Singapore is one of the most technologically-advanced nations in the world. We were at pole position in the World Economic Forum’s 2016 Networked Readiness Index, which measures how well an economy is using information and communications technologies to boost competitiveness and well-being. Also, in the 2017 IMD World Digital Competitiveness ranking, Singapore was ranked 1st and the win was largely attributed to the strong government commitment to the digital agenda; we came in first for the most tech-savvy government indicator in 2017 too. (Source: Business Times)
For Singapore, digital transformation goes beyond adoption of software or apps. It requires rethinking and reinvention of internal processes and service delivery. As we move towards a “Smart Nation”, the government spearheaded the digital transformation in government services to encourage local businesses and SMEs to do the same. Under the Digital Government Blueprint, the government will aim for services that will be digital end-to-end, where citizens and businesses can expect to access all government services anytime, anywhere and on any internet-enabled device. (Source: Smart Nation Singapore)
However, not all companies are able to cope with the digital transformation.
SMEs struggling with digital transformation
According to a Singapore Business Federation survey, one in four companies are “slow to transform their businesses”, with some of them failing to digitise any part of their businesses. Such businesses lack transformation capacity and since many training programs require time away from work, workers are prioritised for operational purposes because of the tight labour market.
During a Budget debate last year, Members of Parliament (MPs) have raised the issue of traditional businesses in Singapore finding it tough to cope with digital technologies that have forced them to transform from their traditional business models. Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Darryl David said, “Many businesses are struggling to keep up with these transformative changes,” noting that digital technologies have changed the way business decisions are made and how goods and services are delivered and consumed.
Other MPs also mentioned about other issues such as how SMEs are also facing a severe tech talent crunch and are unable to embrace the digital push and adopt new technologies. (Source: Channel NewsAsia)
Help for SMEs
1.Productivity Solutions Grant
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat mentioned in his Budget speech last year the launch of the Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) – a streamlined grant to help firms get easier access to money for tech solutions.
According to the SME portal, the PSG supports companies keen on adopting IT solutions and equipment to enhance business processes. PSG covers sector-specific solutions including the retail, food, logistics, precision engineering, construction and landscaping industries. Other than sector-specific solutions, PSG also supports adoption of solutions that cut across industries, such as in areas of customer management, data analytics, financial management and inventory tracking. The PSG also provides up to 70% funding support and serves as an avenue for companies to make long-term technology investments.
Businesses can apply for the new grant through the Business Grants Portal (BGP), which will provide a list of supportable equipment and technology solutions relevant for their sectors.
2. SMEs Go Digital Programme
The SMEs Go Digital Programme has benefitted close to 650 SMEs since its launch in 2017. It is targeted at boosting SMEs’ digital readiness by advising them on technologies to use at each stage of their digitalisation journey. According to Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), these solutions are aimed at helping SMEs use digital technology to boost their productivity and build their digital capabilities.
The SMEs Go Digital programme aims to simplify the digitalisation process for SMEs so that SMEs can readily gain the right digital capabilities to achieve internal efficiencies, cost reductions, and better service offerings for sustained growth in the digital economy.
For SMEs with more advanced digital needs such as data analytics and cybersecurity, the Business Advisors at the SME Centres will refer them to the SME Digital Tech Hub. The Digital Tech Hub has been set up at APEX@Henderson to provide SMEs with specialist advisory services on their digital requirements.
Part of the SMEs Go Digital Programme, Enterprise Singapore and the IMDA also developed sector-specific Industry Digital Plans for SMEs (IDPs) that are aligned to the respective sectors’ Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs). These plans are used to provide SMEs with step-by-step guide on the deployment of digital technologies at different stages of their growth. Examples range from sales and inventory management software to help streamline operations, to using artificial intelligence to predict sales trends and automate sourcing and purchasing.
It serves as a step-by-step guide to help SMEs embark on digitalisation and charting the type of digital solutions that firms can pick up in order to thrive in a global industry that has seen the rise of digital marketplaces for business-to-business (B2B) transactions and blockchain technology in trade processes. Larger enterprises in the industry can also refer to the IDP to support their digitalisation efforts.
The plan comprises a three-stage digital roadmap that charts out the different digital solutions these SMEs can adopt at each phase of their growth, as well as the relevant training programmes required to enhance employees’ digital skill sets.
An example is the the newly launched Wholesale Trade Industry Digital Plan (IDP) where 33,000 SMEs in the sector are able to receive help with adoption of digital technology and internationalising. For more information, please visit www.smeportal.sg
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