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Singapore government forms digital industry office

New office will help local tech firms grow their regional footprint and build new capabilities in order to thrive in APAC’s booming digital economy

The Singapore government has created a new office to help local technology companies tap growth opportunities in Asia-Pacific’s thriving digital economy.

Called Digital Industry Singapore (DISG), the office brings together capabilities that previously resided in the Economic Development Board and the Infocomm Media Development Authority, in areas such as market access, talent development and policy-making.

Speaking at the inaugural Smart Nation Summit in Singapore today, S Iswaran, Singapore’s minister for communications and information, said DISG will work with technology companies to secure talent, build capabilities and expand overseas.

Even before DISG was formally announced, the 45-employee set-up had supported Grab, a Southeast Asian ride-hailing and technology unicorn, in building a new headquarters and R&D centre in Singapore.

“DISG also facilitated the collaboration between Grab, youth media company Vice and the Infocomm Media Development Authority to discover and nurture local digital content creators,” said Iswaran. “This provides content creators with avenues to reach a regional audience.”

The Singapore government has been working with its peers across Asia-Pacific to pave the way for local technology firms to expand their regional footprint, among efforts to grow the region’s digital economy.

For example, at the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT) Asia-Pacific ICT Ministerial Meeting 2019, of which Singapore is one of more than 30 participating countries, member states endorsed the Singapore Statement on “co-creating a connected digital future in Asia-Pacific”.

The statement details various points of agreement among participating governments in areas such as promoting innovation, connectivity and digitisation, as well as data protection and cyber security, which is necessary for building digital trust.

APT secretary-general Areewan Haorangsi said that although member states are at different stages of implementing data protection and cyber security regimes, there is common ground for countries to work more closely together.

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Iswaran noted, however, that this does not mean all member countries have to adopt a common data protection framework. “You may have different approaches, but there is sufficient commonality that allows the movement of data,” he said.

Established in 1979, the APT is the only treaty-based intergovernmental organisation in Asia-Pacific that promotes regional cooperation in telecoms and ICT. Following the conclusion of the Singapore Statement, a strategic plan will be drawn up for implementation across member states.

“I believe this Singapore Statement will facilitate the promotion of widespread digital adoption in the region by providing fair and equitable access to ICT services for all citizens and our communities,” said Haorangsi.

According to a Microsoft study conducted by IDC, the digital economy in APAC is expected to be worth $1.16tn by 2021, accounting for 60% of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) – up from about 6% in 2017.

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