Singapore should be “even more bold” when allowing companies to experiment with data, drones, fintech and personalised services, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Transport and Communications and Information, Dr Janil Puthucheary, said today.

The city-state has launched a series of ‘regulatory sandboxes’ – controlled experiments where companies can use new approaches that have yet to be allowed into the market. For example, these legal experiments include trialling drones to deliver parcels; using healthcare data to create personalised insurance tariffs; and experiments around driverless buses.

Speaking to the American Chamber of Commerce, Puthucheary said that: “The kind of data gathering and monitoring that digital technologies allow us to do, the confidence with which we can set up regulatory sandboxes: knowing what’s happening inside, knowing that we will have measurable insights, knowing that we will have the information to hand over to regulatory agencies – has given us the confidence to be even more bold.”

Singapore will investigate other legal grey areas where it can allow new tech companies to experiment and launch new products, he said. In March 2019, the city launched a new drone estate to trial delivering supplies to ships through drones, and to carry out basic surveillance and maintenance with autonomous vehicles.

The Minister also talked about the importance of using data to boost ASEAN’s digital economy.
He warned that the “key obstacle” to this is “data localism and data nationalism”. Countries are regulating to prevent information being stored overseas, or using information from offshore servers.

“This will increasingly become an issue in the analysis of data for policy initiatives”, he warned. “A free flow of data will benefit us all”.

The European Union has in the past year launched a common digital identity system where nations across the economic grouping standardise their systems. This enables countries to work closer together on immigration, transportation, and epayments.

The Senior Minister of State in charge of GovTech also revealed Singapore’s own efforts to build better digital services and products.

The GovTech Agency of Singapore now employs 2,300 engineers, coders, hackers, systems and network engineers, he said. “They represent only one third of ICT engineers spread across the public sector,” he said.

Image from Ministry of Transport Singapore