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Budget 2017: Singapore strengthens support to help SMEs go digital

Kareyst Lin | Feb. 21, 2017
The country will launch 17 more Industrial Transformation Maps this year to identify key enablers to transform the respective industries

Image credit: Kareyst Lin

Singapore's Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) will work with SPRING Singapore and other sector agencies on the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Go Digital programme to help companies build digital capabilities.

Singapore is maturing as an economy and competing on the quality and novelty of ideas and ability to create value. The ability to use digital technology and embrace innovation will help businesses stay competitive and grow, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget 2017 speech on 20 February 2017.

One of the components of SMEs Go Digital will see SMEs get step-by-step advice on the technologies used at each stage of their growth during the sectoral Digital Plans. This will start with sectors where technology can significantly improve productivity, including retail, food services, wholesale trade, logistics, cleaning and security.

Companies can also get help in person at SME Centres, and a new SME Technology Hub to be set up by IMDA. On the other hand, companies that are ready to pilot emerging technological solutions can receive advice and funding support.

Plans to strengthen capabilities in data and cybersecurity
"With increased digitalisation, data will become an important asset for firms, and strong cybersecurity is needed for our networks to function smoothly," said Heng.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) will thus work with professional bodies to train cybersecurity professionals. More than S$80 million will be made available for these programmes.

Industrial Transformation Maps (ITMs) to deepen partnerships and spur innovation
Since ITMs were unveiled in last year's Budget, six have been launched so far. In 2017, development roadmaps for the remaining 17 sectors will be launched, Heng said.

"The ITMs help us to identify key enablers, which involve different stakeholders, to transform sectors," Heng explained. He also added that ITMs have to be kept flexible in accordance with new opportunities, and synergies between related ITMs must be maximised.

In addition, forward-looking regulations are required to enable government agencies to balance managing risks and creating space to test innovations.

For example, there was a review of the regulatory framework governing venture capital (VC) firms by Monetary Authority of Singapore earlier in February 2017. "This gives [the VC firms] greater flexibility, making Singapore more conducive to VC investment, thereby enhancing the supply of financing for startups," Heng said.

Regulatory sandboxes also help to spur innovation, as they provide a space whereby some rules can be suspended to allow greater experimentation. Apart from MAS' regulatory sandbox for fintech, the Land Transport Authority has also set up specific zones where self-driving vehicles can be tested on roads.


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