New tech: Singapore 'can be the disruptors'

Reviewing legislation and being an early adopter of new technologies are among the things the Singapore Government can do to prepare for economic disruptions brought about by new technologies that power the likes of Uber.

The suggestions were made yesterday by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Communications and Information and Education.

"Because of connectivity and the speed of business, the pace of change is now much faster than anything we've had before," he said.

"So we really need to think about some key issues, and be resilient about some of the changes that are coming."

He was speaking to reporters at a discussion held yesterday by Disruptive Technologies, a group formed under the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE)in December to recommend national responses to the opportunities and challenges posed by disruptive technologies.

It comprises 14 members, including prominent individuals from the auditing, e-commerce and venture capital industries.

It is co-led by Dr Puthucheary and Mr Caesar Sengupta, vice-president of product management at Google.

Noting that responses to the disruptive technologies have to be market-driven, Dr Puthucheary identified three ways in which the Government can help.

The first involves investing in education and developing people's skills. The second is to ensure that legislation and regulation keep pace with new business processes.

He also said the Government can be an early adopter of technology, especially technology from local businesses. "This will give them (the companies) an opportunityto establish a track record."

Mr Sengupta also said a lot of the group's discussions have focused on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and what can be done to help SMEs in an era of quick technological advancement.

"We've been looking at the different ways we can encourage SMEs to develop more technologies, and to think more broadly about the opportunities before them," he said.

"At the same time, we've also been thinking about areas where there is going to be disruption, and how we can help affected companies adapt and move with the changes."

Dr Puthucheary said the group will come up with some recommendations later in the year.

"We are looking where we can make changes not just to be disruptive, but for us here in Singapore to be the disruptors," he said.

"We know that a lot of stuff is coming, whether it's autonomous vehicles, big data, or artificial intelligence. We want to create the future."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'New tech: Singapore 'can be the disruptors''. Print Edition | Subscribe