The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) outlined plans to build a Digitally Secure, Economically Vibrant, and Socially Stable Singapore
in its Committee of Supply (COS) speeches delivered in Parliament today. Acknowledging how Digitalisation is shaping the way we live, learn, work and play, the Ministry’s plans focus on empowering Singaporeans to seize the opportunities of going digital, while protecting their safety and security in the digital space.
Building a Digitally Secure Singapore
Delivering her inaugural COS speech as Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-Charge of Cybersecurity, Mrs Josephine Teo highlighted the importance of preparing Singaporeans for the Digital Future. Recognising Singapore’s and Singaporeans’ growing reliance on digital technology, she added that even as we embrace technology for growth opportunities, it is critical to address rapidly evolving digital threats, especially those which affect vulnerable groups such as children, women and seniors, and businesses.
To safeguard Singaporeans online, Minister Teo announced plans to introduce legislative measures to keep online spaces safe, enhance data protection for consumers and businesses, as well as strengthen the security and resilience of digital infrastructure and services. Measures being explored by MCI include:
New Codes of Practice to be developed in three areas to set a baseline standard for relevant online platforms to put in place systems, policies and processes to create a safer online environment. These will be developed in consultation and engagements with industry and public stakeholders. The three proposed areas are:
Child Safety: To minimise exposure of children and young persons to harmful content;
User Reporting: Mechanisms for users to report harmful content, and for platforms to be responsive in acting on these reports and updating users of the actions taken; and
Platform Accountability: Online platforms must make available information about the prevalence of harmful content on their platforms, the user reports received and acted on, and systems and processes in place to address harmful online content.
Review of the Cybersecurity Act to improve awareness of threats over Singapore’s cyberspace, protect virtual assets (e.g. systems hosted on the cloud) that support essential services, and secure important digital infrastructure and services beyond Critical Information Infrastructures (CIIs); and
Increased maximum financial penalties for data breaches by companies as stipulated under the 2020 amendments to the Personal Data Protection Act to take effect from 1 October 2022.
In addition, Minister Teo announced a new Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme which will provide an affordable and effective dispute resolution alternative for consumers and small businesses facing contractual disputes with telecommunication and media services providers. The scheme will be launched in April 2022.
To support local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in building their digital security, Minister of State (MOS) for Communications and Information Mr Tan Kiat How announced the launch of the new Data Protection Essentials programme which will be available from 1 April 2022 to help businesses protect their consumer data and enable them to recover quickly from a data breach. Businesses that have good cybersecurity practices will also be recognised through the Cyber Trust Mark and Cyber Essentials Mark which will be launched end-March 2022.
More information on measures and initiatives to Build A Digitally Secure Singapore can be found in Annex A.
Developing an Economically Vibrant Singapore
The Information and Communications sector (I&C) continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors in Singapore. Last year alone, the I&C sector contributed $28.4 billion to the economy, accounting for 5.6% of GDP, and grew by 12.2%, far outpacing other sectors. SMEs have also made strong strides in the Digital Economy, with more than 80,000 firms tapping on solutions and services under the SMEs Go Digital programme.
Urging SMEs to capitalise on the momentum for digitalisation, which accelerated across the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic, MOS Tan reinforced the Government’s commitment to support businesses as they digitally transform and internationalise. More support will be extended to SMEs, such as through the Advanced Digital Solutions scheme which will provide more AI-enabled and cloud-based integrated solutions. The Government will also introduce a broader suite of e-commerce platforms under the Grow Digital scheme, to help SMEs access international markets without a need for physical presence overseas.
In his speech, MOS Tan further emphasised the importance of Government partnerships with the industry and Institutes of Higher Learning, to pave the way for more Singaporeans to access jobs and opportunities in the Digital Economy. He announced the formation of a new TechSkills Accelerator (TeSA) for ITE and Polytechnics (TIP) Alliance, comprising progressive employers who have made significant commitments to enhancing job prospects for Polytechnic and ITE students. A new degree programme (Bachelor of Science with Honours in Applied Computing, with a specialisation in FinTech) will also be offered at the Singapore Institute of Technology to prepare a core of Singaporean talents for more specialised roles in the tech ecosystem.
Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Communications and Information Dr Janil Puthucheary emphasized the importance of building up digital infrastructure and pushing technological boundaries to meet Singapore’s future needs. He announced that the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the Economic Development Board (EDB) will pilot a Call for Application to construct data centres which prioritise energy efficiency and decarbonisation, in line with the Government’s commitment to sustainable development of the data centre sector.
SMS Janil also outlined Singapore’s approach towards forging a secure and vibrant global Digital Economy together with international partners. He highlighted that Singapore had signed Digital Economy Agreements (DEAs) with four countries to date, most recently with the United Kingdom in February 2022. SMS Janil added that Singapore’s focus on developing cybersecurity standards to foster trusted and secured use of technology and devices has also garnered interest amongst international partners. For example, the Cybersecurity Labelling Scheme (CLS) for consumer IoT devices which was launched by the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore in October 2020 had led to an MOU with Finland for mutual recognition of cybersecurity labels.
More information on initiatives to Develop an Economically Vibrant Singapore can be found in Annex B.
Being Digitally Ready for a Socially Stable Singapore
Advocating for a Singapore where every Singaporean is actively supported in their journey to become digital citizens, Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Information Ms Rahayu Mahzam stressed the importance of building a digitally empowered society, underpinned by a strong foundation of digital access and literacy. Through the Digital for Life (DfL) movement, MCI and IMDA will partner the 3P sectors (People, Private and Public) to continue engaging Singaporeans on Digital as a lifelong pursuit. The Government is also committed to work with partners to co-create solutions to help Singaporeans protect themselves and close the digital safety gap.
As part of the DfL movement, Parl Sec Rahayu also explained how the LAB25 (Libraries and Archives Blueprint 2025) by the National Library Board (NLB) will promote lifelong learning and mastery of digital skills. She announced that NLB will implement a new “ExperienceIT” initiative which aims to make learning about new technologies interesting through immersive and interactive showcases. The new Punggol Regional Library, which will open later this year, will also be Singapore’s first library to pioneer access to digital services and content that cater to everyone, including persons with disabilities.
More information on Creating a Socially Stable Singapore through Digital Readiness can be found in Annex C.
A Digital Future for Everyone
Everyone plays a part in our journey as one Nation towards a shared Digital Future. MCI is committed to building a Vibrant and Secure Singapore where everyone can aspire towards new opportunities and growth for themselves and their families.
Annex A: Building A Digitally Secure Singapore
1. Factsheet on Review of the Cybersecurity Act and Update to the Cybersecurity Code of Practice for CIIs
2. Factsheet on Alternative Dispute Resolution and Consumer Complaint Handling Report
Annex B: Developing an Economically Vibrant Singapore
1. Factsheet on Continued support for SME Digitalisation
2. Factsheet on Data Protection Essentials
3. Factsheet on More tech job opportunities for Polytechnic and ITE students and graduates
4. Factsheet on New Bachelor of Science with Honours in Applied Computing degree programme (with a specialisation in FinTech)
Annex C: Building Socially Stable Singapore through Digital Readiness
1. Factsheet on Findings of Digital Readiness Survey