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Talking tech with CEOs

last updated 21 April 2017

At a breakfast talk with industry players, IMDA CEO Tan Kiat How stressed the importance of the ICT sector to Singapore's future economic growth.

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IMDA CEO Mr Tan Kiat How shared about how companies can digitalise and thrive in a digital economy. (Photo credit: Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation)

By Linda Lim

As Singapore moves to transform its economy, local technology companies will play a key role in helping businesses here acquire the capabilities they need to thrive in a digital environment.

"IMDA has a very clear view that Singapore does well only when the infocomm technology and infocomm media sector does well,” said Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), during a CXO Breakfast Talk on 5 April, which was organised by the Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation.

Around 100 corporate leaders from Singapore's infocomm technology (ICT) industry listened to Mr Tan’s breakfast keynote, before engaging in a lively dialogue on a range of issues, from opportunities in the sector to the availability of government assistance.

Mr Tan told the audience that ICT companies would play a key role in Singapore's drive to remain competitive in the digital world.

"We are on the cusp of a digital transformation. A big boost in terms of productivity and efficiency would set the stage for development of the country and economy while reaping the benefits of computerisation and telecom infrastructure investment,” he said.

Beyond helping companies implement technology solutions to ramp up productivity, industry players must also capitalise on opportunities to disrupt business models.

"The use of digital technology in transforming businesses is not just about (improving) productivity, but involves deeper structural transformation of business models, market power and capabilities of the workforce,” said Mr Tan.

On its part, IMDA is supporting companies here with their digital transformation, helping them make the leap and thrive in a digital economy. Mr Tan outlined industry plans being developed to help sectors identify the technologies, capabilities and workforce skills they need the most.

Smaller enterprises will also get help building their digital capabilities through the SMEs Go Digital programme. Under this initiative, IMDA will help SMEs partner agencies and larger companies in the sector to upskill and drive capability-building in the digital arena.

Mr Tan advised industry players to start thinking about the capabilities they need to service businesses in the future digital economy, and see it as an opportunity for their own further growth.

He also assured the audience that increased automation would not necessarily result in lost jobs. "Even as we work with businesses to prepare for the future, we are also helping to equip Singaporeans with the relevant skills. This applies to both the ICM sector and digital-related work across all industries," he said.

Upskilling and reskilling will also help to raise worker productivity and worth. He noted that IMDA's TechSkills Accelerator, or TeSA programme, has enabled more than 10,000 professionals to upskill and reskill themselves in the past year alone.

Helping SMEs scale up

Following his presentation, Mr Tan fielded questions on a variety of topics. Mr William Liu from Stream Global asked about dedicated efforts that help SMEs to scale up and globalise.

Mr Tan explained that the Accreditation@IMDA scheme has helped SMEs gain more business from government agencies. The scheme provides government buyers with the assurance that accredited companies have been screened for their capabilities.

He added that A@IMDA is also recognised by investors and venture capitalists looking to invest in local tech firms. Going forward, there are plans to scale up the scheme beyond government and into other sectors such as financial services.

Mr Lionel Chng, the managing director of Hewlett Packard Singapore, asked about the role of manufacturers in the digital economy. Mr Tan noted that EDB is pushing for "Industry 4.0", a trend towards smart factories that leverage automation, data analytics and Internet of Things technologies.

Mr Tan said he sees a convergence happening between manufacturing, digital services and applications. This will present opportunities for manufacturers that successfully digitalise. 

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