The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we operate and do business forever, forcing us online almost in an overnight-fashion. One country at the forefront of the digital revolution is Singapore, the third most innovative city in the world, which is supported by a rapidly growing startup scene. Investment companies target forward-thinking cities like Singapore because they appear to be more resilient to economic shocks, a welcome advantage, especially in unprecedented situations. Its location and infrastructure are some of the reasons that the world’s tech startups are moving to the city-state. With no cross-border data flows, making it more digital trade friendly and a tech-savvy workforce, Singapore provides a favourable ecosystem for tech startups.
Digitalisation in Singapore has been a prominent economic driving force. To accelerate the Singapore Smart Nation Initiative launched in 2014, its Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) is setting up around 50 SG Digital community hubs to get everyone on board in the digitalisation process.
Digital ambassadors, consisting of full-time staff and volunteers will assist every private individual, worker and company as they move through the process of using technology to enhance their lives and businesses. These so-called digital hubs will be located in community centres and public libraries and will be operational by the end of August. This way, all layers of society can have access to the digital economy, and the ambassadors can also assist with specific digital needs.
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Under IMDA’s Seniors Go Digital and the Hawkers Go Digital programmes, extra assistance is available to these sectors. Singapore’s hawker culture dates back to the 19th century, where the migrant population tried to sell quick and affordable meals wherever they could. Now they are often found all under one roof in designated hawker centres. Digital innovation will not only convert their predominantly cash business with ePayment services but can also offer inventory databases and make it easier for hawkers and small companies to control their costs through better management of their stock, supplies and staff. Stallholders can learn how to incorporate e-payment tools to improve workflow efficiency and customer service in hawker centres, wet markets, coffee shops and industrial canteens.
For seniors, the programme aimed at them can assist in how to use applications like WhatsApp and how to make ePayments. In addition, those who are keen to learn new digital skills can participate in small group classes and learning journeys at the hub. The Singapore Digital Office (SDO) will provide financial support for seniors from lower-income households who are unable to afford the devices necessary to embrace the new digital world. The 1000 ambassadors have a target to assist in the upskilling of 100,000 seniors by March 2021.
A smart nation
The whole idea is especially relevant when it comes to economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses needed to quickly embrace and implement digital alternatives to ensure social distancing and hygienic norms during the crisis. This digital transition is sure to convince a majority of them to change their business plan forever as they were able to see the benefits for their company.
The digitalisation strategy fits the Singapore Smart Nation initiative perfectly as it is aiming to make the city an outstanding place for people to live and a place where businesses can flourish and maximise their possibilities. For a digital economy to be effective, as many individuals and companies as possible must jump on board the progress train. Due to a lack of interest and initiatives from the private sector, the government formed a centralised public agency to accelerate digitalisation in the country.
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The Singaporean business to consumer eCommerce market is now estimated to be worth over $4,9 billion USD. The many tech startups focusing on transport, finance, travel, e-commerce and other sectors, are proliferating and are benefiting from the country’s high internet penetration rate of around 88.4%. Also assisting this growth is the fact that Singapore is one of the wealthiest nations in the world with the seventh-highest GDP per capita globally.
Singapore is flourishing, and the digital community hub network will add to the success of tech startups in the country. The current pandemic has shown many citizens that going digital offers convenience and many useful solutions, and this change is here to stay even after the Coronavirus is gone. With this initiative, the country is involving all layers of society in the digitalisation in Singapore and therefore taking significant steps to realise the Singapore Smart Nation ideals.