Singapore Launches Electronic Commerce Masterplan

The launch will mark the start of a campaign to bring electronic commerce to mainstream businesses and the public; and to attract international electronic commerce activities to Singapore. The government has ...

Singapore, 23 September 1998 | For Immediate Release

The launch will mark the start of a campaign to bring electronic commerce to mainstream businesses and the public; and to attract international electronic commerce activities to Singapore.

The government has launched an Electronic Commerce Plan to drive the pervasive use of electronic commerce in Singapore, and to strengthen Singapore's position as an international e-commerce hub. The target is to have S$4 billion worth of products and services transacted electronically through Singapore, and 50 per cent of businesses to use some form of e-commerce by the year 2003. This was announced today by Deputy Prime Minister BG (NS) Lee Hsien Loong at the opening of COMDEX/ASIA at Singapore Informatics '98.

Since the introduction of the Electronic Commerce Hotbed Programme in August 1996, Singapore has made much progress in its electronic commerce landscape. The legal framework for electronic commerce is in place and the basic infrastructure services are available. There is also an increasing number of innovative and compelling e-commerce services and applications. The launch of the Electronic Commerce Plan will mark the start of a campaign to bring electronic commerce to mainstream businesses and the public; and to attract international electronic commerce activities to Singapore.

E-commerce holds great potential and opportunities for businesses. Besides the access to new and bigger markets, e-commerce can help to bring about reduced costs and faster turnaround times by streamlining and integrating processes along the entire business value chain. The Electronic Commerce Plan will help businesses to exploit this potential and create a strong competitive edge for themselves.

On the national level, by developing Singapore into an international e-commerce hub, the Plan will also help to create and sustain an e-commerce services sector. This will comprise business strategists, creative designers, system integrators, network operators and other e-commerce intermediaries. Another important contribution is the additional activity that can be generated for Singapore's port, logistics, financial and telecommunications services, as a result of the multiplier effects that e-commerce has on these key sectors of the economy.

The plan has five main thrusts:

a) To develop an internationally linked e-commerce infrastructure

An internationally linked e-commerce infrastructure will strengthen Singapore's position as an e-commerce hub. The financial and logistics sectors have a key role to play in driving this thrust. An efficient settlement system for Internet transactions between businesses, covering international trade payment and multi-currency payment, will be deployed over the next two years. A well- connected logistics infrastructure will be put in place to support the requirements for the delivery of physical goods. Singapore will also be positioned as a centre of e-commerce infrastructure development, where international infrastructure players in areas such as trading platforms, trust management and rights management systems will hub to develop and deploy services here.

b) To jump-start Singapore as an e-commerce hub

This initiative will focus on the sectors in which Singapore has an inherent advantage as a hub, especially in business-to-business services. These advantages include a stable and excellent financial infrastructure, a transport and logistics infrastructure that is well known for its efficiency, and strong telecommunications connectivity and e-commerce infrastructures. Incentive schemes and other support programmes will be used to attract international and local companies to base their e-commerce hub activities in Singapore. An international publicity plan is being developed, and trade shows will be used to promote Singapore as an e-commerce hub.

c) To encourage businesses to use e-commerce strategically

Under this thrust, education and other support programmes will be put in place to help businesses exploit e-commerce to enhance their productivity and competitiveness. Simple and easy to use trading platforms are being provided, and a usage promotion drive will be launched to bring about widespread participation of SMEs. To ensure a steady supply of business and technical manpower, businesses will be encouraged to invest in retraining of their manpower through incentive programmes.

d) To promote usage of e-commerce by the public and businesses

This thrust will enable our citizens and businesses to enjoy the benefits that e-commerce can bring, and at the same time, create an e-commerce savvy culture. Mass education efforts will be used. In addition, e-commerce will be taught in business and professional courses in our universities and polytechnics. The government itself will be setting the pace to proliferate the use of e-commerce in Singapore through its electronic Public Services initiatives. Key public services will be delivered electronically by the year 2001.

e) To harmonise cross-border e-commerce laws and policies

This thrust is key to enable businesses to trade confidently with overseas partners. Besides putting in place legislation that is internationally consistent, Singapore will work with its major trading partners to align each other's e-commerce laws. Efforts have already been initiated with Canada, Australia and Germany. Singapore will also continue to participate actively at major international fora to bring about international agreements on harmonisation of e-commerce frameworks.

The five thrusts will be implemented through specific programmes and projects (please see Appendix 2). A key supporting programme is to help Singapore become a thought leader in the emerging and dynamic e-commerce scene.In particular, the Department of Statistics is leading an initiative to measure the growth of the e-commerce services sector, the contribution of e-commerce to growth in GDP and the volume of goods transacted through e-commerce. In addition, research for e-commerce would be expanded to include policy research as well as market research. Partnerships with academia and industry to jointly sponsor and contribute to research would be sought.

These programmes will advance Singapore from having the basic legal and technology infrastructure to support e-commerce now (1998), to having a critical base of e-commerce services and a reliable infrastructure in 2000, and finally, to have a sizeable amount of e-commerce transactions, an e-commerce services sector and the widespread adoption of e-commerce by the industry in 2003.

The E-Commerce Plan has been formulated by member-agencies of the Electronic Commerce Coordinating Committee (EC3), comprising the Attorney General's Chambers, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Law, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the National Computer Board, the Public Service 21 Office and the Trade Development Board. Also working closely with this Committee are the Economic Development Board, the Singapore Tourism Board and the Department of Statistics.

The E-Commerce Plan is a concrete and bold step forward to position Singapore as a centre of e-commerce innovation and activity. However, as e-commerce is rapidly evolving, the Plan would have to be continuously fine-tuned. The EC3 Secretariat and the Committee will solicit feedback from all stakeholders to evolve and monitor the progress of the Plan.

For more information on the E-commerce development in Singapore, visit the EC website at

Appendix 1: Status Of E-Commerce Developments In Singapore


In August 1996, the NCB launched the Electronic Commerce Hotbed (ECH) Programme to jump-start the pervasive use of e-commerce and position Singapore as an international EC hub. Much progress has since been made in the Singapore's EC landscape. Important milestones in legislative frameworks, payment methods, and trust systems have been achieved by the strong partnership among government agencies and the industry. International linkages are also being actively pursued.

This document provides an overview of the state of electronic commerce (EC) in Singapore. It provides a summary of the key efforts in the following areas:

a) Laws and regulations

b) Infrastructural services

c) Applications

d) Promotion

e) Internationalisation

Laws and Regulations

Pro-business and relevant laws and regulations are needed for the growth of e-commerce. The government is committed to create an environment of trust, predictability and certainty in the Singapore system so that companies can feel safe and secure in conducting their online business. The EC Policy Committee, formed in January 1997, was a direct response to this need. Its task was to ensure that the legal and policy environment in Singapore was most conducive to e-commerce development. The Committee completed its work in Dec 97.

A major specific policy recommendation by the EC Policy Committee was the enactment of the Electronic Transactions Act (ETA). The ETA came into force in July 98. It provides a legal foundation for electronic transactions, and gives predictability and certainty to the electronic formation of contracts

The Computer Misuse Act has also been amended to give greater protection to critical computer systems. Copyright laws are being updated to protect multimedia works, and a Privacy Code to safeguard consumer data is being drafted for industry self-regulation.

Infrastructural Services

Online businesses need an operating environment where key services such as network services, trust systems, payment services, are readily available for implementation of their online business processes. The government, together with IT industry partners and financial institutions, have been developing infrastructure services such as on-line payment systems, trust and security systems, directory services, as well as other intermediary e-commerce services.

In the area of connectivity, we have three Internet Access Service Providers, Singapore ONE, and numerous value added network providers such as SNS.

One of the challenges for an online business is the establishment of trust. A digital trust system, based on the use of digital signatures and certificates, enables the establishment of a trust relationship between online transacting parties. A company, Netrust, has been formed to issue and manage these digital keys and certificates.

Another challenge that business face is secure payment collection over the Internet. A variety of online payment mechanisms are in place today. Consumers can make small-value online payment from several cents to $500 using CashCard through NETS's C-ONE service (CashCard for Open Network E-Commerce). Credit card payments can be made on Internet through encrypted channels such as Secure-Sockets Layer (SSL) or Commerce Toolkit solution. Credit card payment based on the Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) protocol, a payment protocol developed and promoted by Visa and MasterCard, is currently in pilot trial. Other payment methods include NETS Financial Electronic Data Interchange (FEDI), an electronic payment service similar to inter-bank GIRO services.

A range of electronic directory services is also available to provide users in an open network with contact information of people, products and services. The range of services include SingaporeConnect (for searching information on Singapore registered companies), Business Information Locator (for looking up of business-related information), Calendar ONE (for a directory of major events and happenings in Singapore) and Shopping Village (for locating merchants and shopping bargains in Singapore).

Several third-party service providers have also been established to offer complete end-to-end solutions, or packaged components of a solution. For example, an online retail merchant can outsource its hosting and payment processing services to e-commerce service bureau such as NCS Consumer Connect or SPH's AsiaOne Commerce. Business-to- business trading platforms are also available, such as BookNet, ShopNet, SingTel's STEMS INTER*Change, etc.

A National Information Infrastructure Standardisation effort is underway to complement the deployment of the infrastructural services. The NII Standards Technical Committee is looking at standardisation in the areas of security, electronic commerce, networking, information sources and exchange, and electronic mail and directory. The draft recommendations have been completed in Oct 97. These standards will help provide the necessary foundation for the rapid development of applications and interoperation between applications and services.

Other new infrastructure services for Singapore are being planned for, such as those in the areas of business to business e-payment systems, electronic notary, rights management, transport and logistics services. The government works closely with the industry partner to develop and deploy these new infrastructure services.


There are a variety of EC applications in Singapore at present, such as:

a) Government eg. CPF Online, IRAS e-filing of income tax, URA Form Submission

b) Business-to-business eg. Mindef Internet Procurement system (MIPS), BookNet, ShopNet, TradeNet Plus

c) News & Information eg. AsiaOne, TCS MediaCity,

d) Retail & Leisure eg. PlazaOne, Nanyang Optical, Cold Storage, NTUC Cybermart, SISTIC

e) Financial eg. Internet Banking from DBS, UOB, OCBC and POSB, Electronic stock trading from Phillip Securities' POEMS

There are more than 180 online retailers in the Shopping Village ( Among the most popular are the grocery stores (NTUC Fairprice, Cold Storage), ticketing services (Golden Village, SISTIC, TicketCharge), financial services (Internet banking, electronic stock trading).

Government departments have also taken the lead to jump-start e-commerce activities in Singapore. Several applications are already being made available through electronic means (, e.g. URA Form Submission,
CPF On-Line and Electronic Procurement Service, and Electronic Income Tax Filing. It is the intention of the government to introduce more such electronic-based government services to the public in the next few years.

Promotion and education

There are e-commerce training and awareness programmes to educate executives and the general public on the new e-commerce paradigm. They include the eVision Workshop NCB has undertaken jointly with Andersen Consulting
to help CEOs and senior executives plan for e-commerce in their respective organisations, as well as the CEO roundtable discussions that inform and provide feedback from the industry on the latest developments in e-commerce. Periodically, technology and technical sharing seminars are also organised to keep the industry informed of new advances.

To raise e-commerce awareness of the general public, events such as eSale are being organised to promote online shopping. Three eSale events have been organised to-date (Jul 97, Feb 98, Aug 98). Roadshows are also conducted through SingaporeONE clubs at various community centres and other exhibition events to demonstrate EC to the public.

Several financial incentives and funding schemes are currently available to help companies venture into e-commerce. For example, the Cluster Development Fund (CDF) and the Innovation Development Scheme (IDS) are awarded to
qualifying companies to support their EC projects. The Approved Cyber Trader (ACT) scheme, which was announced by the Finance Minister at Budget 98, is an international trading incentive developed with the objective of developing an
Internet economy in Singapore and position Singapore into an EC hub in Asia. The ACT aims to attract and create a critical mass of core players in Singapore conducting offshore trading activities using the Internet.


Singapore has been actively participating in international discussions (for example, ASEAN, APEC, WTO, and WIPO) on e-commerce-related issues and policies. Singapore is currently the co-chair of the APEC EC TaskForce.

Singapore is also looking into establishing bilateral agreements with other EC-ready countries. In early June, the world's first international cross certification was performed between Netrust and a counterpart in Canada.

Appendix 2: Programmes To Implement The Five Strategic Thrusts Of The Electronic Commerce Plan

The five strategic thrusts of the Electronic Commerce Plan will be driven by the programmes and projects as described below.

The key projects to drive the thrust to Develop An Internationally Linked E-Commerce Infrastructure are:

a) Develop infrastructure services. In partnership with industry, the services to support international transactions would be developed. The critical areas are business-to-business payment, trade payment and connectivity. These would be delivered in 2 years. Innovative and compelling services would also be developed. These are in the areas of trust management, rights management, micro- payment and other business-to-consumer payment, and shared platforms for business-to-business trading.

b) International linkage. Link the local infrastructure services to those overseas. Examples are cross-certification of certification authorities and inter-operation of trading platforms.

c) Singapore as an Infrastructure Development Centre. Seek and support pilots, and associated experiments and technical studies. Up to 2 pilots a year would be supported.

The key projects to Jumpstart Singapore as an E-Commerce Hub are:

a) International companies to hub in Singapore. Attract international companies to base their e-commerce hub in Singapore. These include multinational companies already based in Singapore, digital infrastructure providers, online service developers, trading and distribution companies, retailers and wholesalers, and reservation systems service providers.

b) International publicity. Create general awareness among international businesses that Singapore is a place for conducting e-commerce. The activities would include increased presence at trade shows.

c) Flagship projects. Identify and support innovative EC services with the aim of making them international success stories. Some potential projects have already been identified in the areas of the exhibition industry, manufacturing, trading,
finance and digital goods distribution.

The key programmes to drive the Industry to use E-Commerce Strategically are:

a) Mass training. Provide hands-on experience for business people to use simple EC platforms, such as Singapore Connect. In addition, industry associations would be roped in to jointly organise regular training.

b) EC for SME. Jumpstart the adoption of EC program to jumpstart the adoption of "Mature EC". Technical and financial support would be provided to quickly reach a critical mass of companies providing EC services.

c) Manpower development. Ensure that there is enough manpower to support the pervasive adoption of EC. Tertiary institutes would teach EC in IT as well as business courses. Retraining programmes would also be supported.

d) Groom promising local EC players. Identify and groom local EC players to succeed internationally. Support would come in the form of venture capital and marketing assistance.

The key projects to Promote Local Usage of E-Commerce are:

a) Deploy key Government services. Key services would be deployed by 2001. This effort would be expedited by decision support tools, the use of shared systems such as the Government Shopfront, and bulk tenders to reduce
implementation time.

b) Mass education. Hands-on experience for the public would be provided

c) Mass media programmes. The mass media would be used to create awareness. These would cater for business users as well as consumers.

d) Joint marketing. Partnerships would be sought with providers of compelling services to jointly promote use of their services and EC in general.

The programmes to drive the thrust to Harmonise Cross-Border E- Commerce Laws and Policies are:

a) "Trusted node". Develop and periodically review legislation to make Singapore a "trusted node" for EC, with transparent and predictable environment. This legislation includes the Electronic Transactions Act, and the Computer
Misuse Act. Studies and reviews of laws and policies would be conducted to ensure that we have congruent and competitive laws, which are synchronised with international practices. The areas under consideration include Intellectual
Property Rights, Data Protection, Consumer Protection and Taxation.

b) "Zone of Trust". We would participate at multilateral fora to gain broad policy agreements and raise Singapore's profile. The main fora used are APEC, ASEAN, UN and WTO. Bilateral agreements would also be sought to establish close policy alignment and EC linkages with key trading partners. Cross-certification and other cross-border projects would be initiated.

Supporting Programmes

Measurement. The Department of Statistics would lead the effort to measure the growth of the EC services sector, the contribution of EC to growth in GDP as well as the volume of goods transacted through EC.

Thought Leadership. Research for EC would be expanded and coordinated. The scope would include policy research as well as market research. Partnerships with academia and industry to jointly sponsor and contribute to research would be