THE one dozen centres that provide advice and assistance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will launch fresh efforts to promote digitalisation among such smaller businesses this year, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the SME Centre Conference 2017 at Singapore Expo, she listed the ways in which digitisation can benefit smaller businesses.
First, it enables them to grow by enhancing productivity and innovation, and transforming their business model; secondly, it allows them to globalise.
Ms Sim, who is also Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, noted that the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) and the economic initiatives of Budget 2017 have both thrown the spotlight on SMEs, in a push to ensure that they keep up with the changing economy.
“In a world where change is the only constant, our companies have to be nimble in order to capture emerging opportunities.”
She reiterated the government’s pledge to support SMEs in their digitalisation journey.
The 12 SME Centres across the island, which offer free one-on-one consultation sessions, will remain the first touchpoints for SMEs, she said.
The SME Digital Tech Hub opening in the third quarter of 2017 will provide specialised assistance to SMEs with more advanced requirements in areas such as cybersecurity and data analytics.
Advisers there will help SMEs identify appropriate solutions and guide them on changing their business processes to take full advantage of technology, said Ms Sim.
She also announced that government agency Spring Singapore expects to unveil the Tech Depot, an expansion of the SME Tech Portal, in the second quarter of this year.
The centralised listing of ready-to-go technology packages from A*Star, and digital solutions pre-qualified by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will help SMEs improve in areas such as supply-chain management and inventory and asset tracking.
Introduced in 2013, the SME Centres have served more than 20,000 SMEs a year by providing free business advice in numerous areas, and streamlined access to government schemes.
Between 2013, their year of inception, and last year, the number of SMEs supported by the SME Centres in capability development and operations tripled from 600 to 1,700.
The number of SMEs that received advice on productivity improvement nearly doubled from about 800 SMEs in 2013 to 1,500 in 2016.
Ms Sim said even more SMEs will be encouraged to take advantage of the services of the SME Centres if those who have already done so spread the word.
“SME leaders are becoming more prepared to speak with the media, to share their stories of transformation. That’s extremely powerful,” she said.
“I encourage SMEs who have been helped by assistance schemes or by the SME Centres to spread the word and be prepared to speak up when approached. There’s nothing like hearing the personal story or journey of an SME that inspires others to do the same or look for their own solutions.”