Singapore has a responsibility to lead a smart world

Gianfranco Casati, BUSINESS TIMES: ALL eyes and ears this week will be on Formula One in Singapore – it is hard to miss the fast and furious display in our city each year. But more quietly, in the background, is another event: the Milken Institute Asia Summit, a gathering of corporate, finance and political leaders to discuss the future of Asia.

The central theme is: A global transformation is underway, and Asia is at the epicentre. Market movements, political changes, emerging demographic trends from the region, our growing wealth and our leadership in embracing new technological solutions means that our decisions made in Asia on the future will impact the world.

It makes sense that the Milken Institute Asia Summit is hosted in Singapore, where our focus on developing a Smart Nation highlights that we intend to take the lead. But with potential comes great responsibility.

Put simply, Singapore has a responsibility to be smart. That calls for a need to focus on driving growth, which happens through efficiency, productivity and in wise investment in future offerings and business models. It does not happen by investing in tech for tech’s sake. It does not happen by layering on new tech to make it look like there us a shiny new product.

It means embracing digital solutions that make a difference. Consider blockchain. We have seen a lot of claims about applications of blockchain, many of which do not stand up to scrutiny. In any industry, a solution using blockchain has to solve business issues by changing the process to be successful, rather than compound them, or move them from one technology to another.

IMPROVING THE BOTTOM LINE

Here in Singapore, we designed a solution that is transformational (but perhaps not sexy enough to grab headlines so you may not have heard about it) for businesses around the world. A consortium comprising AB InBev, Accenture, APL, Kuehne + Nagel and a European customs organisation has successfully tested a blockchain solution that can eliminate the need for printed shipping documents and save the freight and logistics industry hundreds of millions of dollars annually. A traditional paper-based bill of lading contains 20-25 per cent inaccurate data. Our approach changes that process and greatly increases the accuracy of the information that is transferred along the value chain of an ocean-based cargo transaction because documents are no longer exchanged physically or digitally. If you eliminate the need for printed shipping documents, you can improve the bottom line.

The brain trust for this solution is sitting in Singapore. That is where we built it. We also worked with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS) to manage and develop a prototype using three distributed ledger technology (DLT) platforms to help create a solution for interbank payments. This prototype for interbank payments is the groundwork for transforming financial services.

I am confident that we are going to continue to build new, world-changing solutions right here in our city-state that are genuinely transformational.

Sometimes, though, I fear, we do not always celebrate our leadership. I look at Changi Airport and see a digitally-savvy hub for transport that we perhaps take for granted. I look at our tax system and recognise that few places in the world rival us for streamlined efficiency, but we just consider it normal.

As the world descends on Singapore for race cars and business discussions, we should step back and take stock. We are world leaders showcasing our city. We should be proud of Singapore.

But we also have a responsibility beyond this week to carry that torch. Whether you are a university student thinking about your first job, or an employee in a multinational or a startup in one of our numerous new businesses, take a moment to reflect on what you can do to make a difference. Dream big – because you are in the right place to make change a reality

The writer is Accenture’s Singapore-based group chief executive, Growth Markets. The opinion was first published on Business Times Singapore. (Click here)