9 January 2019

Three new initiatives to help Singapore companies digitalise

New initiatives have been introduced in Singapore to help enterprises - particularly the small and medium-sized enterprises which are the backbone of the economy - digitalise further. The three initiatives were announced by Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information, S Iswaran at an industry networking session this morning.

Minister S Iswaran delivering the opening address.
Minister Iswaran delivering the opening address.

The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and Enterprise Singapore have launched Start Digital, an initiative of the SMEs Go Digital programme. Start Digital will enable new SMEs to get a headstart with two foundational digital solutions for free. Costs are waived for a minimum of six months.

IMDA also launched a B2B e-invoicing network which will enable companies, including SMEs, to adopt e-invoicing to increase productivity and enjoy faster payment collection cycles. Electronic invoicing or e-invoicing is the automated creation, exchange and processing of payment requests between suppliers and buyers using a structured digital format.

The third initiative, the Data Protection Trustmark (DPTM), launched by IMDA and the Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC), will help organisations, including SMEs, build consumer confidence in their data protection policies and practices, thus enhancing business competitiveness. Start Digital

New SMEs can select any two free foundational digital solutions from five categories of core business functions. The software is pre-approved by IMDA, and provided by industry partners:

- Accounting,

- Human resource management system & payroll,

- Digital marketing,

- Digital transactions and

- Cybersecurity.

Peter Ong, Chairman of Enterprise Singapore said, “The Start Digital initiative arms SMEs with digital tools right at 'birth' - at the point when they are just starting to shape their organisational DNA, develop operational processes, undertake staff training and make other business decisions. Starting digital will help them start right and position well for growth, resilience and productivity. As many young SMEs take this first digital step, the impact on our enterprise landscape and economy can be great.”

Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive of IMDA, said, “A digital-first mindset is essential for businesses that want to stay relevant and competitive in the digital economy. I am heartened to see the industry coming together to offer innovative digital solutions to help our businesses on their digital transformation journey.”

There are six Start Digital partners: DBS, Maybank, OCBC, Singtel, StarHub and UOB.

“We are pleased to support the Start Digital initiative by providing the full range of solutions to help SMEs accelerate their digital journeys. With the right tools and strategy, SMEs can take proactive steps to scale up and importantly, stay safe online since cybersecurity is a critical issue for any company regardless of size. We look forward to partnering SMEs as they step up their digitalisation efforts,” said Andrew Lim, MD, Business Group at Singtel.

Said Samuel Tsien, Group CEO of OCBC Bank: “The digital journey for SMEs is not only critical to their success, but also a more complex one than for consumers. When we polled our SME customers in January 2018, 65% said they needed to go digital to stay relevant – and 50% had already begun the journey.

"This is why the Start Digital programme for SMEs is both timely and vitally important.  From digitalising HR functions to accounting, from marketing to supply chain management, OCBC – as a leader in the SME segment – has been working closely with SMEs to ensure that their digital transformation is seamless, convenient and sustainable. We are pleased that the Singapore government is giving its support in making ‘going digital for SMEs’ even simpler.”

"SMEs can significantly improve efficiency and outreach by digitising their operations. Whether it is their internal processes, banking or marketing, all can and should be transformed. Unlike large companies, individual SMEs often lack the resources to do this on their own. It takes a village to help them change and as the World’s Best Digital Bank and the World’s Best Bank for SMEs, DBS is pleased to be part of this journey," said Piyush Gupta, CEO of DBS Bank.

Start Digital details:

Participating SMEs will need to commit to using the software for a minimum of 18 months, with costs waived for the first six months and priced at rates set by the Start Digital software provider for the remaining period. All software under the scheme is priced at under S$50 per month per software.

SMEs can continue to obtain support from other SMEs Go Digital initiatives as they grow and require more advanced digital solutions. They can also refer to the Industry Digital Plans (IDP) to assess their digital readiness and take up suitable pre-approved solutions.

Network under Nationwide E-invoicing Network

To further raise productivity and efficiency of our business ecosystem, including SMEs, a nationwide network has been launched to enable companies to send and receive e-invoices based on the well-established Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line (PEPPOL) standard. This allows companies to better track their invoices, reduce operating costs and improve payment collection cycles. In addition, Singapore companies will now be able to start exchanging e-invoices via the network with other similarly-connected parties.

The new network is part of the Nationwide E-invoicing Framework that was announced by IMDA in May 2018. As Singapore’s PEPPOL Authority, IMDA sets any relevant domestic rules and specifications, and has also appointed IMDA subsidiary Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC) to operate the Service Metadata Publisher (SMP), a directory service required for PEPPOL to work. The SMP lists all the companies registered on the Singapore PEPPOL network and allows Access Points (APs) to look up companies before sending them e-invoices. The SMP service will be offered as a free service by SGNIC.

As Singapore’s PEPPOL Authority, IMDA is also responsible for the certification of local AP providers. Companies or e-invoice service providers will need to connect to the PEPPOL network through certified APs. IMDA has already certified an initial batch of 11 AP providers. These APs include both local and overseas service providers which offer a wide range of services to meet various business requirements.

There are an additional 10 APs who have started the process of becoming an AP and more are expected over time.

André Hoddevik, OpenPEPPOL Secretary General noted, “We are happy to see the central role Singapore has given the PEPPOL approach in their national strategy for e-invoicing.

“With IMDA as the first PEPPOL Authority outside of Europe, the official launch of the PEPPOL eDelivery Network in Singapore is a big milestone for OpenPEPPOL.

"We appreciate that Singapore now serves as an example for other countries outside of Europe that are considering strategies to support domestic and cross-border e-invoicing.”

“In today’s international context where each country has its own legislation and e-invoicing rules are becoming increasingly complex, Esker strongly supports the global movement to standardise exchanges.

“Throughout the years, PEPPOL has been one of the best examples of standardisation and Esker supports Singapore’s move to facilitate its national e-invoicing. As an official certified PEPPOL Access Point, Esker is ready to help companies in Singapore implement e-invoicing and streamline their processes,” said Jean-Michel Bérard, CEO & Founder, Esker, which is headquartered in France.

"The adoption of a standards based e-invoicing network will lead to greater efficiencies and gain access to International opportunities for Singapore businesses. This is yet another step on the road to transform Singapore into a digital economy,” said Dr Chong Yoke Sin, Chief of Enterprise Business Group, StarHub.

E-invoicing network details:

Companies are able to sign up with the first 11 APs from today. APs provide the gateway access to the network and can offer services such as sending and receiving PEPPOL-format e-invoices or translating other formats of invoices (such as PDF) into the PEPPOL format. More APs are undergoing certification.

Source: IMDA. The DPTM logo.
Source: IMDA/Enterprise Singapore. The DPTM logo.

To encourage more companies to adopt e-invoicing, grant support will be provided to build the network, educate and bring on board companies.

On the government front, IMDA is working with several key government agencies, such as Accountant General’s Department (AGD), to drive the adoption of e-invoicing. AGD is joining the nationwide e-invoicing framework to provide government vendors with greater options when transacting with the government, in addition to the current Vendors@Gov system. AGD will be sourcing for a service provider in the coming months. The Singapore government is committed to coming onboard the nationwide e-invoicing network and more details will be provided later in the year.

Data Protection Trustmark

Corporate data usage enables the development of more personalised services such as shopping recommendation engines in a Services 4.0 landscape, where service delivery is automated for repetitive and mundane tasks. As customers’ digital interactions and transactions increase, the additional personal data collected can be used to improve customers’ digital experience.

A PDPC survey* showed that two in three consumers would rather buy from a brand that is certified to protect their personal data. In addition, four in five organisations would prefer to work with partners that properly manage personal data.

Such attitudes have been the impetus for the DPTM certification framework and controls, which have been adapted and aligned with Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), and incorporate elements of international benchmarks and best practices. These data protection laws of Australia, Hong Kong, the European Union, as well as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Privacy Guidelines, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Privacy Framework, APEC Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) and Privacy Recognition for Processors (PRP) systems were all studied as part of the development process.

The DPTM will be a visible indicator that an organisation adopts transparent and accountable data protection practices, as assessed by independent third parties. DPTM-certified organisations not only have to demonstrate good practices but also an effective system to monitor and detect incidents, along with ready plans to manage and recover from incidents.

DPTM-certified organisations can incorporate the logo as part of their corporate branding, which will act as a differentiator for them. This in turn gives business partners and consumers the assurance that the organisation they transact with has responsible data protection policies and practices and will be accountable for the protection of personal data entrusted to it.

Forty organisations from diverse sectors registered for the DPTM pilot. Post-pilot, six pilot organisations have been certified, with the rest expected to be certified by the end of Q119. Certified organisations, which as of today include Carpe Diem @ ITE, DBS Bank, Mamoru Singapore, which provides destruction services; mobile health company MaNaDr, TRS Forensics and TTSH Community Fund, will be listed on IMDA’s website.

“Being the first bank to be certified with the Data Protection Trustmark is an honour, and more importantly reflects our commitment to upholding customer trust. As companies progress in their respective journeys to deliver better products and services by using data, it is equally important to show – including by external assessment – that customer data is protected and used responsibly,” said Lam Chee Kin, Head of Group Legal, Compliance and Secretariat, DBS Bank.

“Trust is one of MaNaDr's core values. Our doctors and patients entrust us with their personal data and medical records. We go for the certification for the Data Protection Trustmark because we want to be accountable to our doctors and patients, and we cherish their trust," said Dr Siaw Tung Yeng, CEO & Founder, MaNaDr.

Organisations such as GOGOVAN Singapore, M1 and UOB have recognised the value of DPTM and have indicated their interest to participate in the certification scheme.

“As a leading communications provider in the industry with over 2 million customers in Singapore, customers’ privacy is of utmost importance to us. We adopt strict practices to protect our customers’ personal information and adhere to a high standard of personal data protection. M1's Data Protection Policy describes how M1 adheres to the principles and requirements of the Personal Data Protection Act 2012.

"Through the Data Protection Trustmark certification, we aim to demonstrate our commitment and assure our customers of our rigorous and accountable data protection practices, to boost customers’ confidence on how data are collected, used and disclosed at M1,” said Stamford Low, Director, Customer Service, M1.

DPTM details:

The DPTM certification is now open for application by all organisations. To encourage SMEs to strengthen their data protection accountability and build consumer trust, IMDA is waiving DPTM’s application fee of S$500 for SMEs till 31 December 2019. Those applying for the DPTM will also have to pay an assessment fee to an assessment body ranging between S$1,400 and S$10,000.

Enterprise Singapore can support Singapore companies while the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) can also support its members in adopting DPTM by helping defray costs for certification and consulting services.
*Between February to March 2018, PDPC surveyed 1,500 individuals (aged 15 and above) and 1,543 organisations across various sectors.