SINGAPORE - Singapore needs to prepare for the next phase of growth in the digital economy to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic, said Minister of Communications and Information S. Iswaran on Tuesday (Nov 3).
Mr Iswaran highlighted a three-pronged strategy to do so during his opening address at the GSMA Thrive Asia Pacific, a three-day mobile network industry virtual event.
The strategy includes laying strong foundations for the digital economy by investing in digital infrastructure, building international governance frameworks for freer flow of information and guarding against the opening of a digital divide by strengthening the digital capabilities of our enterprises and people.
"As digital technology continues to evolve, we must keep a keen eye on the next bound of development. To this end, Singapore is investing in the nationwide development of a secure and resilient 5G communications network," Mr Iswaran said.
Last year, the Government pledged $40 million to kick-start 5G innovation. And by the end of this year, 1,000 positions in 5G expertise are to be created via an initiative announced in Sept from a partnership between the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and mobile network operators.
Beyond 5G, Mr Iswaran said Singapore has been building capabilities in frontier areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT).
"These emerging technologies (AI and IoT) have significant potential to improve lives, enhance productivity and open new fields for growth," he said.
In addition, Singapore should facilitate freer flow of data so that international trade can continue to flourish, and its people can remain connected globally, added Mr Iswaran.
For instance, Singapore has been an early advocate of digital economy agreements (DEAs) - treaties that establish digital trade rules and digital economy collaborations between two economies.
To date, Singapore has signed DEAs with New Zealand, Chile and Australia. Talks are ongoing with South Korea.
"Finally, as we move towards an increasingly digital world, we have to guard against the emergence of a digital divide. We must ensure that no one is left behind in this digital transformation of our economies and societies," Mr Iswaran said.
To this end, the SG Digital Office was established in June. It has mobilised more than 1,000 digital ambassadors to help micro-enterprises adopt e-payment solutions and teach seniors digital skills.
The Government is also working closely with industry partners to accelerate the creation of tech and tech-related jobs while investing in upgrading people's skills through traineeships.
Small and medium-sized enterprises have access to funding to aid them in adopting digital solutions. Enhanced assistance schemes have also been enacted to support the vulnerable segments of society, including lower-income families.
"We want to ensure that every enterprise - no matter its size - and every citizen - no matter his or her background - can participate meaningfully in the new post-Covid-19 economic and social environment," said Mr Iswaran.