SINGAPORE: Newly registered small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) can now get more help with digital solutions during the early stages of their businesses through a new initiative called Start Digital.
It offers them digital solutions in areas such as accounting, human resources, digital transactions, digital marketing platforms and cybersecurity.
"It especially targets the needs of new SMEs, by offering affordable, modular, easy-to-use basic digital solution packages of good quality," said Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran at the launch of Start Digital on Wednesday (Jan 9).
"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."
Under the initiative, SMEs will have to commit to a minimum period of 18 months, with costs waived for the first six months.
Thereafter, SMEs would need to pay less than S$50 a month for each extended or new solution.
As SMEs make up the vast majority of businesses in Singapore, the extent and speed of their digitalisation can "profoundly transform" the economy, said Mr Iswaran.
"The feedback from our engagements with SME business owners affirms that many wished they had implemented basic digital solutions in the nascent stages of their businesses," he said.
"This is understandable because it is very hard to make the switch to digital solutions once companies get entrenched in manual systems and traditional processes," he added.
BENEFITING FROM GOING DIGITAL
Start Digital is part of the SMEs Go Digital programme launched two years ago.
One company that has benefited from digitalisation is Eatz 19.
Before implementing an online system, the restaurant had to use third-party apps for reservations and food deliveries. Using various apps could get costly, and it was also harder to coordinate orders.
After adopting the online system two years ago, it has helped the restaurant with table reservations, online orders and food deliveries.
Managing director Shakila Sham said: “Within that short frame of time, we have seen an increase in revenue, especially from our delivery online platform, with an increase of about 20 per cent sales.”
E-INVOICING NETWORK LAUNCHED
Mr Iswaran also launched the activation of the nationwide e-invoicing network, which was announced in May 2018 as part of the Nationwide E-invoicing Framework by IMDA.
Compared to manual invoicing, e-invoicing increases productivity and allows for faster payment collection cycles.
The e-invoicing will be based on the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line (PEPPOL) standard.
It is a set of open standards and specifications, which enables the exchange of standardised machine-readable documents between businesses such as e-invoice, e-orders and e-advanced shipping notes.
These technologies automate information exchange across the supply chain, reducing the cost and potential risk of error compared to manual invoicing.
Firms will be given grant support to come on board through the current 11 local access point providers. The network will also allow speedy digital transactions with the 32 other mostly-EU countries using similar standards.
DATA PROTECTION TRUSTMARK
At the event, Mr Iswaran also officially launched the Data Protection (DP) Trustmark Certification which was piloted last year.
The DP Trustmark recognises organisations with sound, responsible and accountable data protection practices. Companies can apply to the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) to have their data protection systems assessed and certified.
Consumers can also look forward to a benchmark of a company’s data protection policies and practices from today onwards.
READ: More opportunities for SMEs as Singapore Government reveals multi-billion-dollar IT spending plan
Forty companies from various sectors had registered for the DP Trustmark pilot, which ended in September last year.
Six of these companies, including DBS Bank, TTSH Community Fund and local GP clinic MaNaDr, have already been certified. The rest of the companies are expected to be certified by the end of March.
Funding support for all three initiatives will cost the government S$30 million for the next three years.