Bridging Singapore and Vietnam’s digital cooperation

March 22, 2022 | 09:00
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The digital economy in Southeast Asia is at an inflection point. The number of new digital consumers added in just one year in 2020 in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam is equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom.
Bridging Singapore and Vietnam’s digital cooperation
Shanmuga Retnam Board member, Alliance of Smart City Leaders of Vietnam

Today, Singapore has an established ICT industry that annually registers growth of S$62.74 billion ($46 million) in revenues and employment. Singapore is well-regarded in global and regional rankings for leveraging ICT for economic growth. The World Economic Forum has consistently ranked Singapore among the top five nations in its annual Global Information Technology Report, which measures the impact of ICT on the development process and the competitiveness of countries.

Vietnamese State President Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to Singapore on February 24-26 provided a unique opportunity for both countries to carve out a global strategy to accelerate digital connectivity. Digitalisation opens up whole new growth opportunities. From helping local players evolve their business models for the ecosystems that define today’s economic activities to identifying new avenues for companies to scale up quickly and expand internationally. Our focus is on helping businesses sharpen their digital edge.

Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative, has always promoted close bilateral relations. He has consistently demonstrated Singapore’s enthusiasm to strengthen people-to-people relationships. In July 2021, Singapore’s Ambassador to Vietnam Jaya Retnam hosted a private delegation at his residence in Hanoi with the Ministry of Construction and the Alliance of Smart City Leaders of Vietnam to offer his support and active implementation of viable projects in this country.

Despite its economic success, Singapore faces land and human capital constraints. Therefore, it needs to establish a regional hub and spoke strategy in selected Asian countries to help transform it into a global digital hub. Both India and the Philippines tend to be natural choices due to their digital competencies and language proficiency.

Vietnam’s population demographic dividend of young IT-literate people is a clear route for Singapore to create Cyber Economic Zones to groom and train future-ready digital talent. Binh Duong province, close to Ho Chi Minh City, recognised this strategic advantage and is taking this seriously to develop a digital bridge between Binh Duong and Singapore. I hope policymakers in both cities will eventually offer digital citizenship to the human talent to work in both locations efficiently.

Singapore-based companies continue to actively invest in Vietnam’s fintech, healthcare, logistics, and real estate sectors. One such player is 1982 Ventures, a leading seed-stage fintech venture from Singapore, which has built a successful portfolio of fintech startups in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Recent successful investments by 1982 Ventures include Lista, a leading investment platform; Infina, a buy-now, pay-later fintech group; and Fundiin, a real estate home financing app.

The vision for ASEAN Connectivity Masterplan 2025 is to achieve a seamlessly and comprehensively connected and integrated ASEAN that will promote competitiveness, inclusiveness and a greater sense of community. President Phuc, previously chairman of ASEAN during his tenure as prime minister, was instrumental in shaping Vietnam’s economic blueprint.

The president’s visit also commemorated the establishment of the Vietnam-Singapore i4.0 Innovation Centre between Singapore Polytechnic and Eastern International University of Vietnam. Leveraging Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park infrastructure, the innovation centre will offer training and consultancy to small- and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises that operate within the park, according to Sembcorp President and CEO Wong Kim Yin.

To facilitate greater private sector participation in Vietnam’s smart city space, the Central Economic Commission announced the establishment of our alliance, an independent platform under the Digital Communication Association of Vietnam. There is a growing demand from the local provincial governments to access the know-how and, more importantly, plan and execute sustainable urban solutions to create more liveable communities. It was also announced during the Singapore visit that the alliance would be hosting the Vietnam Urban Sustainability Summit on April 19-20 alongside the Ministry of Construction and the Central Economic Commission.

During President Phuc’s visit, an equally encouraging development was the coming together of the Singapore Smart City Consortium (SSCC), a group of 19 Singapore high tech companies, and Vietnam’s National Innovation Centre (NIC) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

According to Nguyen Son, director of Business Development at the SSCC, the focus is on smart security, sustainability, community, and mobility to accelerate the transfer of smart city tech and digital frameworks between the SSCC and the NIC.

With the excellent political and business climate between both countries, the hospitality and food and beverage (F&B) industries are preparing for more business interactions with the opening of travel lanes. Dr. James Mok of Deal Makers Singapore is a leading franchise expert and is preparing Singaporean brand owners to internationalise their operations by identifying suitable locations and franchise partners for his clients.

On March 25-26, Colliers and the Singapore Business Group of Vietnam are hosting Makan Singapore; an F&B franchise fair with speakers such as Ken Atkinson of Grant Thornton Vietnam and Phi Van of the ASEAN Business Angel Network. The event will encourage use of the franchise model to expand brands. This demonstrates the enthusiasm and commitment of businesses to accelerate both digital and direct interactions between Vietnam and Singapore to create more viable enterprises.

By Shanmuga Retnam Board

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