Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, graced the official launch of the Start Digital programme.
By Billy Teo
Minister for Communications and Information, Mr S Iswaran, speaking at the 'Start Digital, Get Connected and Be Trusted' event.
There’s another helping hand for Small and Medium enterprises (SMEs) that are brand new or just beginning the process of digitalisation through the new Start Digital programme.
Especially when there is an incentive: Costs are waived for six months, when new SMEs commit to using two of the digital solutions available in the Start Digital Pack for at least 18 months.
A collaboration between IMDA and Enterprise Singapore (ESG), Start Digital joins the ranks of IMDA’s SMEs Go Digital programme that was launched in 2017 to help companies to embrace digitalisation and transform. To be eligible, businesses need to have at least 30 per cent local shareholding, and revenue of not more than $100 million or have less than 200 employees.
Quick recap: The programme was formally unveiled at the ‘Start Digital, Get Connected and Be Trusted’ launch event held on 9 January 2019, together with two other initiatives to support business. All in, there will be over $30 million worth of funding that SMEs can tap on to accelerate the digitalisation process.
Minister for Communications and Information, Mr S Iswaran, said about Start Digital: “It targets the needs of our new SMEs, by offering affordable modular, easy-to-use basic digital solution packagers of good quality.”
The solutions on offer cover key business functions that any growing business will require, such as accounting and finance, human resources and payroll, digital marketing, digital transactions and cybersecurity.
As Mr Tan Kiat How, IMDA Chief Executive, puts it: “A digital-first mindset is essential for businesses to stay relevant and competitive in the Digital Economy. I am heartened to see the industry coming together to offer innovative digital solutions to help our businesses on their digital transformation journey.”
Ready to grow from the start
A screenshot of the Start Digital webpage, including a list of the Partners offering the bundled digital solutions.
To make it more convenient for SMEs, Start Digital packages are offered at the most common point of contact for new businesses – namely, banks or telcos.
Hence, SMEs can consult any of the six Start Digital partners to kick things off:
In most cases, the new SMEs would already approach these partners for either banking or telco services, and the Start Digital package would be the icing on the cake.
SMEs can continue to obtain support from other SMEs Go Digital initiatives as they grow and require more advanced solutions. They can identify the pre-approved digital tools to adopt, with guidance from the Industry Digital Plan (IDP) that is relevant for their sector.
E-invoicing goes nationwide
First announced during the Singapore Budget 2018, the nationwide E-invoicing network is now a reality that will pay off in more ways than one.
Businesses that join the network can say goodbye to the hassles of manually-issued paper invoices or printouts – thus speeding up transactions and lowering operational costs, not to mention reducing manual errors.
(Fun fact: Singapore's nationwide E-invoicing network is based on the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line, or PEPPOL.)
Joining up is simple, as companies can approach any of the Access Point (AP) providers to sign up; IMDA has certified 13 providers thus far, and that number is expected to grow. The APs offer access to the network, and also offer services such as the sending and receipt of e-invoices, or translating other invoice formats into the PEPPOL-format.
Data Protection Trustmark to build consumer trust
In the coming era of Services 4.0, where anticipatory and empathic personalised services are the norm, data sharing must be built on trust to be sustainable, noted Mr Iswaran.
Hence, companies need a way to give consumers the confidence and assurance that their personal data are being handled responsibly.
That is why IMDA and the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) launched the Data Protection (DP) Trustmark Certification scheme, after completing a pilot that began in July 2018.
Companies can apply to IMDA, who will assess if they are ready for a third-party, independent assessment and certification of their protection systems. More than 50 organisations have applied so far, and six have already received the certification. The certification is valid for three years.
Consumers can thus be assured that businesses which display the DP Trustmark are certified to properly protect and manage their personal data.
Mr Iswaran said: “The DP Trustmark is for all enterprises, regardless of size, regardless of sector.”
To help companies apply for the DPTM, IMDA is waiving the application fee for SMEs until end December 2019, and eligible Singapore companies can seek funding support from ESG.
Social service organisations will also benefit, as IMDA is partnering the National Council of Social Service to help member organisations to defray the costs.