Covid-19 pandemic is compelling firms to turn towards digital economy, says Chee Hong Tat

Retail and food services have felt the squeeze from falling footfall due to safe distancing measures. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Businesses will need to pivot towards the digital economy as the pandemic forces companies to rethink how they operate, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said on Friday (June 5).

Mr Chee told Parliament: "The digital economy will take on greater salience than before and we must be prepared to seize the opportunities it brings."

He added that the Covid-19 outbreak has "compelled businesses in all industries to turn to technology-enabled platforms for safe operations and business continuity".

"Besides shoring up a strong demand for digital solutions in the ICT sector, the quickened pace of technology adoption across industries has also transformed business models," Mr Chee said.

Brick-and-mortar industries, such as retail and food services, have felt the squeeze from falling footfall due to safe distancing measures.

But technology "has enabled these businesses to access broader markets and consumer segments than before", Mr Chee added.

Associate Professor Lawrence Loh of the National University of Singapore Business School said: "The current emphasis on digitalisation presents new frontiers for existing businesses to tide over the pandemic crisis and.. to thrive in future calamities."

"During this pandemic era, those sectors and industries that are aligned with the lifestyles and needs of the people will have better prospects," he added.

Mr Chee said: "As a small and open economy, Singapore's response cannot be to turn inwards. We need to find our new relevance to the world."

"Even as we cope with the immediate challenges, there will be new opportunities that we can seize, we can leverage our strengths and we can ride on the key shifts brought about by the pandemic."

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