Digital economy deals will create opportunities for Singapore: Iswaran

He says country thrives on using innovation to boost connectivity and ensuring it has talent among its people

Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran at a World Trade Organisation-related meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last week. Singapore, together with Australia and Japan, are co-convenors shepherding negotiations on digital trade rules at the WTO. PHOTO: S. ISWARAN/FACEBOOK

Singapore's active involvement in seeking to shape the future of the digital economy is about creating more opportunities for its businesses and people, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said.

"The digital economy is a global economy, it has no borders. If we can achieve these standards, if we can plug Singapore into this global digital space, our businesses, especially our small businesses, can fully derive the benefits," he added in an interview with The Straits Times.

The Republic has been working with Australia and Japan to host a group of World Trade Organisation members working to update trade rules on electronic commerce.

It is in talks with Australia on a digital economy pact, and last week, it reached a substantial conclusion on a separate digital economy agreement with New Zealand and Chile.

At the World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual meetings in Davos last week, Singapore inked a deal with the world's largest business organisation, the International Chamber of Commerce, and 17 major companies to drive global digitalisation in trade and commerce through the TradeTrust platform.

"Singapore has always thrived on connectivity, innovation and talent. The work we are doing in the digital economy space is all about using innovation to strengthen our connectivity and ensuring that we have the talent amongst our people to fully benefit from this innovation," said Mr Iswaran, who is also Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations.

He also noted that by being involved in the global discourse on these activities, "we get a mindshare for Singapore amongst global decision-makers - both at the government level and at the private-sector level".

"When business leaders decide they want to do more with us, it means more investments and more job opportunities for Singaporeans. At the other level, as our SMEs and our own enterprises scale up and take advantage of these new digital avenues, they are also creating new and different kinds of jobs," he said, referring to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

At the WEF, Singapore also launched a guide for companies that adopt artificial intelligence (AI) to do so in a responsible and ethical manner.

Mr Iswaran said this will help Singapore companies and workers adapt to emerging technologies like AI. "By engaging in these conversations and also undertaking some of the initiatives that we are doing, we are able to demystify some of these technologies for our people," he said.

"And the more we are able to explain it, and bring it to our SMEs and workers, the greater their trust and the scope for us to use the technology, together with the talent of our people, to enlarge the opportunities for all of us," he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2020, with the headline Digital economy deals will create opportunities for Singapore: Iswaran. Subscribe