Digitalisation and cyber take priority for Singapore businesses

23 December 2020 4 min. read

According to a new survey of executives and C-suite officers, businesses in Singapore are digitalising faster than anywhere in the world in response to Covid-19, although many remain weary of growing cyber risks.

Nearly 600 senior professionals took part in PwC’s study – over 30 based in Singapore. The goal was to hone in on key trends emerging in the wake of the crisis, and the central upshot is that tech reliance has gone into hyperspeed across the business environment. Singapore's vibrant tech landscape is at the forefront of these developments.

Business leaders were asked, for instance, about the biggest changes that Covid-19 has brought to their specific industries. Nearly half of Singaporean respondents picked accelerated digitalisation – spanning ecommerce, direct-to-consumer channels and innovative tech-focused business models. This is higher than in Asia Pacific (APAC) and around the world.

Which of the following changes are most likely to be impacts of the COVID-19 experience in your industry?

Then there is the attitude towards remote working – also further forward in Singapore than other markets. Many economies are still grappling with how to arrange their workforce in the new normal. Office working has productivity benefits, although the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of remote working is in high appeal globally.

In Singapore, nearly half of businesses have gone into permanent, full-time remote working mode, compared to an average of 40% in other markets. The country is similarly leading when it comes to accelerated IT infrastructure investments, automation, and business-resilience planning, among other Covid-19 business responses.

Emerging technologies

So the digital agenda is on the fast track in Singapore. At the same time, businesses are equally aware that an expanding tech infrastructure comes with a larger risk profile. “The adoption of new digital technologies, particularly with the pandemic nudging businesses to quickly implement remote working, has increased exposure to cyber threats,” noted Tan Shong Ye, Digital Trust Leader at PwC Singapore.

Biggest risk points for businesses in Singapore

In the spotlight are Industry 4.0 technologies Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud technology – both of which are pegged by Singaporean businesses as the most vulnerable to cyber attacks. Nearly 80% believe an attack on IoT is likely while more than 60% believe the same of cloud technologies.

Other risk points include social engineering technology, expanding mobile networks and collaborations with third parties. Each of these risks has only intensified in the wake of Covid-19, as the technological and regulatory frameworks stretch to unprecedented levels. The response has been to invest.

“Cybersecurity has come a long way and is now a must-have for all organisations big and small. Organisations must have the right people, processes and technology to build digital trust and move towards realising their digital strategy,” said Ye.

Skills in focus for Singaporean businesses

With tech investments well underway, the digital focus is now a core part of recruitment plans for Singaporean businesses. When scouting new recruits, the top skills in demand are data analysis, data management, software development, risk analysis and security intelligence. No doubt, this is in addition to business acumen and social skills.

According to Cybersecurity & Privacy Partner at PwC Southeast Asia Freddy Wee, while the focus on digital and cybersecurity is promising, Singaporean businesses need to take a more strategic approach to their investments as they forge ahead.

“When investing in cybersecurity, organisations often do not have their pulse on the most pressing cybersecurity risks and associating these risks to the overall business operating risk, and consequently find themselves with an unclear cybersecurity investment strategy. For cyber leaders to do more with less, they need to quantify cyber risk and use that to make informed decisions that can help enable business transformation while protecting its assets and it’s staff and customer’s privacy.”