New Budget Promises SMBs a Digital Future, Done Sustainably

New Budget Promises SMBs a Digital, Sustainable Future

February 16, 2021

Top Execs share their thoughts on the recently unveiled Singapore Budget 2021 by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

This week, the Singapore Government introduced the Emerging Technology Program which will co-fund the costs of trials and adoption of frontier technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, as well as a SGD 24 billion fund to enable businesses to start on the next phase of their transformation.

Key budget highlights included enhancements to the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, Productivity Solutions Grant, the launch of the Enterprise Fellowship Program and the new Digital Leaders Program.

With a heavy focus on support for SMBs, the business community seems to welcome such initiatives, particularly in view of the acceleration of digitalization of businesses due to the 2020 pandemic.

Commenting on the budget, Adobe Managing Director Southeast Asia Simon Dale, says the digital skills enablement will go a long way to helping organisations transition from offline, to online.

“Consumer behaviors have changed over the last year. We’ve seen an incredible surge in online commerce and an explosion of digital content, fueled further by improvements and availability of digital technology. Many organizations are now inundated with massive volumes of data that they are unprepared to manage and extract value from. Equipping the workforce with the right digital skills to navigate the digital environment and understand how to work with data, is essential especially in the face of global uncertainty. The government’s ongoing support this year through the enhancement of the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package and the launch of the Enterprise Fellowship Program, will help organizations continue to develop internal talent and resources they need to accelerate their offline-to-online transformation,” says Dale.

According to Dale, the support offered by the Government through the Emerging Technology Program, to co-fund costs and trials of the adoption of frontier technologies; the new Digital Leaders Program; and enhancement of the Productivity Solutions Grant – Job Redesign will help businesses innovate faster.

Dale argues that industries such as travel and hospitality should focus on digital adoption and data analytics, to create smarter, more personal and immersive experiences – including those powered by AI, AR, and VR.

“Take tourism for example. While tourism remains largely about in-person, physical experiences, the ongoing restrictions and growing economic pressures on the travel industry have catalyzed the rise of smart-tourism. Local businesses can innovate on the digital front to bridge that physical-to-virtual hybrid model. For example, residents can explore a virtual art gallery on their phone and be recommended related experiences that may take them on a Grab car to a nearby restaurant that serves related cuisine completing the whole experience. Data and partnerships are key to offering such connected and meaningful experiences, and creativity then drives the unique content and delivery format. While borders remain closed, brands with digital foundations and customer intelligence initiatives in place are going to be the most prepared when travel resumes,” says Dale.

SMBs appear to be the winners in this year’s budget announcement. Commenting on F&B and retail recovery for 2021, Dale argues that these sectors should not let their earlier digital efforts go to waste.

“Instead of viewing government support as a temporary lifeboat, businesses should put in place a strategic plan to reinforce the digital foundation they have already built, with the additional support being offered through enhancements to the Productivity Solutions Grant. Organizations can consider making improvements to the customer journey and offer more convenience and ease to transact. A solid digital foundation can help brands collect and access a wealth of digital data to better understand and analyze customer needs, transform offline processes, and make communications more proactive and personalized – all of which contribute to better customer experience and help future-proof the business,” says Dale.

Cisco Managing Director Andy Lee agrees. According to Lee, Cisco applauds the Singapore Budget’s continued focus on supporting companies of all sizes through their journey of digital transformation and innovation. Lee claims this approach will enable Singapore to grow stronger as an economy in the long-term.

“To enhance long-term business resilience and unlock new opportunities for sustainable growth in Singapore, it is critical to build on the strong momentum and focus on upgrading the underlying digital infrastructure in the nation to enable the continued digitisation of key industries and public services. In particular, investments towards supporting the digitalization of the SMB sector are still much needed. Our 2020 Asia Pacific SMB Digital Maturity Study reveals that further digital transformation of SMBs could increase Singapore’s GDP by an additional USD 24 billion by 2024,” says Lee.

Besides offering strong support for SMBs, another priority outlined by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in the Budget announcement was the importance of creating a sustainable future.

With the aim of ‘Emerging Stronger, Together’, the Minister claims the Government has ambitious sustainability goals under the Singapore Green Plan, but stressed that businesses and households also have a role to play.

Commenting on the Singapore Green Plan 2030, KONE Executive Vice President Axel Berkling says the economic impact of the pandemic has accelerated the focus on sustainability on many fronts.

“It is very reassuring to see the Singapore Government take proactive steps and clearly outline the main priorities towards realising a sustainable low carbon and climate-resilient future for present and future generations. The emphasis on sustainability and the need for actionable change outlined in the Budget and the recently announced Singapore Green Plan 2030 assures us that we, as a company, are headed in the right direction. In October 2020, KONE pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have carbon-neutral operations globally by 2030. We have set up an internal task force to increase the efficiency of waste management in our operations and to identify and drive internal and external sustainable efficiencies across our value chain ecosystem,” says Berkling.

PropertyGuru Group CEO Hari Krishnan also applauded the focus on reducing carbon emissions, and the Urban Solutions and Sustainability under Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 initiative and says these will help to keep sustainability top of mind for the business community.

“We welcome Singapore’s increased commitment to enable sustainable urban living. The latest support measures for residents to go car-lite and further their usage of cleaner-energy vehicles are timely. We also welcome the focus on Urban Solutions and Sustainability under Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 to help Singapore build a more sustainable and liveable environment. These measures will help each of us place environmental considerations top-of-mind, so we frequently assess the impact of our day-to-day activities. Our initiatives will enable Singaporeans to prioritise sustainability as a consideration in their property decisions, as well as recognise green property projects in Singapore. We commit to making changes in our own business to meet the goals stated in the recently unveiled Singapore Green Plan 2030, and building a better home for our future generations,” says Krishnan.

(Ed. Featured image by Photographer Elina Sazonova.)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *