SINGAPORE: To help keep the economy competitive and position Singapore for a digital future, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) plans to empower workers and locals alike, aid companies in building strong capabilities and continue to digitalise the Government, said Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim in Parliament on Monday (Mar 6).
Citing a need to equip Singaporeans with the relevant skills for the digital economy, Dr Yaacob revealed that the TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) - an ICT job placement initiative from Budget 2016 - has helped more than 10,000 professionals as of mid-February 2017.
He said TeSA will now work with the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) announced at Budget 2017 to implement on-the-job training leadership programmes with a focus in developing tech management skills.
“We will also continue working closely with tertiary and pre-tertiary institutions to boost our pipeline of talent,” he added. “One programme is Industry Preparation for Pre-graduates (iPREP) which equips pre-graduates with relevant industry-ready skillsets and work experience. About 800 students have enrolled since its launch last year.”
Later, Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary also talked about ways to support families in benefiting from connectivity.
“We are expanding the Home Access Programme, which provides low-income households with low-cost broadband connectivity at home and a tablet, to benefit a further 16,000 households, in addition to the existing 8,000 households on the current programme,” he announced.
This will be implemented in April and apply to households with a monthly income of S$1,900 or less.
HELPING SMEs THRIVE DIGITALLY
The Infocommunications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA) will work with agencies such as SPRING Singapore on the SMEs Go Digital programme announced at Budget 2017, said Dr Yaacob.
“It will help raise SMEs’ overall level of digital readiness by giving them step-by-step advice on the technologies to use at each stage of their digital journey,” he said, pointing to measures detailed in this year’s Budget such as a new SME Digital Tech Hub.
Said Dr Yaacob: “Through SMEs Go Digital, IMDA will collaborate with big corporations who can play an influential role in helping to digitalise the SMEs they work with.”
“Market leaders such as telcos and banks can also work with ICT companies to expand their traditional services, and provide more value-added solutions to their SME customers.”
IMDA also plans to continue building locally-grown Infocomm and Media (ICM) enterprises who can break new grounds for Singapore, he added. This will be done by expanding Accreditation@IMDA - an initiative for promising local tech start-ups - and introducing other schemes to grow these companies and build an innovative ecosystem.
Dr Yaacob said: “As of February, the (Accreditation@IMDA) programme has accredited 17 companies in areas like video and data analytics, robotics and energy management, helping them generate Government projects opportunities worth over S$60 million.
“Due to these accredited companies’ success, IMDA will now be expanding the programme’s focus beyond the public sector to enterprise sectors such as real estate and finance. It will also expand beyond accrediting start-ups to include small high-growth SMEs.
“Thus for larger high-growth ICM SMEs who require targeted intervention to scale overseas, we plan to help them partner LLEs (large local enterprises) and MNCs, such as CapitaLand, Mediacorp and Sentosa Development Corporation, for product innovation, capability development and export into overseas markets.”
IMPORTANCE OF DATA
In his speech, Dr Janil further pointed to companies lacking awareness of the possibilities of a digital economy.
“In particular, with data science, companies cite a lack of good data, lack of awareness, lack of expertise and some concerns about regulatory clarity,” he said.
“IMDA will establish a Data Innovation Programme Office (DIPO) to lead in this effort. The DIPO will address industry concerns by facilitating data-driven innovation projects, and the development of the data ecosystem in Singapore,” Dr Janil announced.
“One of the ways DIPO will do this is to introduce a Data Sandbox. This will provide a neutral and trusted platform for companies to share data securely, without threatening the individual company's interests. The Data Sandbox will also provide data analytics tools to help companies build expertise in data science.”
He also said the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) would be reviewing the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) implemented two years ago, while putting in place additional measures to ensure businesses know how to use personal data responsibly.
“The PDPC will develop Data Protection starter kits to help SMEs kick-start DP practices within their companies; engage SMEs through Trade Associations and Chambers, and sector-specific forums; and provide more affirmative guidance to give certainty and clarity on what is permissible,” Dr Janil said.
On a Government level, to enable data to be shared across domains and agencies, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) is building an API Exchange (APEX), he added.
This will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and help facilitate data-driven decision-making and delivery of digital services, when made available for the whole public sector later in 2017.
GOVERNMENT TO TAKE THE LEAD
Dr Yaacob further emphasised the growing importance of cybersecurity in the modern landscape, noting the sector could potentially provide more than 5,000 additional job openings by 2020.
He reiterated that the Internet Surfing Separation policy - removing Internet access from the work computers of public officers - was necessary to ensure Singapore’s systems remain resilient and trusted.
“Besides setting up necessary infrastructure to ensure officers can still easily access the Internet for work, we are adjusting and adapting our work processes, and introducing productivity solutions and tools to help maintain an efficient and productive Public Service,” he said.
“There has been no impact to our public service delivery. Members of the public are still able to send and receive e-mails from Government officers. Government digital services and transactions by the public and businesses have also been unaffected.”
“We are working to ensure a smooth transition for public officers to meet our target May 2017 implementation date,” said Dr Yaacob, while announcing a new Cybersecurity Professional Scheme to attract, develop and retain cybersecurity practitioners in the public sector.
UPDATES TO REGULATIONS
In closing, Dr Yaacob added that MCI plans to update the Films Act for a digital age where films can be directly streamed from overseas.
“We have started consulting some key stakeholders and will do a wider public consultation very soon,” he said.
The Broadcasting Act (BA) will also be updated this year, announced Dr Yaacob, to ensure content offered by overseas content providers on the Internet “is in line with our community values, including the need to uphold racial and religious harmony”.
He said: “We are studying this carefully, to make sure that any changes we make will not add undue burden to businesses.
“More details about the BA amendments will be announced soon and we look forward to engaging businesses and the public on this.”
Concluded Dr Yaacob: “The digital economy is coming. It will create growth, jobs and higher wages for Singaporeans, but will also require us to adapt and be open to many changes … Our businesses and people ... must be willing to take advantage of these opportunities, making the effort to re-learn, up-skill and keep pace with technology.
“The opportunities for economic success are here and waiting. We just need to have the initiative to seize it.”