Singapore can add to global recovery from Covid-19 with investment in innovation, collaboration: DPM Heng

SINGAPORE – Continued investment and global collaboration are ways in which Singapore can contribute to global recovery amid the coronavirus pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Dec 7).

As new opportunities are created through technology and innovation, Singapore is also taking steps to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth for its firms and workers, he said.

In his opening address at the Singapore Fintech Festival and the Singapore Week of Innovation and Technology 2020 (SFF x Switch 2020), Mr Heng highlighted how the Covid-19 crisis has spotlighted inequalities in many societies and the need for the world to take a more inclusive approach in global recovery plans.

The five-day event, which lasts till Friday, is expecting more than 60,000 participants from across 130 countries.

Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Finance Minister, noted that the Government invests about 1 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product in research and development each year.

Singapore continues to deepen its capabilities to keep its tech ecosystem vibrant, he said. “Our commitment to innovation and to work together will be key to driving economic recovery and growth.”

The Asian Institute of Digital Finance, which is hosted by the National University of Singapore and backed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the National Research Foundation, will be launched on Monday.

One of its first projects is to build a data-sharing platform that can train models to improve credit assessments, Mr Heng said, which will pave the way for improved financing of small businesses to enable a stronger post-pandemic recovery.

The institute will also help to nurture global fintech talent for Asia and take in its first batch of post-graduate students in 2021.

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking in a pre-recorded speech at SFF x Switch 2020 on Dec 7, 2020.  ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Singapore is also launching its first major blockchain research and translation programme, the Singapore Blockchain Innovation programme, he said.

“The programme will expand blockchain research to the needs of the industry, and will also look into scalability and inter-operability of blockchain solutions.”

Inclusive and Sustainable Recovery

Mr Heng outlined the need to ensure that growth and recovery is done in an inclusive and sustainable manner, with opportunities from technology and innovation benefiting the broad majority of people.

“To avoid widening inequality, we must recover from this crisis in a manner that is inclusive. We must speed up the time that it takes for the last company and worker to access and benefit from technology,” he said.

He pointed out how Singapore is levelling up the capabilities of its small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by helping them adopt digital solutions and scale beyond Singapore’s shores.

The Business sans Borders initiative, which is going live this week, connects businesses to other platforms around the world, as well as logistics and financial services providers, and will help SMEs identify prices and sales opportunities in a global marketplace, Mr Heng said.

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He cited how home-grown furniture maker Source-Sage has used the platform to connect to other digital marketplaces, discovering more buyers and recently acquiring a new buyer on the India business-to-business platform.

Like other countries around the world, Singapore is fully committed to do its part for climate change through innovation, Mr Heng said, noting how Singapore is deploying at least 2 gigawatts of solar power by 2030 and will also accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles as well as explore smart charging technologies.

“We believe that putting sustainability at the core of what we do can create economic growth opportunities,” he added.

In his address, Mr Heng emphasised that the foundation for a more inclusive and sustainable post Covid-19 future lies in the creation of a more resilient global commons.

“One key element of a resilient global commons is stronger governance on the use of technology. Fair and ethical rules that are generally accepted will allow more people to trust and use technology,” he said.

He noted how Singapore’s Model AI Governance Framework, which was released in 2019 and provides guidelines on addressing ethical and governance issues when deploying artificial intelligence solutions, has had its best practice adopted by companies such as Google, Microsoft and DBS Bank.

On Monday, Mr Heng also unveiled the Singapore Financial Data Exchange, which will allow Singaporeans to view their consolidated financial information through financial institutions’ financial planning services or the Singapore government’s MyMoneySense app.

“Such an approach to trusted data sharing – involving both innovation and conducive regulations – can potentially be applied in other areas and in other jurisdictions,” he said.

SFF x Switch is organised by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Enterprise Singapore, and will have events taking place around the clock such as technology exhibitions and masterclasses by fintech and deep tech experts.

Among the 1,400 speakers expected are New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet Sundar Pichai and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

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