale would not work, instead, it is vital that the country learns from what these leading tech ecosystems do right and then adapt best practices for the Southeast Asian context.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, amid Singapore’s first priority to strengthen its digital capabilities, about S$200 million will be set aside over the next few years to enhance schemes that build such capabilities among firms and workers. This focus comes as Singapore has a window of opportunity over the next few years to establish leading positions in key market segments.

Singapore will accelerate investments in new capabilities to power the next stage of growth. Singapore is one of the most connected cities in the world, and among the first to roll out a 5G standalone network. The country will invest further to meet its future needs. Singapore will upgrade its broadband infrastructure to increase broadband access speeds by around ten times over the next few years.

The government will also invest in future technologies like 6G, to ride the next communications and connectivity wave. The use cases for such high speeds are still nascent, but there are many new possibilities for augmented and virtual reality tools, limited only by our imagination.

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