Banks, telcos ink deals to support SMEs' digital adoption

SINGAPORE - Seven telcos and lenders on Wednesday (Aug 16) pledged to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) take up digital technology, under Spring Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)'s SMEs Go Digital scheme.

The tie-ups include Internet connectivity packages bundled with government-approved digital technology tools such as cyber security and data analytics services, as well as industry-specific workshops and bridging loans.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim announced the partnerships in his opening remarks at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI)'s annual conferences for SME and infocomm commerce.

"SME Go Digital's first step was to give SMEs the right equipment to go out and compete, and now the second step is to make sure that you have someone to walk with you along that journey," said Dr Yaacob, in an update on the programme, which was set up to assist in SME take-up of digital technologies and to spur productivity with pre-approved solutions, advising and funding.

Besides local telcos M1, Singtel and StarHub, the other partners inking memoranda of intent are Hong Leong Finance and local banks DBS, OCBC and UOB.

Dr Yaacob said: "SMEs are in the best position to adopt new technologies as they are agile and adaptable, combining a high risk appetite with a culture of experimentation.

"It is SMEs, rather than (multinational corporations), which can make decisions and adopt digital solutions relatively quickly and painlessly."

He added that IMDA will work with larger companies to foster digital collaboration between these bigger businesses and their SME vendors and suppliers, "therefore helping to upgrade SMEs in their business ecosystem" and "uplift entire sectors".

This could take the form, for example, of electronic order management and inventory platforms that allow for the secure and efficient exchange of documents like orders and invoices.

Dr Yaacob said: "Digital transformation will come in many waves, and companies will need to constantly adapt, learn and find new solutions in order to avoid being swept away."

Between the launch of SMEs Go Digital in April (2017) and the end of July (2017), around 200 SMEs have implemented some of IMDA's 56 pre-approved digital solutions, which cover technologies such as biometric authentication, mobile menu ordering and workflow management systems.

"While many of our businesses are still in the traditional sectors, we must take disruption and the digital economy seriously," said SCCCI president Roland Ng said. "These are just some of the technological means and tools that, if we apply appropriately, can help to transform and reinvent your business. You can therefore be more future-ready."

By the end of 2017, IMDA aims to have kicked off the first of several industry digital plans to support the economy's various industry transformation maps.

It will also set up an SME Digital Tech Hub to offer specialist technological advice when it comes to more advanced digital needs, on top of existing business advising on pre-approved off-the-shelf solutions.