Business, technology and fulfilling lives
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This article is based on a survey of 100 Singapore-based executives conducted in June-July 2022. Of the respondents, 39% perform general management roles, 35% are human resources executives and the remainder hold strategy positions. Half of the respondents’ organisations are small or medium in size, employing between 10 and 200 people, and the other half are large, with a workforce of over 200. Twenty sectors are represented in the survey, with financial services, professional services and technology providing the largest numbers of respondents.



Many Singaporeans are confident in their ability to reach the grand age of 100. And they see digital technology as a vital tool in reaching their goals for longevity. In particular, mastering the use of personal finance and health technologies can improve people’s chances of having a fulfilling old age. Some of the digital skills they use for these purposes are developed in the workplace.

Digitisation has progressed far among businesses in Singapore-but it is proceeding at different speeds, and many organisations are lagging.

We recently surveyed employers in Singapore, the vast majority of whom believe there is much that they can do to help their employees to live longer and more fulfilling lives. Most believe they are indeed helping their employees to do this, both indirectly and directly, through the digital training they provide and their encouragement of digital innovation.



In previous reports exploring Singaporeans’ readiness to live to 100, we focussed on their efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle and build financial resilience. In this article, we assess the role of employers and of workplace technology in helping Singaporeans to achieve those goals.


Digital transformation: A work in progress

Digitisation has progressed far among businesses in Singapore—but it is proceeding at different speeds, and many organisations are lagging. Of the executives we surveyed, 58% consider their organisations to be “mostly” or “thoroughly” digitised. Another 24% are “partially” digitised, with the remaining 18% “not very” or “not” digitised.

The larger the organisation, the more digitised it is likely to be. Among respondents working in large enterprises—those with more than 200 employees—86% describe their organisations as “mostly” or “thoroughly” digitised. Just 30% of respondents in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) say the same.

Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, acknowledges a gap in digitisation levels between SMEs and large businesses. But, he says, “that gap has narrowed considerably over the past five or six years.” This is thanks in part, he adds, to strong government support, ensuring that SMEs also have access to resources and advice that help them to upgrade their digital capabilities.



The surveyed organisations have invested widely in advanced technologies. For example, 73% of respondents say their organisation has invested in recent years in 5G technology, 71% in artificial intelligence (AI), 58% in mobile apps, 57% in blockchain and 50% in data analytics.

A large gap between larger and smaller organisations is evident here, too. Many more large enterprises than SMEs have invested in almost every technology capability shown in Figure 3. For example, 82% of large firms have already invested in AI compared with 60% of SMEs. When it comes to mobile apps, the difference is 74% vs 42%; with blockchain: 76% vs 38%; with data analytics: 70% vs 30%; and with online payments: 70% vs 28%.

“SMEs realise they need to accelerate digitisation, but many bemoan a lack of financial resources and skilled digital talent,” says Tay Ee Learn, chief sector skills officer of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Learning Hub, a social enterprise set up by NTUC.

“Although the labour market is tight for everyone in Singapore, SMEs are finding it harder than large businesses, with reputations in the market and greater resources, to attract needed talent,” he says.



Resource constraints do not fully explain SMEs’ slower pace of digitisation, however. According to Mr Tay, many SMEs’ digitisation efforts are also weakened by a failure to support investments in new technologies with proper training of employees in how to use them.

In the survey, lack of budget is the primary reason our SME respondents cite for not digitising to a greater degree thus far. However, they intend to make up some ground: higher percentages of SME respondents say their organisation plans to invest in and develop most of such capabilities in the next two years, with the top three being data analytics, blockchain and product/service personalisation. Those SMEs that remain short of budget and technology talent can avail themselves of a platform launched by the government’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) in 2021, dubbed “CTO-as-a-service”.

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Digital for 100
Harnessing technology for longer lifespans
Read more
Ready for 100
Preparing for longevity in Singapore
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Healthy for 100
Healthy care in Singapore
Read more
Re-imagining 100
The pandemic’s impact on longevity
Read more
Saving for 100
Financing longevity in Singapore
Read more
Skilled for 100
Leveraging an older workforce in Singapore
Read more

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