Free training programme to help SMEs go digital

Google and UOB said the programme will take in cohorts in every quarter until the end of 2020, with each cohort capped at 50 participants. As many as 400 SME leaders are expected to benefit.
Google and UOB said the programme will take in cohorts in every quarter until the end of 2020, with each cohort capped at 50 participants. As many as 400 SME leaders are expected to benefit.PHOTOS: REUTERS, ST FILE

As many as 400 leaders in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will get to go through a free new training programme from Google and United Overseas Bank (UOB) to transform digitally and expand overseas, in a move to help them seize opportunities in the digital economy.

The SME Leadership Academy, supported by government agencies Digital Industry Singapore and SkillsFuture Singapore, will be a three-day programme consisting of interactive discussions and lessons by business leaders from Google, UOB and other organisations.

It will be held at the Google office in Pasir Panjang.

In a joint statement, Google and UOB said the programme will take in cohorts every quarter until the end of next year. Its first cohort starts on Aug 13. Those interested can sign up online. Each cohort is capped at 50 participants.

Ms Stephanie Davis, managing director of Google South-east Asia, said: "SMEs are the bedrock of Singapore's economy and helping them succeed is paramount to building a bright future in the digital economy.

"Through the SME Leadership Academy, we are equipping business leaders with the knowledge, tools and connections to help them adapt to the changing markets and customer needs and grow profitably."

The programme, which was launched by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing yesterday, was developed based on feedback from more than 100 SMEs across various industries that include retail, engineering, manufacturing and travel.

These firms went through pilot batches of the programme and identified the top three obstacles for SMEs in the digital economy.

These are internal hurdles such as not having effective digitalisation strategies, a lack of talent with sufficient digital know-how, and capacity and resource constraints.

According to Google and UOB, SMEs that go through the programme will learn how to generate digital marketing strategies, implement data-driven human resource solutions, and use other kinds of software to boost efficiency.

In 2016, a study by market research firm Oxford Economics and telecommunications company Huawei estimated that the size of the global digital economy amounted to US$11.5 trillion (S$16 trillion) or over 15 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).

Singapore's Digital Economy Framework for Action has shared an estimate that the digital economy would contribute an additional US$10 billion to its GDP by 2021.

Mr Frederick Chin, head of group wholesale banking and markets at UOB, said technology is a critical enabler for companies large and small, and the programme hopes to help SMEs reap its benefits.

He added: "Through the SME Leadership Academy, we hope SMEs will be able to gain the necessary skills and expertise to use technology to improve their performance and provide a better customer experience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2019, with the headline 'Free training programme to help SMEs go digital'. Print Edition | Subscribe