SINGAPORE - Singapore still has some way to go in getting people and businesses to be more active in tapping online platform services, according to a report released on Monday (Oct 4) by a new think-tank founded by local technology company Grab.
The research showed that one in three consumers here, or 36 per cent, avidly uses online platforms such as Airbnb, Gojek, Grab, Lazada and Shopee.
This includes using three or more of them to, for instance, book private-hire car rides, shop online and order food deliveries.
The finding contrasts with how most people, or nearly four in five, have made at least one online purchase in the last 12 months.
It suggests that consumers are familiar with activities through online platforms, said new non-profit think-tank, the Tech For Good Institute, of its first New Economy Progress Index. But people are "still warming up to other online-to-offline services beyond e-commerce", added the institute, which aims to nurture the positive impact of technology and uplift lives in South-east Asia.
The index was developed with consultancy firm Bain & Company and was part of the report released on Monday on the platform economy. The report was also done with the World Economic Forum.
The platform economy refers to economic and social activity arising from online platforms such as those from Alibaba and Amazon. They offer a variety of services ranging from transport, food delivery and e-commerce to digital financial services, healthcare and education.
The New Economy Progress Index serves as an indicator of the state of development of a country's platform economy. The report and index drew research from various sources, such as polls from April to May of 400 consumers and 106 micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) here.
The index also showed that online food and e-commerce sales in Singapore make up only 13 per cent of total sales for MSMEs.
This suggests fewer of such firms having gone digital through online platforms. There is then "an opportunity to realise growth with the right support", said the institute.
These Singapore findings mirror those for five other South-east Asian countries studied - Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Singapore was rated highly in other areas covered by the index, namely having good digital infrastructure to facilitate online transactions, with a score of 70 per cent. The country also has good physical infrastructure to deliver goods ordered, with a score of 93 per cent.
"However, there is room for mobile wallet users to grow," said the institute, referring to people making payments using their phones.
The proportion of people here using mobile wallets is 58 per cent.
Factoring in these different areas, Singapore's overall New Economy Progress Index score is 64 per cent.
The maximum grade possible is 100 per cent, which is achieved when there are no further areas of development in the platform economy.
The score for the six Asean countries studied is 41 per cent. But Bain & Company said the index scores cannot be compared because every country is different.
"For example, the economies of Singapore and Indonesia are built on different foundations and have different engines of growth. A comparison between countries would be overly simplistic," it added.
The Tech For Good Institute said the platform economy has the potential to improve lives in South-east Asia. For example, its report showed that eight in 10 consumers have more options using e-commerce platforms. A similar proportion of MSMEs said they can reach a larger customer base online through platforms.
Noting that the six Asean countries' Internet economy could triple from US$105 billion (S$143 billion) last year to US$300 billion in 2025, some ways to bolster the region's platform economy include regional cooperation.
Singapore is keen to play its part, said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo at the launch of the Tech For Good Institute on Monday. For instance, Singapore champions practical mechanisms for data sharing, like Asean's work on cross-border data flows.
"These initiatives help regional businesses reach wider audiences, and gain real benefits from digital trade," she said.