HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
Marcus Loh

Budget spurs Singapore firms to upskill for New Economy


Singapore’s hard-fought economic transformation is dependent on the ability of its enterprises and people, to learn, unlearn and relearn new capabilities and skillsets.

Fortunately, Singapore enjoys a strong track record of collectively preparing for new economic realities; one example being the strong momentum from Singapore’s national skills-upgrading programme, SkillsFuture. SkillsFuture saw $22.5 million worth of training subsidies tapped in 2016 and demonstrates the country’s willingness to invest in the development of its workforce.

Like SkillsFuture, Budget 2018 sets out initiatives such as a $148 million enhancement to the “Tech Innovator Acceleration” as well as the Open Innovation Programme which will allow local firms to crowdsource digital solutions from experts and to eventually acquire deep digital capabilities for themselves to thrive in the New Economy.

And to that end, education institutions from both public and private sectors can play an important role in contributing to this national effort.

Being future-ready starts at school
One of Singapore’s leading tertiary institutions, Ngee Ann Polytechnic is helping its students prepare to speak the language of the digital world, by becoming fluent with the use of data.

Experts opine that more data was created in the last three years than the previous 5,000 years of humanity. The type of data created is expanding rapidly across a wide range of industries: the Internet of Things, healthcare, cybersecurity, social media, telecom, manufacturing, gaming, entertainment, etc. Yet, less than 0.5 percent of that data is actually being analysed for operational decision making. This tells us that if data is to be regarded as “oil of the 21st century”, then it will take a data literate workforce to turn crude oil into useable energy.

To prepare students to be fluent with the use of data, the polytechnic introduced Tableau Software, a self-service visual analytics platform to teach students in its School of Business and Accountancy how to see and understand data for themselves. The popularity of this visual analytics course has led to the polytechnic expanding it to even more students. Now, over 500 students take the course annually.

Whilst individuals receive the skillsets that are needed to do well in the digital economy, local enterprises that invest in acquiring these deep capabilities can also reap rich rewards.

Taking digital-fluency from education to enterprise
A recent IDC study commissioned by software maker Microsoft predicts that approximately 60% of Asia Pacific’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will be derived from digital products or service by 2021. The same research claims that by 2021, Digital Transformation is expected to add 0.8% CAGR GDP growth annually.

By harnessing digital capabilities like data analytics, management consulting firm McKinsey found that businesses were able to enjoy five to six percent more in returns on investment in profitability and productivity. This was consistent with another study from research firm NewVantage, which found that 73 percent of respondents received measurable value from harnessing data - 50 percent higher than last year. This trend suggests that more value is being achieved as companies grow familiar with harnessing these data analytics platforms.

Grab is one of Singapore’s most iconic disruptors and Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing app. It is also a big proponent of self-service analytics. Over a thousand Grab employees across 40 cities were granted access to Tableau’s self-service analytics platform to visualise and analyse millions of data streams related to transport and cashless payments.

By enabling over 60 percent of its workforce to receive real-time visual analytics on relevant business performance indicators on their mobile devices and web browsers, Grab has been able to build a nimble and smarter workforce, and by extension, a company for the digital economy.

In closing, the emergence of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and other digital technologies can facilitate important shifts for traditional enterprises to become Industry 4.0-ready and effectively compete in new spaces such as e-commerce and the sharing economy.

Having relevant skillsets and capabilities will enable local firms to harness these new technologies by mastering data through self-service analytics. In doing so, enterprise can look forward to raising their level of productivity by empowering an entire workforce – and not just the ICT department – to become skilled at tapping on these advancements, and make productive decisions by seeing and understand data for themselves.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Marcus Loh

Marcus Loh

Marcus Loh is Director, Asia Pacific Communication for global visual analytics firm Tableau Software. He was named a Linkedin Power Profile and was listed in Singapore Business Review’s top 10 “Notable Chief Marketing Officers under 40”. Marcus holds an M.S from Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and won a scholarship for his second master’s degree from the Singapore Management University and Università della Svizzera italiana. He serves on various advisory capacities for academia and industry including, the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore, CMO Council, UOB-SMU Asian Enterprise Institute, Asia Enterprise Brand Awards, to name a few.

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