The Singapore government has charted out tech directions for businesses and industries in its fiscal 2021 budget even as the country is in the midst of fighting its way out of the COVID-19 global pandemic.\nOverall, the government has allocated S$24 billion to enable Singapore\u2019s firms and workers to emerge stronger through the next phase of transformation over the next three years.\n[ Be sure to learn the secrets of highly effective digital transformations\u2014and beware the 7 myths of digital transformation. | Get the latest on digital transformation by signing up for our CIO Leader newsletters. ]\nThe key highlights of the budget include a S$1 billion fund for schemes and support programmes \u201cto cofund mature enterprises\u2019 adoption of digital solutions and new technologies\u201d, invest in three key platforms, enhance the Productivity Solutions Grant \u2013 Job Redesign, support green tech under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, and set up a CTO-as-a-service initiative.\nAccelerating structural adaptation is key for Singaporean government and business\nIn his budget speech in parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat noted that while last year\u2019s series of budgets focused on providing \u201cemergency support\u201d as the pandemic kicked in and the country faced its worst recession since independence, the emphasis in this year\u2019s budget is on accelerating \u201cstructural adaptation\u201d as Singapore\u2019s gross domestic product contracted by 5.4% in 2020.\nThe reasons for the Singapore government\u2019s focus on deepening technology usage and skills are about adapting to the changing world. \u201cWe are facing the convergence of multiple technologies simultaneously,\u201d said Andrew Milroy, founder of Veqtor8, a digital risk advisory firm, based in Singapore, and former analyst with Frost & Sullivan and Ovum. \u201cLarge scale multicloud initiatives, 5G, AI\/data analysis, edge, IoT [internet of things], and new security technologies are rapidly coming on stream at roughly the same time,\u201d he said.\n\u201cTo many firms, they don\u2019t know where to start on leveraging these technologies. The technology landscape is highly fragmented, and it is not always easy to understand it in terms of clear business benefits. There is a huge shortage of technology skills that can help companies to leverage this technology. The government\u2019s initiative is designed to ensure that Singapore companies are able to remain competitive in spite of chronic skills shortages. It wants Singapore to continue being a leading business hub in Asia. To do this, its companies need to be at the cutting edge of technology use,\u201d Milroy said\n\u201cSingapore has proven yet again that it has robust contingency plans in place to contain and overcome even the severest of existential crisis like the COVID pandemic,\u201d said Abhijit Banerjee, a partner at Decacorn Capital, a cross-border venture funding initiative. \u201cWith the focus now back on the economy and given that COVID has made technology even more pervasive with hypercharged digital adoption, crunching adoption cycles from years to just months, it was expected that this government would channelise massive funds for rapid digital transformation augmented by high quality tech talent to make it happen.\u201d\nManjunath Bhat, a senior research director at Gartner, also is encouraged by Singapore\u2019s plans. \u201cI can see the potential for large businesses to build digital platforms and accelerate their digital transformation initiatives. \u2026\u00a0I see business potential for both cloud service providers and managed cloud service providers as the government is keen to explore the idea of rapid prototyping and testing using cloud-based solutions. \u2026\u00a0Initiatives such as the Open innovation platform and the global innovation alliance can act as catalysts to drive cloud adoption in many organizations.\u201d\nThe Singapore government\u2019s new technology investments\nTo support innovation and collaboration on the new scale, the Singapore government announced investment in three key platforms, as well as several other initiatives.\nCooperative Venture Launchpad. The launchpad programme aims to provide cofunding for corporations to build new ventures through prequalified venture studios. An example is BCG Digital Ventures, which collaborated with Olam, a Singapore food and agricultural multinational, to build Jiva, a farmer services platform meant to increase crop yield, help farmers access credit, and connect farmers directly to buyers.\nOpen Innovation Platform. OIP helps businesses and public agencies find vendors to address problems for their segments, as well as help fund prototyping and deployment. Heng cited the example of the Building and Construction Authority, which was matched with three providers (TraceSafe, TagBox, and Nervotec) to develop solutions for safe reopening of worksites. \u201cThe firms developed real-time systems that helped construction site owners conduct contact tracing and health monitoring of their workers,\u201d he said. Planned improvements to the OIP are a cloud-based digital bench for accelerated virtual prototyping and testing.\nGlobal Innovation Alliance. The GIA is meant to promote cross-border collaboration between Singapore and major innovation hubs elsewhere in the world. Citing past data, Heng said that \u201csince its inception in 2017, over 650 students and about 780 Singapore businesses have taken part in innovation launchpads overseas; 40% of these were in Southeast Asia\u201d.\nThe GIA network currently has 15 city links, including four Southeast Asian cities\u2014Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, and Manila\u2014and now the government wants to expand it to more than 25 cities around the globe over the next five years. The GIA will gain the Co-Innovation Programme, which will support up to 70% of qualifying costs for cross-border innovation and partnership projects, Heng said.\nEmerging Technology Programme. To help mature enterprises transform digitally, the Singapore government will co-fund their adoption of digital solutions and new technologies. One means to do so is the new Emerging Technology Programme, which will \u201cco-fund the costs of trials and adoption of frontier technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence, and trust technologies\u201d, Heng said. \u201cThis will support commercialisation of innovations and diffusion of technology downstream.\nCTO-as-a-service initiative and Digital Leaders Programme. Not all organisations have the adequate tech leadership in-house to their digital transformation. To help firms to identify and adopt digital solutions, the government announced the CTO-as-a-Service initiative to provide access to professional IT consultancies.\nAdditionally, the new Digital Leaders Programme will aid \u201cpromising\u201d firms in hiring a core digital team and in developing and implementing digital transformation roadmaps,\u201d Heng said.\n\u201cThe CTO-as-a-service and the Digital Leaders Programme are a great initiative to address the current need of the [small enterprise] and startup ecosystem,\u201d said Sidhi Dhir, executive director of TiE Singapore, a nonprofit programme for entrepreneurs.\nSingapore Green Plan 2030. Heng also mentioned running \u201ca national movement to build a sustainable Singapore for all generations\u201d, using the Singapore Green Plan \u201cto secure a green, liveable, and sustainable home for generations of Singaporeans to come\u201d. This greening of Singapore will be enabled by technology. \u201cWe harnessed technology to overcome our water and land constraints, and will do the same for climate change,\u201d he said. The government will set aside S$60 million for a new Agri-Food Cluster Transformation Fund and S$30 million over the next five years for Electric Vehicles-related initiatives. Furthermore, to encourage green finance, the government will issue green bonds on select public infrastructure projects.