Companies and countries - including Singapore - have to share resources, integrate with the rest of the world and find ways to innovate in order to remain competitive in the fast-paced digital economy, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.
He expressed his concern that businesses and countries around the world would be poorer for not working together.
"Today, the world is facing a great challenge. There are many parts of the world that do not believe in integration. Instead, we risk being fragmented, being Balkanised. And if the world Balkanises, if the world fragments... we will all be poorer for it," he said.
He added that companies that rely on international data flows - such as IBM, Google and PayPal - would not survive in the digital economy if the world became fragmented.
He was making the opening address at the IBM Think Singapore conference yesterday, where he touched on the digital economy and what companies, and Singapore as a nation, should do to remain competitive.
A 2016 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 more than 15 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP).
Closer to home, Singapore's Digital Economy Framework for Action estimated last year that the digital economy would contribute an additional US$10 billion to the Republic's GDP by 2021.
NO STANDING STILL
For us to continue to survive and thrive, we will have to be on our toes to continuously integrate with the rest of the world, because what we have today came from the past, and the past is not a promise of the future. The products and the ideas that worked well in the past are not a guarantee of success in the future.
MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INDUSTRY CHAN CHUN SING
In his speech, Mr Chan said both companies and countries have to constantly create new business processes or find ways to improve existing ones, as they cannot take their past successes as a sign that they will do well in the digital economy.
He pointed out that many of IBM's products today are different from those 20 years ago - just as how the products it makes 20 years from now will also be different.
"That is the same lesson for Singapore. For us to continue to survive and thrive, we will have to be on our toes to continuously integrate with the rest of the world, because what we have today came from the past, and the past is not a promise of the future," he said.
"The products and the ideas that worked well in the past are not a guarantee of success in the future," he added.
More than 1,000 business leaders and experts gathered for the conference, held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre at Marina Bay Sands, to discuss how companies around the world were using cutting-edge technology to transform their businesses.
During the one-day conference, business leaders from organisations such as the Housing Board, DBS Bank and DHL Express shared their insights on how they used technology like artificial intelligence, data science and quantum computing to improve workflows and customer experiences.
In her keynote speech, IBM Asia-Pacific chief executive and chairman Harriet Green highlighted Singapore's efforts to become a Smart Nation and an attractive hub for businesses to set up shop.
"Singapore is a small economy with technology, innovation and talent at the core of the Smart Nation initiative... and it is underpinned, as the minister said, by a very high level of collaboration across the ecosystem, a real commitment to responsible stewardship," she said.
"No wonder the rest of the world is looking to open and smart Singapore for the very best practices and opportunities."
Correction note: An earlier version of the story said that Mr Chan pointed out that many of IBM's products today are different from those two years ago. He had said 20 years ago. We are sorry for the error.