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Singapore's digitization journey: "No person is left behind"

August
18, 2021

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The opinions of entrepreneurs' contributors are their own.

Without a doubt, Singapore is one of the pioneers of digitization with a sustainable economy. Since 2019, various digitization initiatives have been launched under the leadership of agencies such as the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Enterprise Singapore and SG Digital Office to support overseas and local businesses and citizens.

When the Covid-19 crisis hit the country, the rules of doing business in Singapore were drastically changed. Regional governments pushed for temporary bans while encouraging work from home. Businesses had to realize that there was no other time to raise their tech awareness than now.

As a company operating in Singapore, we have benefited from such a proactive innovation boost and digital transformation by the government.

Related: Why Singapore's Blockchain Market Is Thriving

SME Start Digital for companies

Several companies in Singapore have been driving digitization forward since 2019. This was made possible by the Start Digital Pack, an initiative of the Infocomm Media Development Authority to help new and established companies with digitization. The Start Digital Pack contained easy-to-implement digital solutions such as accounting software, payroll software, and more.

The Start Digital Solutions was recently updated with collaboration tools to support remote working, digital marketing, and digital utilities like e-payment and e-invoicing. The target group of this initiative are entrepreneurs who have just founded their company or are already established, but want to improve the digital side of their company.

Remote work support

When Singapore ordered work from home during the 2020 Circuit Breaker, businesses and SMBs were concerned and executives were desperate. We weren't quite ready to switch to a "full home" or even a "hybrid" model. Fortunately, the authorities were there to help.

The government has spearheaded remote working support for businesses enabled by the Productivity Solutions Grants (PSG) run by Enterprise Singapore.

The PSG comprises industry-specific solutions for the following industries:

Retail trade.

Logistics.

Eat.

Precision engineering.

Construction.

Landscaping.

The PSG also includes cross-sector solutions. These solutions include data analysis, customer management, inventory tracking, and financial management.

In April 2020, the PSG rolled out pre-approved remote working solutions for Singapore residents who work from home. This also included a laptop allowance for companies so that their employees can work efficiently from the comfort of their home. 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 Singapore Will Quietly Become the World's Leading Industrial Hub

E-bill across the island

As an accounting firm, we have experienced painful consolidations of customer invoices for years, which were often incomplete or missing. How convenient would things be if they were online right? That change came when the pandemic hit us.

With the advance towards contactless transactions and home office, companies have gradually made the transition to digitization in the handling of their business transactions and finances through complete online accounting and banking solutions. To further encourage companies to adopt these solutions, the Infocomm Media Development Authority launched InvoiceNow. InvoiceNow is a nationwide e-invoicing method that helps route invoices across various financial systems using a structured digital format. InvoiceNow works on the Peppol network, a new invoicing standard that enables small, medium and large businesses to ensure faster payments, smoother invoicing, and promote paperless transactions.

Hawkers are going digital

Those of you who have visited or lived in Singapore will likely remember the delicious local food that is rife in the hundreds of hawker centers in Singapore. They are a huge part of the country's food culture. Even Hawker Centers are going digital as part of the country's efforts to help businesses prepare for a post-Covid future.

The SG Digital Office, together with the National Environment Agency, launched the Singapore Together Alliance for Action – online ordering for street vendors. This is a working group composed of delivery platforms, community partners, government agencies and merchant associations to help merchants get online, adopt e-payments, and develop a fully sustainable commercial business model. A new phase in this initiative is the ongoing encouragement of stand owners to use contactless payment options by adding a unique SGQR label to their stands. This SGQR allows merchants to receive payments from 19 different payment options including Singtel Dash, GrabPay and DBS PayLah.

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

TechSkills Accelerator for the ICT workforce

For employees, we're excited that the government is trying to retain their local talent as we step into the next wave of technology-driven innovation. Singapore values ​​the workforce behind its technological advances, be it in the private or public sector. The TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) was created to help our professionals develop their relevant skills. There are several initiatives under this program. The Tech Immersion and Placement Program (TIPP) is designed to help non-ICT professionals acquire the skills and competencies necessary to turn them into industry-ready ICT professionals. Then there is the TeSA Mid-Career Advance Initiative, which was designed for Singaporeans 40 and over. This initiative will help them to further train or retrain for their technology-related jobs. IMDA has partnered with several companies to help them roll out the TeSA Mid-Career Advance. The beneficiaries of this initiative will also develop skills for more in-demand roles such as data analysis and software development.

Seniors are going digital

It's normal for younger people to adapt faster, but I'm impressed that our seniors haven't been excluded from this digitization surge. The Singapore government is now pushing for mobile access for seniors by providing training on how to use electronic government systems to access their retirement funds, file their taxes, do online banking and even make investments.

The Mobile Access for Seniors program also offers subsidized cell phones and plans to our lower-income seniors who want to go digital but cannot afford it. Such great initiatives are helpful in promoting a long-term harmonious, just and supportive society in Singapore.

Singapore's move towards digitization gives us the assurance that no one will be left behind. In the face of big data and globalization, it is increasingly important for governments to push for proper hardware and software adoption. Ultimately, proactive governments should emerge stronger from this Industry 4.0 revolution and their consumers and citizens could benefit most from such education and retraining initiatives.

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