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Overview

Singapore has established itself as a leading digital economy in the world, with a strong focus on innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology. Recent research suggests the country’s digital economy will hit USD30bn (AUD44.8bn) in gross market value by 2025 with e-commerce as the main driver of this growth. Other areas of significant growth include FinTech, notably in digital payments, artificial intelligence (AI), and 5G connectivity.

Underpinning this growth is a combination of factors that include modern physical and digital infrastructure, a strong digital talent base, robust intellectual property rights, and forward-looking policies on cybersecurity, data protection, and cross-border data flows that are crucial for growth and innovation in the digital economy. In addition to these, Singapore has also implemented policies to support innovation and entrepreneurship in the digital economy. For example, recognising the importance of small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) contributions to the country’s GDP and workforce employment, the government introduced the SME Go Digital Initiative to ensure SMEs are able to adapt to changing times and benefit from advancements in digital solutions to improve their operations and generate new revenue in the growing digital economy.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, Singapore has doubled down on its efforts to harness digital technologies to “build back better” and gain long-term resilience. In April 2021, the Future Economy Council (FEC), which is responsible for driving growth and transformation of Singapore’s economy for the future, announced that the 23 industry transformation maps (ITMs) will be refreshed as part of a new 5-year plan to capitalise on opportunities in a post-COVID-19 world, with the refreshed ITMs having a greater focus on jobs and skills, and closer integration with research and innovation. This aside, to create a more inclusive digital economy, Singapore is also a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), which promotes access for PWDs to new information and communication technologies and systems.

As a leading digital economy, Singapore is often at the forefront of setting standards in emerging areas of technologies. For example, in May 2022, Singapore launched A.I. Verify – the world’s first AI governance testing framework and toolkit for companies that wish to demonstrate responsible AI in an objective and verifiable manner. The Model framework is based on a set of principles aim at promoting public understanding and trust in technologies. Where relevant, Singapore has also proactively adopted international digital standards to expand international trade opportunities. For instance, Singapore has adopted the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNICTRAL) Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR) to facilitate the transfer of electronic records between participating jurisdictions. The adoption of MLETR into statute law provides increased legal confidence and commercial predictability to participating jurisdictions in the recognition of electronic documents and digitalised transactions, paving the way for more seamless, easier, and faster way to transact digitally.

Adoption of digital technologies and international standards can significantly lower barriers to trade, improve efficiencies, and facilitate access to new markets. For Singapore, this report estimates that – at a conservative estimate– the economic value of digital trade could hit AUD257.76bn (equivalent to 103% growth) by 2030. Given this, it is perhaps useful to examine how digital trade policies and international standards have helped position Singapore as a leader in the digital economy and created opportunities for businesses to expand their reach and access new markets through digital channels. To this end, this report will:

  • Examine digital trade and break down its components;
  • Estimate the economic value of Singapore’s digital trade;
  • Identify digital trade priority areas;
  • Identify key international standards for each prioritised area to focus on; and
  • Map out a suggested way forward in order to accelerate digital trade growth.

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