Addressing the nation during the National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reiterated the importance of digitalisation, and updated Singaporeans on the move towards becoming a Smart Nation. Here are a few highlights and what they could mean for your business:
Productivity is on the rise
PM Lee reported that productivity is expected to grow by 2.5% this year – an increase from last year’s 2%i. He also stressed that although economic transformation is seeing a positive uptick, the government will continue to push forward. For one, the Future Economy Council (FEC) is implementing industry transformation maps to aid growth in each sector.
As described by its chairman, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, the FEC intends to create “actionable strategies, with the collective participation of government agencies, the business community and our unions" and “support our companies to build strong capabilities to compete”ii.
Further integration of technology
In line with the push towards digitalisation, “Mr Lee noted that in major Chinese cities, cash has become ‘obsolete’ and even debit and credit cards are becoming rare, as everyone is using WeChat Pay or AliPay”iii even for minor transactions with roadside hawkers.
Businesses will be expected to take the lead in implementing new technologies like mobile payment, but must be prepared for obstacles along the way. Consumers still express wariness over mobile payment, citing concerns about safety and past negative experiences with e-payment modes.
However, as The Straits Times points out, customers’ “wariness is one aspect…the bigger problem is that some merchants accept one option and not another - spurning contactless payments, or credit cards, for example.” When deciding whether or not to integrate the mobile wallet into your business, consider the benefits it could bring.
The makings of a Smart Nation
In a population where technology adoption rates are sky high, PM Lee observes that Singapore has the right ingredients to evolve into a Smart Nation. He notes the existing ventures that are into smarter infrastructure, like the integrated national sensor networkiv including CCTVs at HDB void decks and lift landings.
This network holds a wealth of potential, with its abilities spanning from tracking drain water levels to detecting suspicious activity using data analytics.
Businesses can look forward to more opportunities thanks to Smart Nation initiatives. This year, the government plans to call for an estimated $2.4 billion in Information and Communications (ICT) tenders, investing more into boosting disruptive technology like the Internet of Things.
Appealing to conscious consumers
In Singapore’s effort to cut down diabetes and other diseases, soft drink companies are doing their part, reducing the sugar in drinks sold locally. Savvy businesses, especially in the F&B and retail sectors can consider (or are already) tapping on this growing shift towards healthier lifestyles to create new business opportunities. For example, Singapore’s largest supermarket chain, NTUC FairPrice, joined the fray, offering at least 10% discounts on healthier rice optionsvi.
Capitalising on government initiatives
Mr Lee cited soya snack company Xiao Ban, which roped in the help of International Enterprise Singapore to expand beyond the local market. Xiao Ban founder Tai Sei Hei counts IE’s market information workshops and networking opportunities as factors that led to his success in Vietnamvii.
Mr Lee also mentioned SkillsFuture, which is dedicated to helping individuals and businesses hone their capabilities and increase their competitive edge.
Given the introduction of initiatives like the Go Digital Programme and the extension of funding opportunities like the SME Working Capital Loan during this year’s Budget 2017, SMEs can count on government backing to fuel business growth.