The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has launched a report on the foundational digital infrastructure that’s necessary for an inclusive digital economy and seamless cross-border transactions around the world on April 26.

The report, which is a collaborative work with the central banks of Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, as well as Mastercard, comes as the rapid growth of digital solutions has helped enhance the economic and social well-being of millions of people around the world.

That said, digital inclusion and inter-operability across solutions remain as challenges, says MAS.

The 58-page report highlighted the importance of foundational digital infrastructures that allow different users and different digital devices to seamless interact with one another, as well as the four pillars of a digital infrastructure that underpin effective foundational digital infrastructures.

The four pillars are:

  • Digital Identity to ensure the authentication and validity of an individual’s identity;
  • Authorisation and Content to ensure transparent and secure digital transactions through the authorised use of data and mechanisms for obtaining users’ content;
  • Payments Interoperability to ensure systems for clearing and settlement of payments between users are interoperable; and
  • Data Exchange to allow users to make their data accessible to third parties for payments, financial planning, as well as other uses.

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Through the report, MAS says it hopes to help public sector agencies and players in the financial sector and technology community better understand the key value drivers of strong digital infrastructures.

It adds that foundational digital infrastructures are public goods that governments have a vital role in providing.

In his opening remarks at the launch of the report at the Singapore Expo on April 26, MAS’s managing director Ravi Menon says digitalization must be end-to-end “to create a truly efficient and inclusive digital economy”.

“Digital innovation is not just about the number of patents or the sophistication of the algorithms,” he says. “We must put people at the heart of innovation, by creating end-to-end digital solutions that will purposefully improve their lives.”

“Foundational digital infrastructures will enable interoperable solutions and seamless digital services to reach more people and businesses, at lower cost and greater convenience. They will enable more pervasive digitalisation within and across economies,” he adds.

Menon further elaborated that Singapore has already implemented these four foundational digital infrastructures through SingPass Mobile, FAST and PayNow, as well as the Singapore Financial Data Exchange (SGFinDex). These tools have enabled Singaporeans to transact digitally with both the government and private sector without the need for paper documentation.

Through FAST and PayNow, Singaporeans can transfer money to accounts from different banks in real-time and at zero cost.

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The SGFindex, the first of its kind in the world, is a pioneering data exchange platform that lets Singaporeans have an overview of their entire financial information at a glance.

At the same event, Menon revealed that the country is now “looking at how our digital infrastructures can be made interoperable and connected with the rest of the world”.

“The PromptPay-PayNow connectivity that links domestic payments between Thailand and Singapore will go live very soon,” he says. “India’s Rupay and Singapore’s NETS were connected last year to make merchant payments interoperable. But linking payment systems bilaterally is complex and expensive, due to the different technical and data standards as well as legal regimes.”

On that, he says multilateral cross-border payments has to be made in a more scalable way.

“The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Innovation Hub Centre in Singapore is exploring how payment systems could be linked together to enable faster and cheaper cross-border payments,” he says.

“MAS plans to collaborate with the BIS Innovation Hub to explore opportunities to improve cross-border payments by connecting payment systems to digital identities across borders,” he adds. “We are also engaging financial regulators and central banks globally on their digital infrastructure initiatives to explore similar synergies and opportunities to move forward as a global digital community.”