Fortitude Budget: More than S$500m allocated to support digital transformation of businesses amid COVID-19 outbreak
SINGAPORE: More than S$500 million of the Fortitude Budget will be allocated to support the digital transformation of businesses, including support for e-payments, adopting digital solutions and deepening digital capabilities, announced Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday (May 26).
“Those who are willing to transform will not be left behind,” said Mr Heng, speaking in Parliament on Tuesday.
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Noting that the take-up rate of e-payments among businesses has “risen sharply”, with 50,000 more businesses adopting PayNow Corporate since April, Mr Heng said this Budget will support those who have not begun using digital tools.
"We will help them to get on board with digital transformation, building on current momentum," he said.
Stallholders in hawker centres, wet markets, coffee shops and industrial canteens will receive a bonus of S$300 per month over five months to encourage them to use e-payments and avoid having to handle cash, he announced.
“They should not be left behind as the whole economy transforms,” Mr Heng added.
This bonus will be provided by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), National Environment Agency (NEA), JTC Corporation, Housing Development Board (HDB) and Enterprise Singapore, he noted.
HELPING BUSINESS GO DIGITAL
Businesses that are “ready to take their basic payment and invoicing functions digital” will also receive support in the Fortitude Budget.
“This will be coupled with support to keep their business running and even acquire new revenue lines. We will help businesses to implement safe-management measures and business continuity strategies to adapt to new post-COVID-19 norms,” said Mr Heng.
Noting that more than 10,000 food services and retail establishments have benefited from the Food Delivery and e-commerce Booster Packages that were announced earlier this year, Mr Heng announced that a Digital Resilience Bonus will be introduced to “help businesses take their next step to digitalise”.
Eligible businesses can receive a payout of up to S$5,000 if they adopt PayNow Corporate and e-invoicing, as well as business process or e-commerce solutions, he added.
“We will start with the F&B and retail sectors, which are most affected by the safe distancing requirements as we reopen the economy.”
Businesses that already have basic digital capabilities “should deepen their digital transformation”, said Mr Heng.
“We will help them make use of advanced digital tools in an integrated way," he added.
The Digital Resilience Bonus will have an additional tier of $5,000 for F&B and retail businesses which also incorporate advanced solutions, Mr Heng announced.
Another S$250 million has been set aside to help businesses digitalise in partnership with digital platform solution providers and industry champions, said Mr Heng.
This includes developing offline-to-online business models to access new domestic revenue streams and international demand, mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on revenues, he added.
SCHOOLS SHOULD MAKE FULL USE OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES
Apart from businesses, schools and Institutes of Higher Learning must “make full use” of digital technologies for learning, said Mr Heng.
The Student Learning Space, a platform for self-directed learning, has been instrumental in supporting teachers for home-based learning during the “circuit breaker” period, he added.
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“The Government will harness the talents of our best software engineers, AI experts, learning scientists and educators to develop the relevant pedagogy and build new digital platforms for online teaching and learning, and integrate the latest advancements in AI and learning sciences,” Mr Heng said, adding that the National Research Foundation and the Ministry of Education will provide more details at a later date.
A set of National Innovation Challenges will also be introduced to focus on partnerships to develop industry-led solutions to the challenges “all businesses are grappling with”, starting with how Singapore can reopen safely, Mr Heng announced.
“The relevant agencies will articulate the critical problems that we seek to solve, or the leap that we hope to make.
“We hope that corporates, startups and others in the private and people sectors can step forward to form partnerships to provide solutions that can be scaled," he said, noting that the Government will provide support for this.
DIGITAL SOLUTIONS THE NEW NORM
Noting that digital solutions will become “more deeply embedded in our lives”, Mr Heng noted that telecommuting, on-demand food and services and virtual events are now the norm.
“COVID-19 has done what many CEOs and CTOs found hard to do. Accelerate digitalisation,” he added.
“This is a good thing. But I know that many businesses fear being left behind and shut out of the future. Businesses that are not digitally connected have been hit hard during the circuit breaker.”
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Adding that COVID-19 “accelerated the decline in support for globalisation” and disrupted supply chains, Mr Heng stressed that there will be a “premium” on resilience.
“In this new world, we must continue to build on our reputation as a trusted, neutral, and reliable Global-Asia node.”
Singapore, alongside 10 other countries, affirmed its commitment to upholding supply chain connectivity and resilience amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he noted.
“These links will support our businesses to go digital and global. By staying successful, they will create good jobs for our people.”
Watch the full statement: