SGTech's Recommendations for Budget 2023 - A Summary


As the leading tech association in Singapore, with more than 1,100 member companies, SGTech is committed in our role as the representative voice of our local tech community and to advocate on behalf of the industry. The findings and recommendations by SGTech are gleaned from our engagements over multiple surveys and focus groups with more than 400 representatives from member companies of varying company sizes, business models and operating in different economic sectors. Input from all members during our regular interactions have also been factored into our submission.

Our 9 recommendations are grouped under 3 themes based on SGTech’s strategic thrusts1.  These themes are: 

  •  Digital Trust
  •  Tech Talent
  •  Tech for Sustainability

By addressing these three areas, we believe the recommendations will foster a more trusted, dynamic, efficient and safe digital ecosystem that is populated by the best and most vibrant tech talent, and which operates in a responsible and sustainable manner.


A. Strengthening Singapore’s position as a trusted hub: Digital Trust

1. Trust has been a competitive edge for Singapore and led to its early success as a regional hub and attractive home for global businesses. An increasingly digital world amplifies opportunities for Singapore beyond the region, but only if Singapore can continue to be a trusted partner. Today Singapore’s reputation as a trusted hub for doing business has attracted around 37,000 international companies and 7,000 MNCs in Singapore with half of these locating their APAC HQ in Singapore.

2. Against this backdrop, the advent of the digital economy has raised certain challenges to undermine trust in commerce. In 2021, the global economy lost US$6 trillion2 to cybercrime. In Singapore between 2020-21 cybercrime grew by 38%3. Geopolitical tensions has exacerbated these further leading to more mistrust and localization tendencies. To arrest these disturbing trends, SGTech has been driving the message for greater need for Digital Trust both domestically and at global platforms. The concept of ‘digital trust’ comprises aspects in Technology, People and Governance that aim to improve ‘the confidence participants have in the digital ecosystem to interact securely, in a transparent, accountable and frictionless manner’. Through this, the digital economy can enter a new wave of growth.


Source: White Paper on Digital Trust, SGTech4 

3. Based on a widely-cited research study that was conducted in 2022, the Digital Trust sector globally is set to double in 5 years to S$765 billion. In Singapore, according to this same research, the sector will grow to S$4.8 billion and employ around 34,000 – 45,000 high value jobs. However, this projected growth in Singapore is premised on Singapore’s continued leadership as a business hub.

4. It is the association’s view that Digital Trust presents a massive opportunity for Singapore to further strengthen its hub status to attract global firms to site their high value, data-rich sensitive trust related functions. This will be a boon for not just technology companies in the cyber-security, privacy enhancing tech, distributed-ledger space but also for legal, accounting, certification and consulting firms based in Singapore to serve a more significant regional role. The multiplier effects of this will be substantial.

5. SGTech believes these four (4) recommendations will help accelerate the growth of the Digital Trust industry in Singapore, and augment Singapore’s position as a global node for digital and data, built on trust.

Recommendation 01: Piloting Schemes to Promote a “Digital Trust Workforce”
6. In recent years, cybersecurity attacks, consumer data mismanagement and scams have been increasing, all of which can cause significant financial loss to corporations and erode trust between companies and consumers, as well as between government and citizens.

7. As a result, regulatory policies and punishments across the globe are increasing in the effort to uphold Digital Trust (e.g. PDPA, GDPR, Cybersecurity Act). While important, many companies – SMEs, in particular – to date still do not have full-time Data Protection Officers or cybersecurity experts on staff. Such roles are often voluntary or are additional responsibilities thrust upon existing staff, who may not (i) be equipped with the relevant knowledge and skills; or (ii) be empowered/motivated to uphold data integrity and governance in the company.

8. Therefore, it is important to develop an industry-wide professional Data Protection Officer / Cybersecurity Officer scheme, instead of merely being an “extra-curricular” role taken up by nominated staff within an organisation. For example, the creation of a “Chief Trust Officer” role could be a possibility. The Chief Trust Officer must be empowered at the C-Suite/senior leadership level and will function as the overall in-charge of the organisation’s (i) Data Protection/Governance Policies; (ii) Cybersecurity; and (iii) Data Usage and Innovations of the company. Instead of being seen as a cost-centre function, the Chief Trust Officer should also be able to guide the organisation on how Digital Trust can create shareholder value, harmonise both data governance and cybersecurity standards across the entire organisation, and drive initiatives that promote innovation in a responsible manner.

9. It is recommended that a pilot scheme be introduced among several companies staffed with suitable talents who are ready and incentivised to implement a professional “Digital Trust” team. With the support from the Government – SkillsFuture would be a critical partner – TACs could also work with the relevant IHLs and training institutes to develop curricula and accreditation schemes that could help to develop Digital Trust professionals for the workforce in the long-run. Economic agencies (i.e. EDB) could also convince MNCs to establish trust functions/roles in their local offices in Singapore.

10. Ultimately, companies that have higher standards of Digital Trust will stand to benefit not only monetarily because of the increase in trust and confidence among its customer and shareholders, but they will also benefit in the long-term from enhanced reputation, branding and more partnership opportunities.

11. The government could also take the lead in this initiative by appointment a “Chief Trust Officer” in every Government agency, along with an overall Chief Trust Officer for the Whole-of-Government.
Recommendation 02: Developing Digital Trust Capabilities and Expertise in Enterprises

12. Economic opportunities for Singapore enterprises in the Digital Trust arena abound if tech sector stakeholders can come to understand its potential and if enterprises develop requisite capabilities and expertise in this area. In SGTech’s 2022 Digital Trust Landscape Study, we estimate that the Digital Trust industry in Singapore will grow three-fold over the next 5 years – from S$1.7billion currently to S$4.8billion by 20275

13. Consumers are increasingly concerned with data privacy and security, and most firms in Singapore – from large multinationals to SMEs and microenterprises – recognise the need to improve cyber hygiene and invest in Digital Trust technologies, capabilities and expertise. However, for many enterprises, especially smaller ones, they lack either the knowledge or resources for this – or both. Singapore enterprises need help onboarding new trust technologies, evolving their Digital Trust knowledge and policies, and preparing themselves for incident response and recourse.

14. While recognising a number of grants, funding and other support schemes already existent in the tech sector, SGTech recommends that such support is augmented to develop Digital Trust capabilities and expertise in the following ways:

i. Identifying, attracting and supporting the most promising companies developing innovative “trust technologies” – such as Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs), Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) and Digital Identity solutions – helping them to accelerate their commercialisation efforts. Existing grant, funding and talent schemes may be evaluated to expand the criterion and range for trust tech financial support; and new, trust-tech-specific schemes should be introduced to boost this high potential domain. The most promising, nascent solutions should receive funding for sandboxes and pilot testing.

ii. Incentivising greater adoption of Digital Trust practices and cyber hygiene among SMEs. Financial support via grants and subsidies can be offered to firms that enroll their staff on Digital Trust-related training courses and to firms which demonstrate investment in proven data protection and cyber security solutions, especially when being undertaken for the first time by such firms. Ease of access to data protection policy and data governance resources to be ramped up through multi-agency and industry collaborations – manifested by communication campaigns and outreach efforts such as workshops. Schemes to reward SMEs who proactively pursue Digital Trust practices could be introduced that publicly demonstrate their efforts to their consumers, such as government “trustmark” endorsement (i.e. PDPC’s Data Protection Trustmark, CBPR). Such rewards can include more favourable regulatory treatment in the event of one-off data breaches, and priority in Government procurement schemes, in addition to the usual grants and tax incentives. Related to this, related trust marks with overlapping criteria such as PDPC’s Data Protection Trustmark and CSA’s Cyber Essentials Mark can be streamlined and harmonised such that organisations can simply apply for one mark. This will help to increase the uptake of the mark by reducing organisations’ costs and assessment and compliance burdens.

iii. Generating greater awareness and adoption of cyber insurance. Data breaches and cyber attacks are an inevitability. Cyber insurance offers firms protection and recourse when things go wrong, yet the majority of enterprises in Singapore do not use any form of cyber insurance, and many are totally unaware of it. Government agencies can support by delivering a public awareness campaign on cyber insurance, highlighting firms who offer it, and providing subsidies to SMEs who wish to buy it but cannot afford the standard cost. However, a potential drawback is the markup of cyber insurance costs once subsidies kick in. So perhaps introduction of some pricing mechanism would be required to counter opportunistic pricing behaviour.

Recommendation 03: Enabling Trusted Data Flows


15. Concerns around privacy and data-sharing have created friction in B2B, G2B and G2G digital interactions, both within Singapore and beyond. Globally, the rise of data sovereignty has bottle-necked cross-border data sharing and stymied regional and global digital trade.

16. As Singapore continues to assume a regional leadership position for Digital Trust policy and practice, it will be looked to by regional neighbours for guidance and leadership in data governance and regulatory best practice. Singapore can play an active role in easing the challenges of data sharing within its borders and across borders, and mitigate the problems of data sovereignty towards improving local, regional and global digital trade.

17. SGTech recommends that the government works to enable trusted data flows by:

i. Continuing to encourage the use of PETs and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) to spur cross-industry collaboration. PETs hold much potential to facilitate greater, safer and more efficient digital data exchange, yet there is a general lack of PET awareness, understanding and skillset. Use cases should be coordinated in strategic industries via a neutral intermediary. Similarly, further DLT experimentation should be prioritised in industries beyond finance and healthcare, in particular, the built environment, transport & logistics. Skillset gaps in both the PET and DLT arenas should be addressed by relevant government agencies through upskilling initiatives and programmes, and the best talent should be welcomed to work in Singapore with requisite Employment Pass and Work Pass entitlements for relevant enterprises. 

ii. Funding projects and missions aimed to stimulate multilateral collaborations on Digital Trust and cross-border data flows to cement Singapore’s thought leadership in this space. In 2022, SGTech has strongly advocated for greater collaboration on projects at the APEC & APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) foras. It has achieved success at the ABAC fora where it launched the Centre of Excellence for Digital Trust. APEC economies will be looking to Singapore to spearhead research and other industry development activities in the space of Digital Trust as part of this. Government should consider funding such efforts to enable Singapore to cement its thought leadership in this space.

iii. Catalysing uptake of Cross Border Privacy Rules (CBPR) among enterprises in Asia will be an important lever to improve cross-border data flows. SGTech proposes the formation of a Cross-Border Data Advisory Group under SGTech’s Digital Trust Centre of Excellence. Such a group would comprise influential global enterprises including AWS, Mastercard, Microsoft, Huawei, Google and Meta; as well as non-profits such as the World Bank and Tech for Good. The mandate of this Advisory Group will include:
Deep-diving, identifying and aligning on the typology of data to flow across economies
Identifying use cases by sectors (MNEs, SMEs and MSMEs)
Identifying and prioritising key target sectors and the expected benefits
SGTech recommends high-level government representation (i.e. a political office holder) within this Advisory Group and that judicious funding support is provided to drive its agenda throughout the region. There should also be policies that incentivise adoption of CBPR among companies (especially larger companies) to increase take up.


Recommendation 04: Raising Education and Awareness of Digital Trust Among the Singapore Population

18. Misinformation, fake news and cyber attacks are acute problems around the world, Singapore included. The detrimental economic and social impact of these problems are significant, and consumers are understandably increasingly concerned about their data privacy and security. Despite such concerns, most consumers are often passive when it comes to seeking measures to better protect themselves in the digital space.

19. Furthermore, when data breaches, theft, or other types of cyber crime occur, existing complaint channels mostly act as a feedback mechanism, without the avenue for victims to take errant companies to task directly. Notifying the authorities is perceived to be more of a reporting procedure only, rather than a true means of delivering resolution or obtaining restitution.

20. SGTech recommends that the government takes steps to help raise education and awareness of Digital Trust among the general population by:

i. Rolling out a nationwide public awareness campaign on the importance and characteristics of Digital Trust. Such a campaign should complement existing communications efforts on digital safety already underway but be expanded to include the more holistic concerns of Digital Trust. Existing literature and resources already in the public domain, such as SGTech’s white paper on Digital Trust and the “2022 Edelmann Trust Barometer APAC Special Report”, should be highlighted, while original materials, frameworks and easy-to-understand best practice guides should also be published and marketed in an omni-channel campaign.

ii. Introduce training budgets to train industry partners (i.e. SMEs) on the importance of Digital Trust and its fundamentals. The government should work closely with private sector players to educate and train the entire business ecosystem in Digital Trust and supporting services (e.g. HR/training institutes) should ready themselves for this widespread education effort.

B. Tech Talent

21. To keep up with a rapidly evolving technology landscape, it is imperative for Singapore to strengthen the resilience of our workforce to withstand disruptions and skills redundancies. To do this, SGTech is a strong advocate for skills-based approaches that create multiple career pathways that will complement academic routes and incorporate agility in reacting to new developments in the tech talent landscape.

Recommendation 05: Helping local PMETs and mid-career professionals to secure higher value tech roles

22. Not all roles in the tech sector require professionals to have deep and highly specialised technical skills. The tech industry relies on a range of auxiliary operational functions to keep businesses running on a day-to-day basis such as: customer-facing technical advisors, system managers, analysts, administrators, data center engineers, etc. These roles are high value jobs that fall between tech-lite and tech-heavy jobs. 

23. Personnel fit for these roles do not need to come with a tech background or prior experience in the tech industry. Instead, these roles require individuals that come with transferable skills and capabilities that can be applied across sectors. As such, these high value tech roles may be suitable for experienced local PMETs or mid-career hires who possess transferable skillsets in business administration and operations, and industry knowledge. 

24. Helping local PMETs and mid-career professionals to identify these jobs would also help address some of the key challenges faced by the tech industry due to increased competitiveness in the job market, especially for SMEs, i.e. high attrition rate of professionals as a result of higher wages offered by larger firms, and continued insufficiency of professionals in the pipeline to meet business demands.

25. As a first order, we recommend that we adopt a multi-stakeholder approach to determine a comprehensive list of such higher value tech roles that are essential to businesses in the industry. The list should be developed with the help of industry such as Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) including SGTech, and government agencies such as IMDA, WSG, and related public agencies. Upon successfully identifying such roles that are in demand, industry and government can subsequently work together to facilitate the career switch and transference of relevant professionals into these roles via existing and new initiatives.

Recommendation 06: Adopting a skills-based approach to hire and develop talent

26. Traditional modes of education are increasingly insufficient in keeping pace with industry needs. For example, as data analytics becomes increasingly granular as a skill, it has resulted in the proliferation of creating more niche, specialised sub-functions that businesses are hiring for. Increasingly, we have also observed that not all ICT roles require a degree. Especially in the US, we see that more companies are listing skills and responsibilities in job posters as opposed to qualifications and requirements. As job scopes and responsibilities evolve rapidly and dynamically, formal education requirements may no longer be sufficient and/or relevant when assessing potential candidates. Thus, hiring approaches need to change inherently. 

27. Adopting a skills-oriented approach of assessment can help lower barriers of entry for prospective job seekers who may not have a degree, and result in an increased, and diverse pool of potential hires in the market. This is also taking into account the increasingly preferred mode of learning amongst the younger generation who pick up new skills through other modes of learning including through YouTube, LinkedIn, Coursera, and coding platforms such as Hackertrail.

28. Both industries, i.e. Trade Associations and Chambers (TACs) such as SGTech, and government agencies such as IMDA and WSG can collaborate to determine skills assessments across different tech verticals and job roles. The development of skills-based hiring playbooks will also be useful to companies in guiding their hiring processes. 

Recommendation 07: Greater recognition of skills acquired through informal learning channels

29. Despite the increase in the number of online learning, mobile learning, micro-credentials available online, employees may not invest sufficient time and effort into such resources given the uncertainty that skills acquired via these informal channels are recognised. This is despite feedback from companies facing talent shortages that they had often hired people who lacked specific skills initially but could use informal learning channels to effectively plug the skills gap. 

30. Informal learning methods can be an effective way to establish a culture of lifelong learning at workplaces. For examples, the access and opportunities offered to obtain micro-credentials are an exciting and effective way to attract, train and recognise employees. 

31. We recommend forming industry workgroups to examine common standards and recognition for informal learning outcomes such as micro-credentials obtained for possessing ICT skills. With the support of key government stakeholders such as IMDA, SSG and relevant public agencies, such industry-led and recognized standards could eventually be incorporated into our national framework to further encourage recognition and boost adoption. This also complements our recommendation of using a skills-based approach to hiring new talents in the tech industry.

C. Tech for Sustainability

32. Accelerate emissions and waste reduction practices among SMEs with broad-based incentivisation to take measurable actions by leveraging on technologies.

Recommendation 08: Cash rebates to incentivise SMEs who leverage on tech for transforming internal practices towards sustainability.

Current Landscape

33. GHG emissions and waste reduction practices are seen as additional costs and resource burdens on businesses who are not publicly listed, particularly SMEs. This was affirmed during SGTech’s 2022 survey of SMEs in decarbonisation and e-waste reduction practices, which included a curated cross-section of 11 case studies from SMEs. The survey and case studies confirmed anecdotal feedback that SMEs widely do not see strong business case for investing in internal change or technologies to track and reduce emissions and waste.

34. For SMEs who have begun to adopt sustainability practices, the challenges are complicated by the fact that the national sustainability landscape has yet to see national consensus on standards, regulations, etc., and the development of taxonomies for Asia Pacific regions are still nascent. 


35. The persistence of the current landscape places:
i) Singapore at risk of falling short of meeting our SG Green Plan (SGGP) targets; and
ii) Singapore SMEs at risk of losing competitiveness domestically and abroad especially when as supply chains around the world increasingly demand more ESG compliance.


36. At firm levels, as digitalisation ramps up in Singapore and abroad, new opportunities increasingly arise for SMEs to incorporate technologies into their internal processes to track, measure, and report GHG emissions and waste avoided.

37. At the national level, increasing data from broad-based SMEs enable more precise policy formulation and sharper regulatory measures, both of which increase effectiveness of policy efforts.


38. In light of the current state of play, we advocate for practical and acceptable initiatives that make economic sense and can be driven by technologies. 

39. Specifically:

A. Tiered cash rebates* for SMEs who:

i) Submit e-waste (regulated or non-regulated) to a Producer Responsibility Scheme (PRS) Operator appointed by NEA:
a) Up to e.g. $50, cash rebate per submission per UEN for less than 1m3 volume 
b) Up to e.g. $100, cash rebate per submission per UEN for more than 1m3 volume

ii) Submit proofs of Producer take-backs or purchase of IT assets bearing reduced or eco-friendly packaging labels

iii) Utilise software to internally track and report Scopes 1, 2, and voluntary categories of Scope 3 GHG emissions:
a) Up to e.g. $1,000, cash rebate per UEN for Scopes 1 and 2 emissions
b) An additional e.g. $100, cash rebate per UEN per category of Scope 3 emissions

* Rebates to be granted upon submission of proof of: 
i) PRS Operator verification of volume collected
ii) take-back or purchase receipts
iii) software invoice and third-party audited emissions reports
as relevant to each proposed category of cash rebates

B. One-time cash rebate of up to e.g. $3,000, per year per SME who submit proof of internal corporate sustainability review conducted and recommendations implemented.

C. Explore importing new models of sustainability measurements from countries that are ahead in their national sustainability efforts e.g. Finland’s carbon handprint methodology, to help SMEs get a head-start on contributing to national net-zero goals and not be left behind.


D. Tech for All

40. Unlike in the past, currently there is growing ambiguity in what defines as a “technology company”, given that businesses across all sectors would require the use of modern technology as well as to equip or upgrade their staff with the latest digital skills to remain relevant and competitive in today’s global economy. This sentiment was echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat during SGTech’s 40th Anniversary Dinner on 1 September 2022, where he stressed the need for SGtech to “keep abreast of the skills needed for emerging tech areas, and to bring onboard more business leaders from all sectors so that tech is pervasive across all industries and companies”.

Recommendation 09: Setup of a “Future of Tech Global Advisory” that will help promote layman knowledge on new, emerging technologies to industry leaders across all economic sectors.

41. In our present global economy, digital technology and skills have become a horizontal enabler which cut across all industries, not just solely relatable to the technology or ICT-related companies. Therefore, it is imperative that knowledge of new and emerging technology should be widely propagated to businesses of all industry sectors, so as to ensure companies in Singapore are able to seize first mover opportunities and maintain their competitiveness in the global arena.

42. On this note, it is recommended that the Government could work with TACs to set up a “Future of Tech Global Advisory” that will help promote actionable, layman knowledge on digitalisation practices, new and emerging technologies to business leaders across all economic sectors. Advisors to form this Advisory would be global business leaders from private sectors helming from varying economic sectors.


1 SGTech’s mission and strategic thrusts:
2 Morgan, S. (2020). Cybercrime To Cost The World $10.5 Trillion Annually By 2025. Cybercrime Magazine. Retrieved from 
3 38Ganesan, N. (2022). Singapore faced more cybercrime, phishing and ransomware threats in 2021. Channel News Asia (CNA). Retrieved from 
 White Paper on Digital Trust, Digital Trust White Paper Download - SGTECH (


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Published Feb 2023