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What tech leaders hope to see in Singapore Budget 2024 (Part 1)

The Edge Singapore
The Edge Singapore • 6 min read
What tech leaders hope to see in Singapore Budget 2024 (Part 1)
Tech leaders are expecting more support in the areas of talent development, AI and cybersecurity. Photo: Unsplash
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The recent World Economic Forum in Davos highlighted the key issues countries globally must address in 2024, which include artificial intelligence (AI), climate change and cybersecurity. In line with that, here are some measures tech leaders hope to see in the Singapore Budget 2024 to enable economic growth that is resilient, innovative, sustainable and inclusive in the country.

Wong Wai Meng, chair, SGTech

As the leading association for Singapore’s tech environment, our focus on the upcoming Singapore Budget centres on three key pillars: Sustainability, digital trust and tech talent.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) grapple with sustainability standards due to cost constraints and unclear metrics for ESG reporting. To address this, we propose a public-private task force for a national electronic directory of sustainability regulations. Additionally, we suggest a government and trade associations and chambers (TACs)-led approach to guide SMEs on the criteria for sustainability reporting leveraging technology.

Furthermore, as a global business hub with strong digital adoption, we emphasise the need to foster digital trust in organisations through proactive leadership, awareness campaigns and clear standards of digital governance. The need for digital trust is also apparent when considering how cybersecurity functions are unequipped to address the fast-moving nature of today’s cyber threat landscape as a sole defence capability.

Digital trust takes a multi-disciplinary approach to ensure a safer, trusted and frictionless digital environment, more than just cybersecurity. With the advent of AI, mitigating the risks and unintended consequences of AI to allow for confident adoption is about trust.

See also: Can Google get its mojo back?

To ensure a robust talent pipeline, we also call for enhanced capabilities of TACs to drive skills-based hiring for SMEs. Allocating resources for playbooks and industry awareness, we hope to see active government support, an emphasis on emerging technologies, and the integration of workplace learning standards into the national taxonomy.

Hassan Ahmed, country director for Singapore, Coinbase

Davos 2024 highlighted the need to rebuild trust between economies amid global uncertainties. To better navigate this rapidly changing landscape, Singapore can accelerate its economic priorities with more inclusive, equitable and transparent financial systems, and build the future of money through the digital assets ecosystem it has fostered.

See also: Digital battlegrounds: How Singapore’s FSIs can balance innovation and security

Singapore can increase sustainable job growth, be a global leader in financial innovation and build resilience in the economy. The Monetary Authority of Singapore, one of the most forward-thinking regulators, can coordinate with economic agencies to create more well-defined legislative frameworks, better regulatory clarity around digital assets, and targeted incentive programmes that can move the needle on these objectives. Regulatory certainty and openness translate into higher investment and foreign direct investment, which will continue to spur innovation across the financial and fintech industry while guaranteeing security to investors.

Stronger partnerships between regulators and digital payment token service providers, and providing more education around the utility of digital assets, will help increase the mainstream adoption of digital assets, while safeguarding consumer interests and ensuring a responsible market.

Tan Ah Tuan, head of Ensign Labs, Ensign InfoSecurity

As companies (small and large) continue to tap into the potential of a digital economy, many are increasingly worried about cybersecurity threats and digital risks. Nevertheless, companies may not spend enough on cybersecurity because the return on investment is harder to quantify than other business costs, leading to potentially serious consequences. Our first wish for the upcoming Singapore Budget is that companies can get more support to invest in cybersecurity protection.

Companies depend on cybersecurity service providers like us to stay ahead of the cyber cat-and-mouse game. It is therefore critical to invest in our people and technology. Our second wish is for increased direct R&D grants, specialised funds to nurture cybersecurity talent, and schemes to incentivise investments in strengthening local cybersecurity capabilities. Collectively, these measures will contribute to a more secure and resilient digital economy for Singaporeans.

Sam Liew, managing partner, Gov+, NCS

For this year’s Budget, we hope to see more initiatives towards building up and bringing our talents together for an empowered tech workforce.

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The digital economy of our region is expected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2030, and the government has already outlined plans to help Singapore claim a larger size of the pie with the refreshed Information & Communications Industry Transformation Map last May.

While we are steadily growing our IT talent pool across institutes of higher learning and the present workforce, we believe we can do more to connect the dots between all these groups of talent. By providing the right opportunities and support, we can empower our talents to take on regional and global roles beyond Singapore, harnessing technology to make a meaningful impact.

At the heart of technology is people. Focusing on our talents, both present and future, is key to advancing the communities we serve.

Chong Yang Chan, managing director, Asean, Qlik

While generative AI was a nascent technology in 2023, it is taking centre stage in 2024. To harness the power of the technology legitimately, we need a mechanism to clearly label and signpost data, using provenance and cryptography alongside techniques we have not invented yet to create a “DNA test for your data”.

Singapore’s new AI governance framework operates at a national level, but organisations must first safely put power in the hands of citizen developers, and this comes down to educating the workforce about the benefits and pitfalls of generative AI. If data quality and lineage were important before, they have become non-negotiable now. This is critical for the data that runs businesses as well as for training AI models. I hope to see measures supporting investments to mandate formal data literacy and responsible AI training, to empower businesses and employees in making the right decisions, and to reaffirm the nation’s AI strategy.

Lionel Yeo, CEO, Southeast Asia, ST Telemedia Global Data Centres

With the Singapore Budget 2024 on the horizon, we look forward to continued investments in AI and related digital infrastructure, which have strategic importance towards Singapore’s ambitions as an AI hub in Southeast Asia for two main reasons: To foster technological innovation, and to stimulate economic growth for Singapore.

Singapore’s commitment to robust digital infrastructure and pragmatic AI governance positions it to attract global talent and businesses. This promotes an innovative culture, driving economic growth through job creation, development of human capital, and knowledge transfer.

 To further support the ecosystem, we encourage increased investments in sustainability initiatives and alternative renewable energy sources. This both fortifies Singapore’s commitment to sustainability principles and targets, as well as contributes to the overall well-being of the ecosystem, aligning with global sustainability goals. This multifaceted approach ensures Singapore remains at the forefront of AI development in the region while being economically resilient and environmentally responsible.

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