SINGAPORE: Singapore’s regulatory environment may be an important competitive advantage in the future when it comes to nurturing the next tech giant, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung on Monday (Aug 27).
The minister was speaking as part of a panel on innovation and enterprise in the age of disruption at the FutureChina Global Forum.
When asked whether Singapore could be a place where the next "high-tech giant" could emerge and what it would take for this to happen, Mr Ong spoke about the importance of regulation.
"In the era where we try to attract foreign direct investment and multi-national corporations, cost was an issue, industrial harmony was an issue, and these are all competitive advantage(s)," said Mr Ong.
"I think (in) the next phase, how we regulate becomes an important competitive advantage."
Mr Ong added that people must recognise Singapore is "quite different" from other markets around the world.
In many markets, start-ups took off due to a lack of regulation, the minister noted.
This lack of regulation meant "you can do almost anything", and these start-ups also occupy a "very dominant position" in the market, he said.
Singapore, as a small market in an urban environment, is not able to do that, Mr Ong explained, adding that the country must reconcile different trade-offs.
"Singapore can never be that kind of market because we are (an) urban city, everything in Singapore is well-regulated," said Mr Ong."Instead, for us, we must become and urban test-bed; well-regulated but able to harmonise and reconciliate different trade-offs."
Taking the ride-sharing industry as an example, the minister said Singapore faced the same issues other markets have experienced, but cited regulation by the Land Transport Authority as an example of such "trade-offs".
“So you look at shared rides, for example, when they come to Singapore, it is allowed but the same issues that many other cities face, we face as well,” he said. “There are existing taxi drivers who are concerned, there are standards of service delivery, there are concerns - so the Land Transport Authority put in the right amount of regulation.”
This balanced solution creates an environment where the best solutions can test-bed in Singapore, which will be a strong competitive advantage, he said, adding that this has become a model for other countries to look at.
Mr Ong was joined on the panel by start-up founders including NinjaVan CEO Lai Chang Wen, Momentum Works’ CEO Li Jianggan, Tay Choon Chong, managing partner of venture capitalist Vertex Ventures China and Tan Kiat How, CEO of Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority.
The panel also discussed the need for the whole of society to be digitally-ready in order for technological innovation to flourish, and the need for talent development and lifelong learning for the economy to adapt to digital transformation.