A new programme has been launched to support about 20,000 retailers and food and beverage (F&B) enterprises in the heartland to keep pace with digitalisation and adopt e-payments as well as other digital commerce solutions.
The Heartlands Go Digital programme, which was announced yesterday, is part of the Government's broader revitalisation efforts in the heartland.
It will offer discounted solutions from five digital solution providers - Carousell, Fave, Grab, Nets and Shopee. Businesses can tap preferential discounted rates for e-payments using Fave, Grab and Nets, and gain online visibility through promotions and advertising on e-commerce platforms Carousell, Fave and Shopee.
Each enterprise can apply for a digital commerce solution with only one vendor, and eligible firms need pay only 10 per cent of the qualifying costs.
The programme is led by the Heartland Digitalisation and Revitalisation Committee and Enterprise Singapore (ESG), and key partners include the community development councils; the Federation of Merchants' Associations, Singapore (FMAS); Heartland Enterprise Centre Singapore (HECS); merchants associations and SME centres.
The Heartland Digitalisation and Revitalisation Committee is co-chaired by Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information as well as National Development Sim Ann, and Minister of State for Trade and Industry as well as Culture, Community and Youth Low Yen Ling.
It includes representatives from ESG, FMAS, GovTech, the Housing Board, Infocomm Media Development Authority and the People's Association.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat told Parliament on Monday that Covid-19 has accelerated the digitalisation and transformation of firms big and small, and a key priority is to build on this momentum and bring digitalisation to the heartland.
Close to 200 ambassadors from HECS, the SG Digital Office and SME centres have started ground outreach efforts in neighbourhoods across Singapore to quicken the pace of digital adoption, sharing the benefits of digitalisation and providing step-by-step guidance to businesses. This includes introducing available e-payment and digital commerce tools, and advising businesses on which tools are most suitable for their needs.
Solution providers will also organise training courses to help enterprises better understand these digital solutions.
FMAS president Yeo Hiang Meng noted that challenges in getting heartland enterprises to digitalise include the lack of digital knowledge as well as merchants' concerns over costs of investment and transaction fees.
"Though they understand the benefits the new technologies can bring them, they are still hesitant as they lack manpower to handle the new systems," he added.
"Through the Heartlands Go Digital programme, enterprises can save a lot of time and energy in manual processes and instead focus on improving and expanding their business. This will serve as a stepping stone for enterprises to slowly evolve into a fully digital business model," Mr Yeo said.
Ms Sim said that while heartland businesses had already been gearing up for transformation, the Covid-19 pandemic emphasised the need for digitalisation and innovation to even more customers and business owners.
The committee seeks to help these businesses achieve real change, she said. "This means seeking out opportunities to integrate hardware upgrades with business process adjustments, alongside mobilising of stakeholders like merchant associations," she said.
Ms Low echoed that view, acknowledging that many heartland enterprises recognise the need to transform and move beyond the bricks-and-mortar model.
She said: "We are rallying alongside them to uplift and future-proof their businesses by accelerating their adoption of e-payment and digital commerce."
"Having a strong digital foundation will spur these enterprises to look at new and different ways to improve their operations and business models so that they can emerge even stronger from the pandemic," she added.