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Singapore SMEs slow on digital adoption and cyber protection: survey

SINGAPORE's small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are slow to take up cyber protection measures, digital payment offerings and government support for digitalisation despite high rates of awareness, according to a survey by QBE Insurance.

Although 90 per cent of respondents admitted to being aware of potential cyber risks, one in four still do not have any internal processes or policies to protect themselves, a figure that hits one-third for smaller-sized SMEs.

When it came to business protection, only 20 per cent of respondents were found to have insurance protection against cyber hacks.

For 40 per cent of SMEs, the high cost of investment was cited as the main reason for not digitalising or making more use of digital technologies and processes. Other reasons include a lack of digital skills within the business and lack of financing and funds.

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The survey also highlighted a “disconnect” between awareness and uptake of government support for digitalisation. Despite 65 per cent of SMEs being aware of the government support initiatives to help digitalise, only 30 per cent went on to utilise these initiatives.

On the digital payments front, around a quarter of SMEs surveyed still prefer payment methods such as cheques and cash. Digital payment services such as PayNow Corporate only saw adoption by 26 per cent of SMEs, despite 71 per cent being aware of the service. Around 10 per cent of all SMEs were unwilling to use to use the service, while 29 per cent were “sitting on the fence”. This is due to concerns of security and vulnerabilities to fraud and hacking, according to 32 per cent of holdouts to the service.

In general, local SMEs’ outlook for 2019 was “generally optimistic”, with 38 per cent expecting to expand their businesses, half of this group intending to look abroad. SMEs were also found to be upbeat about their businesses and overall economy, with 44 per cent believing business will improve in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, 39 per cent of respondents are of the view that Singapore’s economy will improve in the same period. Out of these businesses, 40 per cent are currently domestic-only.

QBE's survey polled 491 SMEs across various industries in Singapore.

Earlier in January, a poll of about 3,600 businesses by the Singapore Business Federation and DP Information Group reported that SME business outlook for the first six months of 2019 was slightly less optimistic in the fourth quarter 2018 compared to the previous quarter.