The digital economy will be a primary focus for Singapore and will feature heavily in the nation’s next five-year Research, Innovation, and Enterprise (RIE) plan; with additional funding being set aside to develop this area, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

This will involve partnering companies to build up the country’s tech talent pool as well as a renewed focus on cyber security as more transactions go online.

Speaking at the two-day Fortune Global Forum, Mr Heng noted that a significant portion of the $20 billion RIE2020 plan, which mapped out Singapore’s research and development strategy from 2016 to 2020, was spent on digitalisation. However, it was also noted that under RIE2025, which is currently being finalised, an even greater sum of money will go towards developing the digital economy. “We do believe that this is going to be critical for the future,” said Heng.

Mr Heng was taking part in a dialogue on digital economies with Mr Anthony Tan, chief executive of ride-hailing firm Grab. They discussed such topics as the challenges of digital transformation and the potential for Singapore to connect with the wider world.

Tan also announced that Grab will be partnering with tech giant Microsoft in a series of training and development programmes for students as well as Grab’s drivers and delivery riders. Tan says that the training programmes are intended to help these people to grow their digital skills, thus increasing their employment opportunities. It aims to reach out to a maximum of 5,000 drivers and delivery riders, and 250 tertiary students by the end of next year.

Regarding helping SMEs and small business owners, Tan said that it is no simple matter. Grab has provided such small businesses with the tools to help them conduct their business in a digital age, tools that are not typically provided by traditional institutions.

On a larger scale, the digital revolution also means countries have the opportunity to connect with one another more than ever before, said Heng.

“The data that drives a lot of transactions, including the data on digital finance, on the flow of capital, is going to be critical. During a global financial crisis, trade came to a halt because no one could trust anyone else… If we can do better cross-border data flow of financial services, you can allow for better risk and business decisions, and that would allow for trade to continue to flow,” he said.


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