Trust is key commodity in enabling deeper collaboration in digital economy: Iswaran

In a photo taken on Sept 15, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran speaks at a book launch. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - With Singapore on track to becoming a Smart Nation and Asean digital capital, opportunities in the digital economy abound for broader and deeper collaboration with American technology companies, said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran on Tuesday (Sept 17).

Establishing trust between governments, businesses and consumers for cross-border data flows will be crucial in this respect, he added.

In a speech at a luncheon held by the American Chamber of Commerce at the Mandarin Orchard hotel, Mr Iswaran pointed to Asean's potential for strong economic growth and Singapore's ongoing efforts to harness that potential in the technology sector.

"You will all know the key metrics of the region - over 600 million people with a rising middle class and growing disposable incomes. Asean is expected to be amongst the top four aggregate economies in the world by 2030," he told an audience made up of representatives from various American companies based in Singapore.

"This region has burgeoning needs that can be met by American companies. Singapore is not only a gateway to other Asean countries, but can also provide companies with a more nuanced understanding of the various Asean markets through deeper partnerships."

The Government has been encouraging local technology companies to tap their digitalisation experience for partnerships with regional counterparts, including at a technology showcase in Jakarta in March to connect 10 Singapore tech firms with Indonesian logistics companies.

Three of the 10 have since begun discussions with Indonesian partners.

Mr Iswaran said the Digital Industry Singapore (DISG) office formed in June, which brings together the Economic Development Board, Enterprise Singapore and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, would also help American companies in Singapore that want to do more through providing a single interface that addresses "the whole gamut of needs".

Trust is the key commodity to capitalise on these opportunities in the digital realm, he added, as consumers grapple with new ways of transacting and doing business.

Singapore is involved in many efforts to establish international frameworks to guide behaviour in cyberspace, including the development of an Asean Framework on Digital Governance and as part of a United Nations Group of Governmental Experts.

"Companies also have a very big role as part of the solution. You have to show that you are worthy of (the consumer's) trust when it comes to their data, and this is even more important for cross-border data flows in e-commerce and digital payments," said Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

In a dialogue that followed his speech, he was also asked about how Singapore is managing the challenges thrown up by trade tensions between the United States and China, and rising anti-globalisation sentiments amid disruption from technological advancement.

"I think we will all be better off if the US-China trade tensions can be resolved. If tensions are aggravated, the global economy will become fragmented and affect supply chains. That is not desirable," he said.

"In the meantime, what we are doing is to find new ways of developing partnerships and linkages through new free-trade agreements and digital economic agreements.

"Domestically, an important area is how we digitally transform the various sectors of the economy. And that involves upgrading the capabilities of both our companies and our workers."

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