Rather than cutting back, the country is investing more — boosting sustainability, upskilling and digitalization funding that benefit APAC as a whole.
Amid major uncertainties and downside risks in the global economy, the government of one highly digitalized country in the Asia Pacific region has made some tough decisions to keep the spirit of innovation and digital transformation despite slower growth and higher costs.
In the FY23 Budget announced on 14 Feb, the government of Singapore highlighted the need to nurture and sustain pervasive innovation across the economy and the resources.
Given that the country has the financial resources and track record of leading the region in terms of forward-looking and agile pro-technology policies, DigiconAsia.net compiled some reactions from senior IT professionals to gauge the FY23 Budget’s level of practicality. We hope the viewpoints can serve as examples of technology thought leadership that others in the region can reference in their battle plans for an extraordinary year ahead.
Reactions from the technology circles
Resilience in challenging times does not have to be a zero sum with survivability, according to Remus Lim, Vice President, APAC, Cloudera, asserting businesses can have the best of both worlds: pursuing innovation as they stay resilient, if they have the right data-centric approach.
“In the face of economic uncertainty, it’s heartening to see the concerted efforts from the Singapore government to support citizens and businesses through such challenging times. As businesses review their strategies to operate under a more prudent climate, the extension of the various support schemes is a much-welcomed respite to ensure that they do not have to choose between resilience and innovation. Resilience entails being “anti-fragile” — being able to resist shocks and still be able to improve, evolve, become stronger, and recover quickly.”
Lim noted that while the natural business inclination is to scrutinize finances and tighten corporate spending, the way forward is to reduce innovation budgets, instead of eliminating them. This will be instrumental in enabling businesses to continue to take advantage of new opportunities. As such, with the right tools in place, “distilling actionable insights from data is easily achievable for organizations of all sizes across industries, especially as they can take advantage of self-serve functionalities that do not require specialized ops or cloud expertise.”
By pairing a strong data strategy with an agile data practice, anti-fragile business will be able to take full advantage of the Budget opportunities to emerge stronger when the global challenges recede.
Next, Ivan Chang, Co-Chair, Talent & Capabilities Committee, SGTech (a trade association) commented: “The Job Skills Integrators initiative is welcome as it helps build a skilled and adaptable workforce in the key pilot industries. Increasingly, job creation has been impacted by the emergence of new occupational profiles tailored to new technologies, in response to the demand for new technology-based products and services. As such, the Job Skills Integrators initiative will help boost information and communications technology jobs in the tech sector and elsewhere.”
SGTech’s Chair, Wong Wai Meng, noted that his association welcomes the new Enterprise Innovation Scheme, SME Co-Investment Fund and Singapore Global Enterprises Initiative that can help boost productivity. “These generous programs signal that our enterprises must stay ahead of the curve and find creative and innovative ways to grow. In this regard, tech can be a major enabler in areas such as AI, digitalization and trust-related technologies.”
Closing the skills gap must be a collective effort between the government, the people, educational institutions and the private sector, said Cecily Ng, Senior Vice President and General Manager (Singapore & Taiwan), Salesforce. “The Singapore government’s commitment to bringing together industry partners and training providers via the job-skills integrators program is a necessary step to ensure that training leads to favorable employment outcomes. These joint efforts across the ecosystem are needed to capture the potential of the country’s emerging and diverse talent pool, drive resilience and growth, and enhance business competitiveness.”
Ng said that peoples (in the region) must work towards lowering the barriers to entry to tech roles, and leveraging untapped talent. By continuing to forge partnerships with the public sector and educational institutes, enterprises operating in the country can democratize education and skills training, ensuring that everyone has equal opportunity to benefit from the digital economy.
“At the same time, leaders, both, in the private and public sector, must ensure that a digital-first mindset and culture of continuous learning is part of their organization’s DNA in order to help close the digital skills gap more efficiently.”
It is clear, by any metric or measure, that the world has changed forever, asserted Andy Lee, Managing Director, Cisco (Singapore and Brunei). “Singapore’s attractiveness as a testbed and springboard for innovation comes with its ability to grow leading local firms and hone their competitive advantage to pull their weight in the international arena. We are glad that the new measures announced in the Budget such as the National Productivity Fund and the Enterprise Innovation Scheme will enable businesses to progress in their innovative and digital capabilities to leverage emerging technologies such as AI and ML. This will open new channels for growth and help the country build resilience in the digital age, particularly as new cyber threats emerge, and the threat landscape evolves.
Referring to initiatives in the Budget to close the manpower and skills gap, Lee said the Job Skills Integrators scheme will play a critical role in engaging enterprises to understand and meet manpower and job skills challenges, alongside more public-private partnerships to gear up the workforce.
As Singapore advances toward its vision of being a Smart Nation, Lee said, there is a critical need to strengthen cyber resilience for all businesses and organizations amid the rise of hybrid work norms. “We hope that with increased support from the government on innovation activities, more investment can go into cybersecurity innovations, such as the use of data analytics and automation in helping organizations anticipate, detect, and respond to threats to stay cyber resilient.
Finally, Lee referred to the recent appointment of the country’s first national Chief Sustainability Officer in line with Green Plan 2030. “Public-private collaborations in the sustainability space are essential in catalyzing sustainable development — and the tech industry plays a critical role. The whole tech ecosystem must work together to decarbonize operations, adapt business models with the principle of circularity, and invest in supply chain sustainability to help both private and public organizations meet sustainability goals.
Another reaction to climate change initiatives in the Budget came from the PropertyGuru group. “As we work together to achieve 2030 Green Plan targets, we understand that change also comes from within. Internally, we have set in motion a Greenhouse Gas Emission Audit and Reduction Plan to further reduce our greenhouse gas footprint, the company-wide use of e-waste and recycling bins; green travel policies, and recognition accorded to green developers,” said the firm’s CEO Hari V. Krishnan.
“We believe that the increase in carbon tax rate, greening our buildings and vehicles, as well as growing national climate-related resources, will help the government put eco-consciousness top-of-mind in people’s daily lives.”
In view of the rising inflation and looming economic slowdown, most business leaders would default to cost-cutting measures for their immediate- to mid-term survival. However, in such challenging times, they should not be forced into a dilemma to choose between resiliency and innovation, opined Andy Ng, Vice-President and Managing Director (Asia South and Pacific region), Veritas Technologies.
“There is no denying that technology — whether it is a boon as perceived by many; or bane according to sceptics — will impact the workforce of today. Hence, it is imperative that businesses work towards building a resilient and future-ready workforce. With accelerated digital transformation and the exponential increase in the amount of data generated and stored in their cloud environments, cloud-based data management becomes crucial. By leveraging emerging technologies such as AI and ML, businesses can effectively manage and classify massive data volumes, reduce the time on performing manual tasks and instead, enable the employees to re-allocate more resources to focus on strategic activities, such as digital transformation and innovation.”