Trust is key in digital economy, says Iswaran

Mr S. Iswaran (far left), with dialogue moderator Kunal Chatterjee, Visa's country manager for Singapore and Brunei, speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Mr S. Iswaran (far left), with dialogue moderator Kunal Chatterjee, Visa's country manager for Singapore and Brunei, speaking at the American Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Opportunities aplenty for tie-ups with US tech firms, but establishing trust vital, he says

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 yesterday.

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 (AmCham) at the Mandarin Orchard hotel, Mr Iswaran pointed to Asean's potential for strong economic growth, given that the region is expected to be among the top four aggregate economies in the world by 2030.

"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," he told an audience of about 150 AmCham members, including representatives from various US tech companies based in Singapore.

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 office formed in June, which brings together the Economic Development Board, Enterprise Singapore and 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.

GATEWAY TO ASEAN

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.

MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION S. ISWARAN

Singapore is involved in many efforts to establish international frameworks to guide behaviour in cyberspace, including the development of an Asean Framework on Digital Data 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 consumers') 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, 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, the Government is working to find new ways of developing partnerships and linkages through new free trade agreements and digital economic agreements, he added.

Business transformation continues to be important as a way for companies to cope with economic disruptions.

"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," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'Trust is key in digital economy, says Iswaran'. Print Edition | Subscribe