Singapore’s former civil service chief launches SME digital tools

By on 15/01/2019 | Updated on 24/09/2020
The former head of the Singapore civil service, Peter Ong, is spearheading the SME digital drive

A Singapore agency run by the country’s former Cabinet Secretary is giving start-up businesses free training in digital business solutions, in a bid to improve their growth and resilience.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can choose two courses from a range of options covering accountancy, human resource management and payroll, digital marketing, digital transactions or cybersecurity.

The initiative – known as Smart Digital – was launched by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore.

A leg up for SMEs

Peter Ong, chairman of Enterprise Singapore and former Cabinet Secretary, said that the initiative will provide SMEs with digital tools right “at birth” – as they are starting to shape their organisation, develop operational processes, train staff and make other business decisions. 

“Starting digital will help them start right and position well for growth, resilience and productivity. As many young SMEs take this first digital step, the impact on our enterprise landscape and economy can be great,” he said.

The initiative will be rolled out via programme partners banks DBS, Maybank, OCBC, and UOB, and communications companies Singtel and StarHub.

Banking on digital

DBS simultaneously launched a dedicated portal for the initiative, to help SMEs access web-based business tools and services. It is allowing new SME customers to open an account without having to visit a branch, and estimates that over 80 per cent of new accounts will be opened in this way in 2019.

“SMEs who are trying to keep pace with the technological shifts in the local and global economy can access accounting, HR and payroll, digital marketing, e-commerce, and cybersecurity solutions to give them a leg up,” it said.

Securing trust, securing payment

Meanwhile, Singapore’s minister for communications and information, S. Iswaran, announced two other initiatives to help businesses accelerate their digital transformation.

An island-wide e-invoicing network will be introduced, based on the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line (PEPPOL) standard, according to technology news site This is intended to help companies to adopt e-invoicing to increase productivity and speed up payment collection.

Meanwhile, a Data Protection Trustmark will help organisations build consumer confidence in their data protection policies and practices. Grant support will be provided to help businesses build their e-invoicing network, while the application fee for the trustmark will be waived till the end of the year, the IMDA said.

Singapore last month topped the rankings in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Asian Digital Transformation Index, which found that Singapore had overtaken the US in government support provided for digital innovations.

About Catherine Early

Catherine is a journalist and editor specialising in government policy and regulation. She writes predominantly about environmental issues and has held permanent roles at the Environmentalist (now known as Transform), the ENDS Report, Planning magazine and Windpower Monthly, and has also written for the Guardian, the Ecologist and China Dialogue. She was a finalist in the Guardian’s International Development Journalism competition 2009, and was part of the team that won PPA Business Magazine of the Year 2011 for Windpower Monthly. She also won an outstanding content award at Haymarket Media Group’s employee awards for data-led stories in Planning magazine. She holds a 2:1 honours degree in English language and literature from Birmingham University.

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