Singapore govt to bolster digital economy, plans to help low-income households get online

Yon Heong Tung
CapitaLand to push Singapore retailers towards e-commerce with Lazada partnership

Data science programmes and other digital business initiatives were some of the other plans discussed in parliament

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) fleshed out its strategy to bolster Singapore’s digital economy in parliament yesterday.

In his speech, Communications and Information minister Dr Yaacob Ibrahim elaborated on the initiatives charted out in finance minister Heng Swee Keat 2017 tech-focussed budget plans — which aims at boosting workers’ tech skills and SMEs’ digital readiness — and talked about existing and new schemes.

First, he said that the ICT jobs placement initiative TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) will be integrated with the Skillsfuture Leadership Development Initiative to roll out on-the-job tech management skills development programmes. Dr Ibrahim claimed that over 10,000 professionals have found jobs through the TeSA since its launch a year ago.

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And for tertiary and pre-tertiary students, Dr Ibrahim said that the Industry Preparation for Pre-graduates (iPREP) programme has enrolled about 800 students since its launch last year; it aims to help them gain relevant industry-ready skillsets and work experience.

Minister of State for Communications and Information Dr Janil Puthucheary addressed the need to help low-income households go online.

For low-income households who do not have internet at home, MCI plans to introduce low-cost broadband connectivity and tablets to 16,000 such households, up from the existing 8,000 on the programme. This scheme will apply to households who earn S$1,900 (US$1,350) or less monthly.

Ensuring businesses have robust digital capabilities

Dr Ibrahim said that the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) will work with SPRING Singapore to roll out the SME Go Digital Programme, which is designed to help companies get advice on how and what technologies to use at each stage of their growth.

IMDA will also collaborate with corporations such as telcos and banks to help SMEs develop their solutions and expand them beyond traditional services.

Dr Ibrahim said that Accreditation@IMDA — a scheme that accredits proven early stage startups — will be expanded “beyond the public sector to enterprise sectors such as real estate and finance.” It will now also target small high-growth SMEs, and help them partner with corporations such as CapitaLand, Mediacorp and Sentosa Development Corporation; with the aim to help develop their solutions and export them overseas.

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To date, Accreditation@IMDA has already accredited companies in sectors including video and data analytics, robotics and energy management.  The total estimated worth of their combined projects is over S$60 million (US$42.5 million).

Raising awareness of data science

The importance of data in driving innovative solutions (such as AI chatbots) cannot be understated.

“With data science, companies cite a lack of good data, lack of awareness, lack of expertise and some concerns about regulatory clarity,” said Dr Puthucheary.

To this end, IMDA will establish a Data Innovation Programme Office (DIPO) to help companies understand and use data efficiently, and build a data ecosystem.

DIPO will introduce a Data Sandbox that will allow companies to share data securely on a neutral platform. It will also provide data analytics tools to help them develop data science expertise.

Further measures will be added to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) to help companies use personal data responsibly.

Dr Puthucheary said the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) will develop Data Protection starter kits to help SMEs kick-start data protection practices within their companies.

PDPC will also advise and guide SMEs on these practices through Trade Associations and Chambers and sector-specific forums.

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Additionally, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) will be working with the Ministry of Finance to build an API Exchange (APEX); this will enable data sharing across agencies and domains. It is expected to roll out in the whole public sector later this year.

Cybersecurity and government regulations

Dr Ibrahim said that the cybersecurity sector could see 5,000 more job openings by 2020. He also said that the Internet Surfing Separation Policy, which removes internet access from civil servants’ computers, caused

He also said that the Internet Surfing Separation Policy, which removes internet access from civil servants’ computers, has caused no disruptions to work processes and other digital services. It is expected to be implemented across the whole public sector by May 2017.

With regards to government regulations, MCI will update its Broadcasting Act (BA) to ensure streamed content from overseas meets Singapore’s community values, “including the need to uphold racial and religious harmony.”

Dr Ibrahim said key stakeholders are being consulted and further details on the BA will be announced soon.



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