Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Tech Budgets 2021: A CXO's Guide

Singapore government ups ICT spending by 30% to fuel post-pandemic recovery, digital transformation

Country's public sector will spend SG$3.5 billion ($2.52 billion) on ICT procurement in its fiscal 2020, up 30% from its estimated spend in 2019, as it looks to drive the adoption of digital tools and help businesses recover from the pandemic.

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The Singapore government plans to increase its ICT spend by 30% in its fiscal 2020 to SG$3.5 billion ($2.52 billion), as it looks to fuel the adoption of digital technologies and help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Small and midsize businesses (SMBs), in particular, will be able to participate in 80% of such procurement opportunities.

Special Feature

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GovTech Singapore, which oversees the public sector's ICT deployment, said it would focus its 2020 budget on five areas including the development of new digital tools to respond to COVID-19 as well as digital services that support citizens and businesses. The government's ICT expenditure also would facilitate the development of systems running on cloud and the use of data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and sensors within its sector. It also would be looking to drive modernisation of government ICT infrastructure, said GovTech. 

The government's fiscal year kicks off April 1. 

The public sector's investment on cloud, increased use of AI and sensors, and modernising ICT infrastructure had helped facilitate the delivery of digital services for citizen and business, as well as its response to COVID-19, said GovTech. 

By leveraging cloud infrastructure, for instance, its engineers had been able to more quickly develop and roll out applications and systems such as its contact tracing app TraceTogether, digital checkin system SafeEntry, and MaskGoWhere and SupportGoWhere websites to help residents identify location points for mask collection and government support programmes for COVID-19. 

GovTech engineers also developed several AI-based temperature scanning solutions – such as VigilantGantry and SPOTON – for government buildings and community facilities, and piloted the use of the AI-powered SPOT robot to facilitate safe distancing adoption at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park and the delivery of essential medical supplies at the Changi Exhibition Centre community isolation facility. 

In its fiscal 2020, the government would continue to invest in technology to drive digitalisation efforts across the nation, which included the development and delivery of key national projects such as the National Digital Identity, as well as migrate suitable ICT systems to commercial cloud as part of its five-year plan, spanning 2018 to 2023. 

Investment also would continue to be pumped into the development of applications and adoption of AI and sensors within the public sector and other industries.

In addition, the 2020 budget would include projects that were brought forward as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, including the development of technology tools in response to the pandemic and Sport Singapore's ActiveSG Circle, which was launched in April to drive technology adoption in the local sporting industry. 

According to GovTech, SMBs secured almost 70% of total ICT contracts last year and the government agency would continue to work with the Finance Ministry to further streamline and introduce procurement processes to enhance these businesses' access to government ICT procurement opportunities. 

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To shorten the ICT procurement process, the government would incorporate more dynamic contracting and bulk tenders, with an expected value of SG$1.2 billion. This would better enable SMBs to participate and win government ICT contracts, GovTech said. For its fiscal 2020, for instance, the government would offer up bulk tenders for services such as user experience design, application development, data science and AI, and agile development, it added. 

It also announced the soft launch of the Singapore Government Developer Portal, which aimed to provide a centralised resource through which industry players and developers could learn more about the tech products developed by GovTech and how they could jointly create such tools with the government agency. 

GovTech said it also was looking to fill more than 400 job vacancies in roles that included digital business analysts, cybersecurity specialists, data scientists, and AI engineers. 

GovTech's chief executive Kok Ping Soon said: "As we take on the new normal of COVID-19, we are re-engineering our backend digital infrastructure that underpins the delivery of front-end government digital services to citizens, businesses, and public officers. COVID-19 has illustrated the importance of digitalisation and the need to accelerate it within and beyond the public sector. We hope that businesses, especially the SMBs, will benefit from the larger pool and higher value of ICT procurement opportunities, work with us to build a smart nation and digital government, and emerge stronger from this crisis together."

Singapore last month said it was allocating more than SG$500 million ($352.49 million) to support local businesses in their digital transformation efforts, which increasingly were imperative for enterprises to deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis. Specifically, the funds would go towards facilitating companies in their adoption of e-payments, e-invoicing, as well as more advanced digital tools. 

The funds were part of the country's series of funds injections to help its business community and population ride out the pandemic. Together, these totalled some SG$92.9 billion, or 19.2% of Singapore's GDP.

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