SMEs can take up digital solutions free for six months

Start Digital initiative aims to facilitate firms' digitalisation, in drive to transform economy

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can now get help in going digital in areas such as accounting and human resource management, with costs partially paid for by the Government.

Under the Start Digital initiative, these businesses can take up two basic digital solutions that run for at least 18 months, with costs waived for six months.

They can choose any two of five categories: accounting, human resource management system and payroll, digital marketing, digital transactions, and cyber security.

"SMEs make up the vast majority of businesses in Singapore. The extent and speed of their digitalisation will have a profound effect to transform our economy," said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran at the launch of the initiative yesterday at Carlton Hotel.

He added: "It (The initiative) especially targets the needs of our new SMEs, by offering affordable, modular, easy-to-use basic digital solutions and packages of good quality."

Businesses are eligible for Start Digital if they have at least 30 per cent local shareholding and revenue of not more than $100 million or fewer than 200 employees, at group level. The initiative is developed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore (ESG).

SMEs can approach any of the scheme's partners - DBS Bank, Maybank, OCBC Bank, Singtel, StarHub and United Overseas Bank - to apply. After the six months of waived fees, the SMEs will have to pay according to the rates given by these partner companies.

  • Eligible businesses are those that have at least 30 per cent local shareholding, and revenue of not more than $100 million or fewer than 200 employees, at group level.

  • Businesses can choose any two of five categories: accounting, human resource management system and payroll, digital marketing, digital transactions, and cyber security.

At the event, Mr Iswaran also officially launched two initiatives that the Government has already implemented - the Data Protection (DP) Trustmark Certification and the Nationwide E-Invoicing Network.

Piloted last year, the DP Trustmark allows companies to apply to IMDA to have their data protection systems independently assessed and certified.

Since the pilot phase's conclusion at the end of last September, 40 organisations have signed up and six of them have received the DP Trustmark certification, with the rest expected to get theirs in the coming months, said IMDA.

Certification to get the DP mark involves an application fee of $500 to IMDA, as well as fees for the assessment body that can range between $1,400 and $10,000.

Mr Iswaran said IMDA will waive the application fee for the first year for SMEs, while ESG will provide funding support for Singapore companies to get certified. IMDA will be partnering the National Council of Social Service to fund member voluntary welfare organisations in their adoption of the certification.

 
 
 

The Nationwide E-Invoicing Network, first announced in last year's Budget, is based on the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line - a widely used European standard.

E-invoicing is the automated creation, exchange and processing of requests for payments between suppliers and buyers using a standardised digital format.

It can help speed up transactions while minimising disputes, errors and operating costs, as it does away with existing digitised invoices, such as computer printouts, PDF documents or scanned invoices.

Said Mr Iswaran: "The improved verification and validation of e-invoicing will also foster greater confidence in transactions, building trust between suppliers and customers."

It also enables local businesses to plug into the international marketplace, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2019, with the headline 'SMEs can take up digital solutions free for six months'. Print Edition | Subscribe