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Singapore SMEs get help going digital from the get-go with new initiative

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Businesses are eligible for Start Digital if they have at least 30 per cent local shareholding and revenue of not more than $100 million or fewer than 200 employees, at group level.

NEWLY incorporated businesses in Singapore will have access to subsidised digital solutions provided by industry players, under an initiative launched by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore on Wednesday.

These small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can choose two solutions from five categories of core business functions and have costs waived for at least six months of the programme and priced affordably for the remaining period.

The five categories are accounting, human resource management system and payroll, digital marketing, digital transactions and cybersecurity.

SMEs will need to commit to a minimum period of 18 months for each digital solution, which will be offered by DBS, Maybank, OCBC, Singtel, StarHub and UOB.

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The initiative, called Start Digital, was announced by Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran. It is part of the SMEs Go Digital programme launched in April 2017 that aims to make digitalisation simple for SMEs.

“The feedback from our engagements with SME business owners affirms that many wished they had implemented basic digital solutions in the nascent stages of their businesses,” said Mr Iswaran.

“And this is quite understandable because it is very hard make the switch to digital solutions once companies get entrenched in manual systems and traditional processes.”

Two other nationwide initiatives to accelerate businesses’ digital transformation were also announced by Mr Iswaran on Wednesday. More than S$30 million has been set aside for Start Digital and these two initiatives.

The first is an e-invoicing network that will allow companies to speed up their transactions and improve timeliness in payments.

The network is part of the Nationwide E-invoicing Framework that was announced by the IMDA in May 2018. It adopts the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line (PEPPOL) standard for the exchange of standardised machine-readable documents.

“Our businesses will be even more plugged into the international marketplace through PEPPOL. They can more easily conduct transactions with overseas businesses who are also on this same tried-and-tested network,” said Mr Iswaran.

The second is a certification scheme that identifies organisations with transparent and accountable data protection policies and practices.

The certification, called Data Protection Trustmark (DPTM), is meant to strengthen business partner and consumer trust and loyalty.

The IMDA is waiving DPTM’s application fee for SMEs till Dec 31, 2019, while Enterprise Singapore is providing funding support for SMEs to get certified.

A total of 40 organisations that took part in a DPTM pilot is expected to be certified by the end of first quarter 2019.