Asia Will Be the Next Tech Development Hub, Says Singapore IMDA Chief

On Monday, Singapore Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) Chief Executive Lew Chuen Hong shared with CNBC Squawk Box Asia his confidence that Asia will spearhead the next wave of tech development as digital economies in the continent achieved massive success amid the pandemic.


Southeast Asia holds dominant businesses such as e-commerce sites Shopee and Lazada, ride-hailing apps Grab and GoTo, as well as online marketplace Carousell. A 2020 report from Google, Temasek Holdings and Bain & Company discovered that netizens in the region increasingly patronised e-commerce, food delivery and online payment businesses due to implemented health and safety protocols.


The report also found that approximately 40 million people in Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam started using the internet in 2020. Aside from an expanded internet user base, Southeast Asia’s potential for hosting profitable tech economies grew as India and China became two of the world’s “largest and fastest-growing internet populations”.


IMDA Chief Executive Lew on Singapore Tech Development
Credit: CNBC

“Ultimately, to drive this transformation, talent is key. Making sure we upscale our talent, both at the very high-end and across the broad base,” said Lew on the CNBC Asia show.


On top of recruiting competent tech talent, the IMDA official believes that prioritising advancement in research and development (R&D) can give Singapore a leg-up in the tech sector.


In the Asia Tech x Singapore event on Tuesday, Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat announced that the country plans to invest nearly S$70 million in R&D, which will help set up the nation’s inaugural Future Communications Research & Development Programme (FCP).


Singapore Marina Bay Sands Business Centre
Credit: CGTN

The FCP will promote communications and connectivity research that will be valuable in innovating local tech products, services and companies. 5G and Beyond 5G testbeds as well as tech development support, training and translation will be established with the fund.


The programme similarly looks to create and nurture a talent pool with professionals skilled in communications and connectivity tech.


Written by Sophia Lopez