Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, at ‘Start Digital, Get Connected and Be Trusted' on 9 January 2019

Last updated: 14 May 2019

Published on: 09 January 2019

Mr Peter Ong, Chairman of Enterprise Singapore
Members of Industry and Partners
My friends and colleagues from various government agencies especially Enterprise Singapore and IMDA
Ladies and gentlemen,

  1. A very good morning to all of you. Let me start by wishing all of you a very Happy New Year and welcome to this launch event “Start Digital, Get Connected and Be Trusted”.

  2. We have emphasised this many times. Every business needs to go digital in this age. Digitalisation is key to ensuring the competitiveness and growth of our enterprises, each and every one of them.

  3. And at the heart of digitalisation is trust- trust in adopting digital solutions, enabling greater trust in digital transactions, and also earning and maintaining the trust of consumers when we are dealing with data.

  4. Today, I want to share three initiatives to help our enterprises navigate their digitalisation journey with confidence and trust. The Start Digital initiative - to help SMEs adopt trusted digital solutions right from the very beginning. E-invoicing - to help companies seamlessly and confidently transact with one another. And the Data Protection Trustmark - to earn and build the trust of consumers.

Pushing ahead of the curve in SME’s digitalisation journey

  1. We launched the SMEs Go Digital programme two years ago to help companies seize the opportunities that digital technologies offer. We have made good headway.

  2. Since its launch, close to 3,000 SMEs have benefitted from digital solutions under the programme.

  3. We now want to push ahead of the curve.

  4. SMEs make up the vast majority of businesses in Singapore. The extent and speed of their digitalisation will have a profound impact on the transformation of our economy.

  5. The feedback from our engagements with SME business owners affirms that many wished they had implemented basic digital solutions at the very nascent stages of their businesses.

  6. This is quite understandable because it is very hard make the switch to digital solutions once companies are entrenched in manual systems and traditional processes.

  7. So we are launching Start Digital today.

  8. Start Digital is a joint initiative of IMDA and Enterprise Singapore, and it falls within the broader SMEs Go Digital programme.

  9. It especially targets the needs of our new SMEs, by offering affordable, modular, easy-to-use basic digital solution packages of good quality. SMEs can simply plug and play from day one, making it easy for owners to concentrate more on connecting with customers and growing their new business, without having to worry about digital adoption later.

  10. Through Start Digital, SMEs can try two digital solutions with costs waived for at least six months. These solutions cover areas from accounting, human resources, digital transactions, digital marketing platforms to cybersecurity.

  11. IMDA and Enterprise Singapore are also collaborating with trusted corporate partners, such as banks and telcos, many of whom are represented here today, for this initiative. This means that when new SMEs engage banks and telcos for their business needs, they can also apply for a Start Digital solutions package at the same time.

  12. By working with these Start Digital partners, we hope to scale up tech adoption to a much larger base of SMEs and boost the impact of digitalisation.

  13. The larger point is that we want to work with partners because we recognise that our effectiveness and impact of our programmes is significantly enhanced when we are able to work with industry partners. Implementing quality foundational digital solutions at the start would set SMEs on the right path and position them well for the future. After new SMEs have embarked on their digital journey with Start Digital, they can tap on more advanced digitalisation solutions under the SMEs Go Digital umbrella as they grow, and their needs evolve.

National e-invoicing standard to benefit businesses at the ecosystem-level

  1. Beyond digital solutions, we want our businesses to reap greater benefits from digitalisation at the ecosystem level. This requires trust in day-to-day digital processes that companies can adopt across the board.

  2. One example of such a digital process is e-invoicing. In May 2018, we had announced that we would be adopting the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line standard, or PEPPOL standard, for our nationwide e-invoicing network.

  3. Today, I am happy to announce the official launch of this e-invoicing network.

  4. By joining the network, our business owners can speed up their transactions and greatly lower operation costs compared to tedious manual invoicing. IMDA has so far certified 11 Access Point providers, with more to come.

  5. Businesses would just need to connect to one of these Access Point providers to seamlessly transact with their business partners on the network.

  6. The improved verification and validation of e-invoicing will also foster greater confidence in transactions, building trust between suppliers and customers. It reduces errors that might otherwise arise from manual processing, and ensures greater timeliness in payments.

  7. In addition, our businesses will be even more plugged into the international marketplace through PEPPOL. They can more easily therefore conduct transactions with overseas businesses who are also on this same tried-and-tested network.

  8. We are happy that industry leaders like Dairy Farm and IBM are spearheading its adoption, and we want to encourage all interested businesses to get connected now, as the ecosystem thrives when we have a broad and robust network of users and Access Point providers.

Trust as the foundation for digitalising and processing data

  1. Thirdly, when transactions become easier, the collection of data also becomes easier in tandem.

  2. Data stands at the heart of digital solutions; but for data sharing to be sustainable, it must be built on trust. Consumers must have the confidence and assurance that businesses are using their personal data responsibly.

  3. IMDA and PDPC began piloting the Data Protection (DP) Trustmark Certification scheme last July, to recognise organisations with sound, responsible and accountable data protection practices.

  4. We will be officially launching and unveiling the Data Protection Trustmark today.

  5. The DP Trustmark recognises good data management practices, and enhances the competitive advantage of certified organisations. Indeed, you can argue that in this day and age, you can differentiate yourself in the market place with your data management practices. Clients and business partners can be assured that adequate data safeguards are in place, such as vigilant monitoring of systems, and drawer plans to contain and manage data breaches, should they occur.

  6. The DP Trustmark is for all enterprises, regardless of size, regardless of sector. Any interested organisation can apply to get certified. For SMEs in particular, IMDA will be waiving the application fee for the first year, while Enterprise Singapore will be providing funding support for Singapore companies to get certified.

  7. IMDA will also be partnering the National Council of Social Services to fund member VWOs in their adoption of the certification.

  8. I would like to strongly encourage all our enterprises to apply for such certification because it will be a differentiating factor in the marketplace.

Conclusion

  1. So the ultimate goal of digitalisation is to enhance our products, our services and our processes to better serve our customers. For digitalisation to succeed, it must rest on a foundation of trust and confidence - among businesses, and between businesses and consumers.

  2. These initiatives - Start Digital, e-invoicing and the Data Protection Trustmark - will enable enterprises to digitalise with confidence – by using trusted digital solutions, connecting to a trusted national and international e-invoicing network, and building stronger consumer trust.

  3. Ultimately, however, the onus is on our enterprise and their owners to take the critical first step – to recognise the value of digitalisation and to adopt the salient technologies. The initiatives I have announced today act as enablers that would provide companies with the tools to digitalise with assurance in this time of rapid technology change and transformation. And I want to assure you that on its part, the Government is committed to working closely with businesses and all stakeholders to move forward together on our collective digital journey. We wish you all the very best.

  4. Thank you.