With the theme “Moving forward in a new era”, the Singapore Budget 2023 saw the announcement of initiatives aimed at growing the economy, upskilling and reskilling the workforce, strengthening the social compact, and building a more resilient nation.
This year's tech-related initiatives are targeted at driving innovation across industries – instead of digitising and optimising operations, which was the focus of the previous year’s budget announcement.
Tech leaders in the country welcome the move, believing that the Enterprise Innovation Scheme, Singapore Global Enterprises initiative, and Jobs-Skills Integrators programme will collectively enable innovation-led economic growth in the challenging times ahead. Here are their views.
Wong Wai Meng, chair of SGTech
SGTech welcomes the new enterprise innovation initiatives that will help boost the productivity of our enterprises. These generous programmes 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 artificial intelligence, digitalisation and trust-related technologies. We look forward to working with the relevant agencies to learn more about these programmes and provide industry input on the key tech growth trends Singapore could redouble efforts on.
See also: Budget 2023: More support for innovation and training activities for SMEs
Antoine Gross, general manager for Southeast Asia & India at Impact.com
Agreeing with the Singapore Budget 2023 statement, upgrading business operations is undeniably becoming increasingly important in today's digital age. Hence, we always see the value of investing in innovation and helping our customers improve their businesses, especially amid economic changes. By embracing innovation, businesses can mitigate the effects of inflation by enhancing user experiences through a personalised approach made possible by better targeting – which can then allow them to optimise their bottom line.
Andy Ng, vice-president and managing director for Asia South and Pacific region at Veritas Technologies
See also: Budget 2023 offers near-term help but maintains fiscal discipline and active wealth distribution
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 of choosing between resiliency and innovation.
Technological innovation is certainly key to furthering Singapore’s digital-first agenda – propelling the nation-state in the right direction to explore new frontiers and maintain its competitive edge.
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.
Cloud provides businesses with the ability to scale their operations and replicate business applications quickly. By leveraging emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, businesses can effectively manage and classify massive data volumes, reduce the time on performing manual tasks and instead, enable the employees to reallocate more resources to focus on strategic activities such as digital transformation and innovation.
Annette Lee, head of Global Enterprise at Verizon Business Group
Experimentation in Singapore's innovation ecosystem can facilitate technology transformation and help build a "Digital IQ" among organisations. Investment in people, in addition to technology, is crucial to achieving success in this digital revolution. As a result, both public and private sectors should focus on building capacity for fast and on-demand scaling. Singapore's thriving digital ecosystem – supported by strong privacy protections and open data flows – can generate a virtuous cycle of growth for the economy.
Pannie Sia, general manager for ASEAN at Workday
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Given the current economic environment, organisations may decide to delay investments in innovation. It is encouraging that Budget 2023 is providing strong support for businesses to push on with transformation and innovation in these challenging times through initiatives such as the new Enterprise Innovation Scheme.
Technology continues to be a key enabler for growth, and businesses must put in place a strong digital framework that can bring about greater business agility in a fast-evolving world. Enterprises that still rely on disparate systems and manual processes will risk being left behind. It is critical that organisations tap into solutions that can drive insight and enable quick, strategic decisions.
We are confident that with the government's support and focus on the right priorities, businesses will be able to overcome the challenges they face and be primed to help stimulate future economic growth and success.
Kelvin Teo, co-founder & group CEO of Funding Societies | Modalku
In our continuous support in serving creditworthy yet underserved small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore, we are seeing SMEs facing challenging times in getting the financing they need from financial institutions (FIs) across the board this year.
As a participating financial institution of the Enterprise Financing Scheme (via our entity FS Capital), it is reassuring to continue to get the government’s support where we work earnestly to complement traditional FIs like banks in meeting the working capital and trade financing needs of Singapore SMEs. Our vision is to empower SMEs, and we continue to broaden our product scope for SMEs and increase engagement with these businesses by serving more to their financial needs.
Whilst the future of the global economy is still uncertain, we are of the view that this year will also present tremendous growth opportunities for niche fintech companies like Funding Societies, especially so in Southeast Asia, to collaborate and complement FIs in 2023.
ON CLOSING THE SKILLS GAP
Ivan Chang, co-chair for SGTech Talent & Capabilities Committee
The Job Skills Integrators initiative is welcomed as it helps build a skilled and adaptable Singapore workforce in the three pilot industries. Increasingly, job creation is impacted by the emergence of new occupational profiles tailored to new technologies and to respond to the demand for new technology-based products and services.
As such, the Job Skills Integrators initiative will also help boost ICT jobs in the tech sector and elsewhere. We believe the initiative should be expanded to other industries, and SGTech is ready to work closely with relevant stakeholders to enhance this initiative's robustness.
Andy Lee, managing director for Cisco Singapore and Brunei
Real transformation only happens when we bring people along with us. As Singapore moves to a digital future, there needs to be a concerted effort in building a future-ready workforce.
As announced in the Budget, the institutions appointed as Job Skills Integrators will play a critical role in engaging enterprises to understand and meet their manpower and skills gaps. We believe this will help businesses nurture the next generation of talent and power the country’s next phase of growth.
We look forward to seeing more training and career development initiatives specific to digital skills in the form of public-private partnerships as we continue to gear up our workforce. That is the reason why we launched the Cisco-NUS Accelerated Digital Economy Corporate Laboratory to enable researchers, analysts, engineers, and students to work on research projects most pertinent to boosting Singapore’s digital economy. It is also why we continue to partner with government and education institutions, like the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), to equip students with cybersecurity, programming, and networking skills through Cisco Networking Academy. We hope to build on this momentum with our goal to train 6.7 million people in Asia-Pacific over the next 10 years through this programme.
Ben King, managing director for Google Singapore
Everyone deserves to have a place in the digital economy to make use of the growth opportunities it offers. We are encouraged to hear the measures announced during the Singapore Budget 2023 to equip businesses and individuals with upskilling programmes and tools to stay productive and competitive amid the volatility in today's landscape.
Alongside government initiatives, private-public partnerships can continue to play a role in this space. We have continued to provide support on this front — by bridging skills gaps in the growing digital economy through initiatives like Digital Practitioner Programme to train businesses in digital marketing and our Skills Ignition SG employer consortium to connect employers with qualified local talents — and will continue to do so. We look forward to playing a part in driving the nation's digital transformation and empowering Singaporeans today and tomorrow.
Cecily Ng, senior vice president and general manager for Salesforce Singapore & Taiwan
The updates to the Forward Singapore exercise in this year’s budget support and reaffirm our efforts to democratise opportunities for education and employment for tech roles. Closing the skills gap must be a collective effort between the government, the people, educational institutions and the private sector.
The government’s commitment to bringing together industry partners and training providers via the Job-Skills Integrators programme is a necessary step to ensure that training leads to favourable employment outcomes. These joint efforts across the ecosystem are needed to capture the potential of Singapore’s emerging and diverse talent pool, drive resilience and growth, and enhance business competitiveness.
We must collectively work towards lowering the barriers to entry to tech roles and leveraging untapped talent in the workforce. Salesforce is committed to addressing the training and re-skilling imperative in Singapore through multiple pathways, including our online learning platform Trailhead and by forging partnerships with the public sector and educational institutes like ITE and Nanyang Technological University.
Apart from democratising skills training, leaders in the private and public sectors must also ensure that a digital-first mindset and culture of continuous learning is part of their organisation’s DNA in order to help close the digital skills gap more efficiently.
Srijay Ghosh, founding member and chief revenue officer of Temus
I am optimistic that the new Enterprise Innovation Scheme and expanded National Productivity Fund announced at Budget 2023 will see more Singapore companies overcoming the inertia of embarking on pervasive innovation to digitally transform their operating models, unlock greater value for their customers, and become homegrown trailblazers as we'd seen with the likes of Creative Technology and others.
But any successful digital transformation starts with the transformation of people, equipped with the right digital skills, learning agility and motivation. This is why in tandem with transforming themselves, they should also upskill their workers and prepare them for new digital careers across industries that are befitting of their upgraded aptitudes and resilience.
Through talent conversion programmes like Step IT Up, Temus looks forward to partnering with more companies to grow their digital workforce with homegrown talent who did not have prior training in software and digital app development, in line with the government’s push to raise the quality of human capital for Singapore. Together, we can lift our overall productivity, workforce quality, and enterprise competitiveness, as Singapore moves forward in this new digital era.