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Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, at the SCCCI'S 16th Annual SMEs Conference & 17th Infocomm Commerce Conference

20 August 2014 - Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, at the SCCCI'S 16th Annual SMEs Conference & 17th Infocomm Commerce Conference, on Wednesday 20 August 2014, 9.50 am, at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre.

Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, at the SCCCI'S 16th Annual SMEs Conference & 17th Infocomm Commerce Conference, on Wednesday 20 August 2014, 9.50 am, at Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre

Mr Thomas Chua, President of Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI),
Mr Lau Tai San, Vice-President of SCCCI,

Council Members,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.

1. I am happy to join you today at the annual Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry SMEs Conference.

2. Ninety-nine per cent of all enterprises in Singapore are SMEs. SMEs contribute to nearly half of our GDP and employ more than 60% of the work force. The theme of this conference is therefore an important one: must SMEs recalibrate, reload and renew in order to compete as the economy grows?

Opportunities for SMEs in a Smart Nation

3. Technology is pervasive in everyday business today, both from the perspective of customer expectations and from the solutions that ICT brings to business operations. The Government is also making use of smart technologies in order to improve the quality of lives for our people. We are developing a nationwide sensor network and enhancing our data analytics capabilities, to facilitate data collection and analysis. With this rich data collected and the ability to analyse the data, we can apply it to various sectors such as transport, health, logistics and businesses for economic growth. This is part of Singapore's vision to be the world's first Smart Nation.

4. SMEs will also benefit as we build to be the world's first Smart Nation. There will be more business opportunities for SMEs, not just those in the technology sector, but sectors like retail, F&B, construction, logistics, transport and tourism & attraction will also experience significant impact in productivity and growth.

5. More importantly, SMEs will play a role in the joint development and delivery of services to citizens and communities. These include optimising the deployment of field workers through better visibility of needs and availability of workers; better use of logistics vehicles through smart queue systems and information from traffic systems; smarter automation through the use of sensors and robots in F&B, retail, construction and transport, and the opportunity for new business efficiencies such as energy management and sustainable technologies.

Government to Help SMEs Deploy Technology Solutions with Enhanced iSPRINT

6. Technology will be your game changer. It plays an important role in making your business more competitive. However, businesses must ensure that time, money and energy invested in technology are properly placed. The Government is here to help SMEs deploy technology solutions.

7. In his Budget speech this year, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam announced the setting up of a $500-million Infocomm Technology (ICT) for Productivity and Growth or IPG programme to help our SMEs step up the adoption of ICT solutions over the next three years. Under the IPG programme, the Government will subsidise the costs of products and services for sector-specific proven ICT solutions, support the qualifying costs for firms that are implementing innovative solutions new to Singapore, subsidise SMEs' fibre broadband subscription plans and provide them with support to implement Wireless@SG services at their premises, among others. I am pleased to announce that IPG will go "live" today, and SMEs can start sending in your applications through the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

8. To make it simpler and easier for SMEs to apply for the incentives, we have also incorporated IPG into our existing iSPRINT (pronounced as i-Sprint) scheme, so that SMEs only needs to apply through one programme. These enhancements aim to make the adoption of ICT solutions more accessible to SMEs.

9. With the incorporation of IPG, there are three new elements under the enhanced iSPRINT: (i) Scaling up of proven sector solutions, (ii) Piloting of emerging solutions, and (iii) Leveraging access to high-speed connectivity to achieve more with ICT.

Scaling up of Proven Sector Solutions

10. We have many good examples of SMEs using technology to increase the productivity of their business. The first example is in scaling up of a proven sector solution like wireless food ordering system. A traditional coffee shop operator in Tampines saw immediate gains when he decided to use the wireless food ordering system. Now this is not a new solution, but it has been tried and proven to increase productivity and growth. The coffee shop takes orders with the easy-to-use "point and click" mobile devices and the orders instantly are sent to the kitchen electronically. Customers' waiting time is reduced, and there are higher table turns, which meant happier customers and a happier shop operator. The Government aims to reach up to 10,000 SMEs with such sector-specific proven solutions over the next three years, from the existing pool of 500 SMEs, and will subsidise up to 70 per cent of the costs of ICT products and services.

Piloting of Emerging Solutions

11. The second element in the enhanced iSPRINT is to pilot or pioneer emerging solutions. Many SMES are pioneers in your own rights. Now, you can be a technology pioneer in your sector, by piloting new emerging ICT solutions that have the potential to transform businesses, such as innovations in sensors, data analytics and robotics. One good example of an emerging solution is the use of voluminous real-time marine transport data to facilitate better coordination within the maritime ecosystem. The ecosystem comprises thousands of SMEs who are boat operators, truck operators, ship suppliers, bunker traders and suppliers, ship agents and many more. While it used to be the usual practice to coordinate workflows and interactions using walkie-talkies and mobile phones, SMEs can now use location data from ships and boats to get greater real-time visibility of the movement of their vehicles and goods. They are therefore better able to coordinate their activities. To encourage SMEs to come up with innovative solutions that are new to Singapore, they can now receive support of up to 80 per cent of the costs, capped at $1 million per SME.

12. Feedback from SMEs is that the application process for incentives can be daunting at times. We hear you, and today I am pleased to announce that SMEs can tap on the two tech solutions I have shared earlier without making any claims. SMEs will only need to engage tech solutions vendors listed with IDA, and the vendors will make the claims on the SMEs behalf. IDA will reimburse the vendors directly.

Leveraging Access to High-Speed Connectivity

13. Finally, the third element is the promotion of high-speed connectivity for SMEs so that you can reap the full benefits of more advance technologies, such as cloud computing and data analytics solutions. With the pervasive cellular network and increased presence of Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide, more venue owners are working with Wireless@SG operators to provide free basic Wi-Fi to their customers at their premises. The Government will subsidise SMEs' fibre broadband subscription plans of at least 100 Mbps (megabits per second) and provide more support for them to implement Wireless@SG services at their premises.

Conclusion - not "Business as Usual"

14. Each and every one of us has a part in continuing to make Singapore a land of hope and opportunity for all. As the bedrock of our economy, SMEs play an important role in helping Singapore to realise this vision. Global and technological trends have made the businesses highly competitive and SMEs must make use of technology to compete and succeed. The opportunities and possibilities are there, it is up to you to take advantage of the resources the Government has provided. I also urge the ICT industry to continue to innovate and make the technology impact even more meaningful for SMEs.

15 .Finally, I would like to thank the SCCCI for playing an active role in helping the SMEs, through your SME and Infocomm Commerce Conferences, and in your partnership with IDA to provide Infocomm Resource Centre services. I wish the conference every success, and may everyone have a fruitful and rewarding experience.

16. Thank you.