SMEs Go Digital programme launched in Singapore

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore launched Start Digital, an initiative of the SMEs Go Digital programme. Start Digital will enable new SMEs to get a head start with two foundational digital solutions – with costs waived for minimum six months – to accelerate growth and scalability. 

Two other nationwide initiatives to accelerate businesses’ digital transformation journey were also announced by Minister for Communications and Information, S Iswaran at an industry networking session. The first is a nationwide e-invoicing network, which will enable companies, including SMEs, to adopt e-invoicing to increase productivity and enjoy faster payment collection cycles. The second is a Data Protection Trustmark (DPTM) launched by IMDA and the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) to help organisations, including SMEs, build consumer confidence in their data protection policies and practices, thus enhancing business competitiveness.

New SMEs can select any two free foundational digital solutions from five categories of core business functions –  Accounting, iHuman Resource Management System & Payroll, Digital Marketing, Digital Transactions and Cybersecurity. These SMEs will need to commit to a minimum period of 18 months, with costs waived for the first six months and priced affordably for the remaining period. They can approach the following participating partners to take up the Start Digital pack – DBS, Maybank, OCBC, Singtel, StarHub and UOB.

Peter Ong, Chairman of Enterprise Singapore, said, “The Start Digital initiative arms SMEs with digital tools right at “birth” – at the point when they are just starting to shape their organisational DNA, develop operational processes, undertake staff training 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.” 

Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive of IMDA, added, “A digital-first mindset is essential for businesses that want to stay relevant and competitive in the Digital Economy. I am heartened to see the industry coming together to offer innovative digital solutions to help our businesses on their digital transformation journey.”  

SMEs can continue to obtain support from other SMEs Go Digital initiatives as they grow and require more advanced digital solutions. They can also refer to the Industry Digital Plans (IDP) to assess their digital readiness and take up suitable pre-approved solutions.

To further raise productivity and efficiency of our business ecosystem, including SMEs, a nationwide network has been officially launched to enable companies to send and receive e-invoices based on the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line (PEPPOL) standard. This allows companies to better track their invoices, reduce operating costs and improve payment collection cycles. The network is part of the Nationwide E-invoicing Framework that was announced by IMDA in May 2018.

Companies are able to sign up with 11 Access Point (AP) Providers, which are operational from today. APs provide the gateway access to the network and can offer services such as sending and receiving PEPPOL-format e-invoices or translating other formats of invoices (such as PDF) into the PEPPOL-format. More APs are undergoing certification which will grow access to the network.

To encourage more companies to adopt e-invoicing, grant support will be provided to build the network, educate and bring on board companies. This will enable Singapore to achieve greater economies of scale from the network.

Today’s best digitally-enabled organisations use data to understand and better serve their customers. Data usage drives innovation and enables the development of more personalised services such as shopping recommendation engines in a Services 4.02 landscape, where service delivery is automated for repetitive and mundane tasks. As customers’ digital interactions and transactions increase, more personal data will be collected and used to improve customers’ digital experience.  

PDPC’s survey3 showed that 2 in 3 consumers would rather buy from a brand that is certified to protect their personal data. In addition, 4 in 5 organisations would also work with partners that properly manage personal data. 

The DPTM certification scheme enables customers to easily identify organisations with transparent and accountable data protection policies and practices in place through a DPTM logo, unveiled this morning. This gives business partners and consumers the assurance that the organisation they transact with has responsible data protection policies and practices and will be accountable for the protection of personal data entrusted to it. 

40 organisations from diverse sectors registered for the DPTM pilot. The pilot has concluded. 6 pilot organisations have been certified, with the rest expected to be certified by the end of Q1 2019. Certified organisations will be listed on IMDA’s website. The DPTM certification is now open for application by all organisations.   To encourage SMEs to strengthen their data protection accountability and build consumer trust, IMDA is waiving DPTM’s application fee for SMEs till 31 December 2019. Enterprise Singapore (ESG) can support Singapore companies and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) can also support its members in adopting DPTM by helping defray costs for certification and consulting services.