Singapore and Austria to deepen digital collaboration

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz accompanying Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he is welcomed by a military honour guard at the Federal Chancellery in Vienna yesterday. Both countries inked a pact to step up cooperation in digitalisation and infor
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz accompanying Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he is welcomed by a military honour guard at the Federal Chancellery in Vienna yesterday. Both countries inked a pact to step up cooperation in digitalisation and information and communications technology.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

PM Lee, Chancellor Kurz note both nations can be gateways to their respective regions

Singapore and Austria will exchange ideas and know-how on their experiences navigating the digital economy and in areas such as digital government, e-commerce and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

Both countries yesterday inked a pact to step up cooperation in digitalisation and information and communications technology during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's official visit.

Shortly after arrival, PM Lee was received by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and a military honour guard at the Federal Chancellery.

Both leaders then witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) by Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran and Austria's Federal Minister of Digital and Economic Affairs Margarete Schrambock.

"Singapore and Austria share similar perspectives on many issues - embracing openness to free trade, to multilateralism, to the rule of law - and there is a great deal we can do together to bring our countries and our regions closer," PM Lee said at a press conference with Mr Kurz after their meeting, which is their third this year.

"As small countries that rely on human talent, we also have a common aim of cultivating a culture of innovation and productivity, and using technology to upgrade our economies and improve our peoples' lives," PM Lee added.

"Like Austria, Singapore is pushing forward with digitalisation, and we appreciate working with like-minded partners to share experiences and exchange ideas."

 
 

The MOU will focus on the exchange of information and best practices in four areas.

These are: digital economy and digitalisation strategies, including helping small and medium-sized enterprises and promising start-ups; digital government, including digital national identities and Smart Nation applications; electronic commerce and digital trade; and emerging technologies like blockchain, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, and regulatory approaches.

Both leaders also highlighted opportunities to deepen cooperation in other fields. PM Lee noted that there are 220 Austrian companies in Singapore, with investments of more than $2 billion, and said more such firms should consider the Republic as a gateway to Asia.

Tie-ups in research and development and between universities were also areas both sides could pursue progressively, he said.

Singapore also has much to learn from Austria's rich heritage in arts and music, and he hoped there would one day be a joint performance of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Mr Kurz said: "We are both small countries in size, but innovative and economically successful." He noted that Austria was a good gateway to southern and eastern Europe. He also cited climate change and cyber security as two areas in which Asia and Europe could work more closely.

PM Lee thanked Austria for its consistent and strong support for the European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) to be signed in Brussels tomorrow.

He said: "Once in force, it will further strengthen economic ties between Singapore and Austria and set them in a broader context."

As present Asean chair and coordinator for Asean-EU relations, Singapore will continue to work with Austria, which currently holds the EU presidency, he added, saying: "The EUSFTA can be a pathfinder to an EU-Asean FTA."

Asean is also working towards a digital integration framework to deepen regional connectivity, and can explore cooperation with the EU in this area, he said.

PM Lee was scheduled to meet Austrian businessmen yesterday evening, before leaving for Brussels for the Asia-Europe Meeting summit today and tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore and Austria to deepen digital collaboration'. Print Edition | Subscribe