Singapore's Digitalization Journey: 'No One Is Getting Left Behind'

Singapore's digitalization journey has been a long one. See how it's currently benefiting the businesses, workforce and citizens in Singapore.

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By Raymond Chan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Without a doubt, Singapore is one of the forerunners of digitalization with a future-proof economy. Since 2019, various digitalization initiatives, led by agencies such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Enterprise Singapore and SG Digital Office, were rolled out to support foreign and local businesses and citizens.

When the Covid-19 crisis hit the country, the rules for doing business in Singapore were changed drastically. Regional governments pushed for temporary lockdowns while promoting work-from-home arrangements. Businesses were forced to realize that there was no other time to improve their technological awareness than now.

We have benefited as a business operating in Singapore from such a proactive push towards innovation and digital transformation by the government.

Related: Why Blockchain Market Is Thriving in Singapore

SME Start Digital for businesses

Since 2019, several businesses in Singapore have already made the push for digitalization. This was made possible through the Start Digital Pack, an initiative launched by Infocomm Media Development Authority to help new and established businesses go digital. The Start Digital Pack contained easy-to-deploy digital solutions such as accounting software, payroll software and more.

The Start Digital Solutions has been updated recently with collaboration tools to support remote working, digital marketing and digital utilities such as epayment and e-invoicing. Entrepreneurs who just started their business, or those already established but wanting to improve the digital side of their business, are the audience for this initiative.

Remote-working support

When Singapore mandated work-from-home during the "Circuit Breaker" in 2020, corporations and SMBs were concerned, and leaders were scrambling. We were not quite ready to transition to a "full-home" or even a "hybrid" model. Thankfully, the authorities were there to help.

The government has spearheaded remote-working support for companies, made possible through the Productivity Solutions Grants (PSG), which Enterprise Singapore leads.

The PSG covers sector-specific solutions for the following industries:

  • Retail.

  • Logistics.

  • Food.

  • Precision engineering.

  • Construction.

  • Landscaping.

The PSG also covers solutions that span across different industries. These solutions include data analytics, customer management, inventory tracking and financial management.

In April of 2020, the PSG provided pre-approved remote-working solutions for Singapore residents working from home. This included a laptop subsidy supplied to companies so their employees can work efficiently from the comforts of their homes. These subsidized solutions will continue to pave the way for companies to be more flexible, set up cloud-based systems and go paperless.

Related: 4 Reasons Why Singapore Will Quietly Become the World's Leading Industrial Hub

E-invoicing island-wide

As an accounting-service firm, we have experienced years of painful consolidation of client invoices that were often incomplete or missing. How convenient would things be if they were online, right? This change came when the pandemic struck us.

With a push towards contactless transactions and work-from-home, businesses gradually made a move to go digital in handling their business transactions and finances through full online accounting and banking solutions. To further encourage businesses to adopt these solutions, Infocomm Media Development Authority created InvoiceNow. InvoiceNow is a nationwide e-invoicing method that helps direct invoices across different finance systems through a structured digital format. InvoiceNow operates on the Peppol Network, a new invoicing standard that allows small and medium businesses and large corporations to guarantee faster payments and smoother invoicing and helps promote paperless transactions.

Hawkers going digital

For those of you who've visited or lived in Singapore, you probably remember the mouth-watering local food widely served among the hundreds of hawker centers in Singapore. They're a great part of the country's food culture. As part of the country's drive to help businesses move toward a post-Covid future, even hawker centers are going digital.

The SG Digital Office, together with the National Environment Agency, launched the Singapore Together Alliance for Action - Online ordering for hawkers. This is a workgroup composed of delivery platforms, community partners, government agencies and hawker associations to help hawkers go online, adopt e-payments and develop a fully sustainable commercial-business model. A new phase of this initiative is the continued encouragement of stallholders to adopt contactless payment options by installing a unique SGQR label at their stalls. This SGQR will allow hawkers to receive payments from 19 different payment options, including Singtel Dash, GrabPay and DBS PayLah.

Related: Here's Why You Need to Launch Your Startup in Singapore

TechSkills Accelerator for the ICT workforce

For employees, we're glad to see the government trying to keep up its local talent skill sets as we enter the next wave of tech-led innovation. Singapore values the workforce behind its technological advancements, be it in the private or public sector. The TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) was established to help our professionals develop their relevant skills. Under this program, there are several initiatives. The Tech Immersion and Placement Programme (TIPP) was developed to help non-ICT professionals acquire skills and competency needed to turn them into industry-ready ICT professionals. Then we also have the TeSA Mid-Career Advance initiative, which was designed for Singapore citizens aged 40 and above. This initiative will help them be upskilled or reskilled for their tech-related jobs. IMDA has partnered with several companies to help them launch the TeSA Mid-Career Advance. The beneficiaries of this initiative will also develop skills for more in-demand roles, such as data analytics and software engineering.

Seniors go digital

While it's normal that younger people tend to adapt more quickly, I'm impressed that our senior citizens were not left out of this push for digitalization. The Singapore government is now pushing for Mobile Access for Seniors by providing them with training to use electronic-based government systems to access their retirement funds, file their taxes, do online banking and even carry out investments.

The Mobile Access for Seniors scheme also provides subsidized mobile phones and plans to our lower-income seniors who want to go digital but can't afford to do so. Such great initiatives are helpful in promoting a long-term harmonious, equitable and supportive society in Singapore.

Singapore's move for digitalization provides us with an assurance that no one is getting left behind. With big data and globalization, it's become more important for governments to push for the proper adoption of both hardware and software. Ultimately, governments taking a proactive approach shall emerge stronger from this Industrial 4.0 revolution, and its consumers and citizens could benefit the most from such upskill and retraining initiatives.

Raymond Chan

Co-founder of Piloto Asia

Raymond Chan is co-founder of Piloto Asia, a Singapore-based licensed corporate-service provider. He's worked across four countries and now helps multi-nationals with their market entry to Singapore and ASEAN. He is always keen to hear thoughts about management, technology, taxes and investments.

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