SINGAPORE BUDGET 2019

Businesses, workers to get more help with digital economy tools

They include digital learning guides for employers to plan training for staff, expanded TechSkills Accelerator scheme

Singapore

NEW and updated measures are on the way to support growth in the digital economy, as unveiled by Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran in Parliament on Monday.

"Ultimately, every business, every worker and every citizen has to step up, overcome the challenges, and take ownership of their learning and digital transformation," he said.

The SMEs Go Digital scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) - which Mr Iswaran said has helped some 4,000 SMEs since it was launched in 2017 - will have more advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud-based solutions among its pre-approved offerings, by next year.

As "the digitalisation of businesses can succeed only if our workers too are equipped to effectively use digital technology", digital learning guides are being developed to help employers plan training for their workers.

The guides, to be produced by public agencies IMDA and SkillsFuture Singapore, will start with the retail and logistics industries, from this July.

Meanwhile, new training opportunities will be added to an expanded TechSkills Accelerator scheme, to support more training in emerging technologies such as AI, cyber security, cloud computing and blockchain.

The tripartite initiative will also - in partnership with trade associations and chambers - work to develop information communications technology (ICT) talent in more industries, besides ICT, finance and healthcare.

Beyond measures to help individual businesses, "we have also embarked on digital initiatives at the system level so that we can derive broader benefits", noted Mr Iswaran.

These include the TradeTrust platform for the secure exchange of digital trade documents, which is now in the trial stage with maritime trade, logistics and finance industry players.

Mr Iswaran also announced reviews of the Electronic Transactions Act, "to cater for new business models, new technologies and national projects", and the Personal Data Protection Act, "so that it continues to safeguard consumer interests while enabling the innovative use of data".

And, with the National Research Foundation's S$19 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 five-year plan slated to enter its next phase, S$300 million more will go to research in services and digital economy - a domain that had already been budgeted S$360 million previously.

Mr Iswaran also confirmed on Monday that Singapore will start its roll-out of 5G network technology by next year, as the market has expected.

Asked by MP Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) how Singapore will ensure that its digital infrastructure can support the growing digital economy, the minister said that "future-ready and globally competitive" digital infrastructure is a key target.

"5G has the potential to fundamentally transform our businesses and the way they operate," Mr Iswaran told the House, citing applications like self-driving vehicles, industrial automation, and nationwide sensors.

A 5G public consultation on regulatory and policy issues, such as spectrum, is forthcoming, he added.