Digitalisation in Singapore


last updated on 24 August 2022 | reading time approx. 3 minutes

Interview with Dr. Paul Weingarten

Digitisation is a cross-sector and cross-society issue. How do you assess the current situation in Singapore? Which sectors already hit the road to success, and which are rather lagging behind?

Singapore has already a modern environment and further advancement in digitisation is certainly on the cards. The Singapore government is committed to digitisation on an individual and community level, and on a business and national level, as well as enhancing the digital infrastructure and eco-system.

Singapore aims to be established as a global and Asia technology hub. To this end, the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) has set up SG Digital to enhance the Singapore Government’s initiatives to accelerate digitisation for individuals and businesses across Singapore. IMDA, Enterprise Singapore and Economic Development Board also jointly run Digital Industry Singapore, which is intended to build up consumer technology and enterprise technology.

Ride-hailing, e-commerce, fintech and new media are sectors which have seen some success.

Another sector which has seen success is trade and legal documentation, with the introduction of digital authentication and signatures. IMDA has implemented TradeTrust, a digital utility that has enabled digital trade documents to be used with ease, including e-bills of lading (eBLs), achieving a seamless and efficient flow of goods between digitally connected trading partners. TradeTrust comprises a set of globally-accepted standards and frameworks that support the exchange of electronic trade documents provides proof of authenticity of documents and offers title transfer through open-source software. IMDA has conducted successful title transfer trials using eBLs in collaboration with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (“MPA”) with both local and overseas partners, such as the Port of Rotterdam Authority in The Netherlands and the Commerce Bureau of Shenzhen Municipality.

The sectors which appear to lag behind are where a service provider’s skill is essential, e.g. dentistry, car workshop, cobbler. But even in these sectors, digitisation advances have been made in various parts of the process.

Where do you see potential for German or European companies in Singapore?

In June 2022, when German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Singapore, Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob said, “We enjoy close cooperation in the economic, defence, education and R&D sectors, and are keen to explore further collaboration in the areas of cyber security, climate change and digital economy.”

Singapore is a business friendly environment where there are clear rules and guidance for companies who wish to establish their presence in Singapore and develop locally and/or in Asia.

Digitisation always raises questions about issues such as cybersecurity, data protection and the creation of new rules and standards for the digital economy. What are your experiences in Singapore? Are there already laws or regulations that specifically regulate these issues, providing safety for companies?

Our experience in Singapore is that the existing business rules are also applicable to the digital economy. In addition, new laws and regulations have been introduced to specifically address digitalisation and cyber concerns.

Existing laws include:

  • Personal Data Protection Act;
  • Anti-money laundering regulations including:
  • Notice 626 from Monetary Authority of Singapore (Prevention of Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism); and
  • Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act (CDSA).

Newer laws include:

  • Cybersecurity Act;
  • Payment Services Act; and
  • Electronic Signatures Act.

In which sectors do you see the greatest business opportunities for German and European companies to both, participate in the market and profitably offer their know-how?

A potential area of business opportunity for German and European companies in Singapore is green energy. German and European companies have advanced technology and experience in this arena. The Singapore Government has recently introduced a range of financial benefits this year to offset the cost for building owners to build ‘green buildings’ and retrofit existing buildings to become more energy efficient and adopt ‘Green Mark’ standards.

We would highlight that every sector is welcomed in Singapore.

The following sample of Incentives provided by the Singapore Government reflect the breadth of sectors which are welcomed in Singapore:

  • Pioneer Certificate Incentive and Development & Expansion Incentive – income derived from Intellectual Property arising from research and development in Singapore will enjoy tax relief;
  • Tech@SG Programme facilitates the entry into Singapore of global technology talent to help companies establish their core teams in Singapore, by providing endorsement to the Ministry of Manpower for employment pass applications;

Finance & Treasury Incentive offers a reduced tax rate of 8 percent for eligible companies in order to encourage companies to grow treasury management capabilities and use Singapore as a base for conducting finance and treasury management activities.

Global value chains, digitalisation and digital readiness – how do you assess the current situation of German companies in Singapore?

The current situation of German companies in Singapore is very good and the outlook for continued growth is very optimistic.
German companies in Singapore are reputed to be modern and future-ready. Examples are:

  • Linde which has an energy efficient and environmentally friendly gas plant in Singapore; and
  • TUMCreate which is furthering education and research to advance future technologies.

Singapore values its diplomatic and economic relationship with Germany and is ready to support more German companies entering Singapore, as well as existing German companies to grow in Singapore and into Asia.

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