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|Singapore has several years of digital expertise that other countries are tapping into. Photo: Le Toan|
Leon Cai, regional director of government-led Enterprise Singapore, told VIR at the forum “Digital Transformation – Driving Growth and Innovation with 5G” held by VIR last week that the city-state has gathered untold amounts of experience over the years in developing and providing solutions for smaller companies to go digital.
Enterprise Singapore, which was formed in 2018 to support small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to upgrade capabilities, innovate, transform, and internationalist, has established various programmes in order to carry out its goals. “It is important to understand what level of readiness SMEs are in and what are the type of solutions they require before they dive into buying solutions,” said Cai.
Having a better understanding of their needs, SMEs can adopt pre-approved solutions with grant support via programmes such as Start Digital or Grow Digital. This support has helped to offset some of the upfront operational costs, as well as to provide accredited solutions that have proven to help other SMEs. The companies can also seek help from SME Centre Business Advisors to understand the entire process.
“Digitalisation is applicable for all sectors, but each sector faces different types of challenges and requirements. There is no one-size fit all solution and therefore, we have rolled out 12 different industry digital plans to provide detailed and relevant guidance to SMEs,” Cai explained.
Acknowledging the potential and value of digital transformation, Singapore has been closely working with Vietnam, especially the Agency for Enterprise Development under the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI). A virtual roundtable was held in April to exchange ideas on digital transformation for SMEs and a webinar also took place on digital models for manufacturers in June.
The exchange of ideas could see countries like Vietnam kickstart their digitalisation path thanks to Singapore’s Start Digital programme, which launched in 2019.
“To ensure that we could reach out to as many SMEs as possible, we worked with banks and telcos to implement the programme through the most common types of digital solutions that SMEs would require – digital marketing, digital transactions, digital collaboration, accounting, human resources (HR), and cybersecurity,” Cai explained.
The initial adoption costs and six months of subscription fees are waived. “SMEs, therefore, have no reason not to try this,” Cai said.
Additional digital solutions could also help businesses expand overseas. Grow Digital, another arm of Singaporean efforts, aims to help businesses go global more easily through e-commerce platforms, without having to invest in a physical presence overseas – especially crucial after this year’s events.
Bui Hoang Hai, an expert for the Supporting Enterprises’ Digital Transformation programme developed by the MPI in collaboration with the US Agency for International Development, says that in order to go digital, Malaysia has developed a master plan as a foundation for Industry 4.0. Its government is strongly promoting digital transformation with the pillars of Industry 4.0, smart tourism, smart education, and safe cities, and are the main keys for Malaysia to accelerate its development towards the goal of entering the top 20 economies in the world by 2050.
“In addition, the country is also creating a new ecosystem to attract stakeholders in such sectors as chemicals, medical devices, textiles, rubber, food, and other manufacturing activities,” Hai highlighted some prioritised sectors for digital transformation in Malaysia. The government has set a target to achieve four national goals by 2026 – raising labour efficiency, increasing investment contribution to GDP, enhancing innovation capacity, and improving high-skilled HR.
“To achieve these goals, with the expectation of being able to compete in the international market and become a sustainable developed country by 2025, Malaysia is stepping up the search for HR-related AI and enhanced solutions for faster and more accurate exposure to technology, thus creating a more advanced and developed industry,” added the expert.
Meanwhile, Thailand started its digital transformation journey five years ago by applying new models in all activities of the government, supporting production and business, and even helping to track and combat natural disasters.
“The Digital Thailand plan offers several main strategies which include establishing basic communication infrastructure, building e-government, and preparing a digital workforce at all levels of government agencies, among other factors,” Hai said.
Thai experts forecast that this digital transformation could add about $9 billion to its GDP and annual growth could be 0.4 per cent, with 40 per cent of Thailand’s GDP increases coming from digital products and services.