Compared to its regional peers, Singaporean businesses appear to adapt to new technologies at a faster rate. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

Compared to its regional peers, Singaporean businesses appear to adapt to new technologies at a faster rate. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

Singaporean businesses adapt to new technologies faster than ASEAN peers

Digital transformation through the use of new technologies continues to accelerate in Southeast Asia (SEA) despite the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic. While some industries have struggled for business continuity, many are still able to adapt to the challenges, adopting new technologies rapidly for remote working and maintaining operational productivity.

Those that could adapt to remote working soon faced more challenges as they were not fully prepared for a digitalized workforce. Hence, security issues started becoming a concern for most companies. Cybercriminals were targeting SMEs and remote workers using unsecured devices to access company materials, causing an increase in cyberattacks in the region as well.

With more companies moving their businesses online, industries have realized that there is a need for workers to be tech-savvy. The increased use of technologies such as cloud and artificial intelligence (AI) to run workloads, be it on or off-premises, made organizations realize the importance of having skilled IT teams.

Interestingly, different countries in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region are at different stages in their transformation. Most companies in SEA are not burdened by legacy infrastructure, which can slow their transformation journey down, hence contributing to rapid digitalization in the region.

However, only one in three businesses in Malaysia have implemented digital transformation strategies, while less than one in four businesses have a dedicated digital strategy team. Malaysia also has “fewer businesses with websites, and fewer secure servers than per capita income would predict” compared to other countries, as reported by World Bank Malaysia in its 24th Malaysia Economic Monitor: Weathering the Surge. 

Faster cloud adoption in Singapore 

According to the 2021 Digital Readiness Survey by ManageEngine, 94% of businesses in Singapore increased their utilization of business analytics to improve decision-making and better leverage the data available to the company. The survey was conducted on 1,200 tech professionals from large as well as small and medium enterprises.

The study also revealed that enterprises in Singapore have accelerated the use of cloud solutions, such as software-as-a-service (SaaS), infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS), with cloud adoption seeing an 86% increase. Cloud customers are looking for improved security, performance, and reliability from cloud solutions. While cybersecurity concerns continue to be an issue with remote working, cloud services have also improved their security offerings.

“If all security best practices are provided by the cloud service provider, businesses do not need to have an additional layer of security. However, they need to keep in mind who has access to the cloud, especially their remote workers using endpoint devices. If compromised, there is a risk,” said Gibu Mathew, Vice President & General Manager for APAC at Zoho Corporation.

The Cyber Security Agency of Singapore’s (CSAS) report revealed increasing amounts of ransomware and online scams last year. According to the report, there were 9,080 cases reported last year, with malicious cyber activities still rapidly growing every year. Some of the more “popular” cyberattack incidences in Singapore last year include ransomware, botnet drones, phishing, and website defacements.

With 98% of companies planning to support their remote workers for at least the next two years, the need to improve security is driving companies to adopt new technologies. The top three security initiatives implemented by companies are training employees, inculcating more awareness among staff, and improving their cybersecurity strategies.

New technologies like AI driving better business outcomes

To harness the full potential of data, the use of AI has also increased in the last two years as businesses look to provide better services to customers. Additionally, AI-enhanced strategies improve operational efficiencies and business analytics.

“Data is a valuable asset for modern-day organizations. Almost 94% of our survey respondents in Singapore stated that their companies have increased the usage of business analytics. Some of the major drivers for the rise in the use of business analytics include the need to improve decision-making and better leverage the data available to the company,” added Gibu.

Despite the positive figures from the survey, there is still a huge shortage of skilled tech workers in Singapore. As businesses continue to increase their use of tech services, the demand for skilled tech workers will also increase.

While some of the major tech companies have started offering training courses to reskill and upskill employees, they are now also targeting universities by making sure graduates are well prepared for the demands of the workforce.