Budget debate: Chief technology officers for hire among Govt's plans to help businesses digitalise

The consultants for hire will be managed by IT consultancy firms appointed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - A service to allow small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to consult chief technology officers (CTO) for free, or at an affordable cost, will be launched later this year, as part of plans to help businesses go digital.

The consultants for hire will be managed by IT consultancy firms appointed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). They will be matched to the SMEs according to their skills and expertise levels.

Announcing this in Parliament on Tuesday (March 2), Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said the Chief Technology Officer-as-a-Service scheme will be available to all SMEs, including home-based businesses that are under sole proprietorship.

"They will receive both digital consultancy and project management services to not only identify needs and solutions, but also manage project implementation," said Mr Iswaran in response to Mr Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) on how home businesses can go digital.

Setting out his ministry's initiatives to help SMEs digitalise, Mr Iswaran said the IMDA will also launch a new one-stop Web application, under the CTO-as-a-Service scheme, to help businesses assess their digital needs and gaps.

The app will recommend tailored digital solutions to SMEs, based on inputs from individual firms about their needs, goals and business profile, as reported earlier by The Straits Times.

Mr Iswaran also noted that as more businesses go digital and more transactions go online, the "volume and data will grow in tandem".

Such data can yield valuable insights to improve business efficiencies, he added.

"However, we also recognise that as more data is collected, the risk of data breaches also increases. If data is not used responsibly, trust can be eroded," said Mr Iswaran, adding that a judicious balance must be struck.

To help SMEs benefit from such big data without falling afoul of the law, the IMDA will launch a new programme to guide businesses in using the data they collect, he added.

Under the Better Data-Driven Business Programme, businesses can access a free business intelligence tool that will automatically help convert their raw data into visual dashboards, allowing firms to make sense of the information.

"It will also enable more advanced data uses, such as for research and development, and innovation, through curated resources like case studies," said Mr Iswaran.

He added that his ministry will work with other economic agencies to support enterprises at every stage of growth, "from start-up to scale up, to seize opportunities and realise the potential of emerging technologies and data".

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