In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, the role of technology in reshaping businesses and their customer interactions is undeniable.

While many companies have embraced the wave of digital transformation, a significant number of Singaporean SMEs still find themselves lagging in the journey toward digitalization.

Despite Singapore’s high internet penetration, a staggering 20 percent of Singaporean SMEs have either just embarked on their digital voyage or are yet to take the first step.

This statistic underscores the urgent necessity to address the barriers and challenges that obstruct these businesses from embracing the advantages of digitalization, and bridge this digital divide, unleashing SMEs’ full potential in the digital realm.

Why is there a digital divide among SMEs?

For my on-the-ground team, a surprising reality emerges – the lack of awareness among Singaporean business owners regarding the potential of having a simple website in today’s e-commerce-driven economy.

These entrepreneurs, some of whom were older millennials, also usually lack experience in digital marketing, and may remain unaware of its advantages over traditional marketing methods. This knowledge gap not only restricts their outreach to a broader audience but also curtails their ability to compete effectively in the digital marketplace.

To be fair to SMEs, particularly traditional businesses, their reasons for encountering these problems are fairly understandable, with many of them citing:

1. Transformation complexities

For many traditional SMEs, digitalization can be daunting due to the intricate nature of the process, with many of them not knowing where or how to start. Digital transformation entails a shift not only in technology but also in organizational structure, processes, and culture. The lack of familiarity with these complexities can lead to hesitancy and a lack of clear direction.

2. Resource intensiveness

Even if a firm has a clear vision and goal, digitalization demands substantial resources in terms of talent, time, and technology. Traditional SMEs might lack in-house expertise and tools to drive digital initiatives effectively. Hiring or training digital experts can strain their already limited resources. The time required for comprehensive digital transformation can be extensive,

potentially affecting day-to-day operations. Moreover, the financial investment in digital tools and technologies can be overwhelming, especially for smaller enterprises with tight budgets.

3. Evolving cyber risks

As traditional SMEs transition to the digital domain, they expose themselves to a new realm of cyber risks. With the integration of technology comes the potential for data breaches, cyberattacks, and other security vulnerabilities. Many traditional businesses may lack the knowledge and resources to navigate the evolving landscape of cybersecurity effectively.

Data protection and safeguarding customer information become critical concerns that demand proactive measures and ongoing vigilance.

Creating solutions for SMEs

This is where programs such as SMEsKickstart2023 can come in, making digital solutions more accessible and affordable to businesses, even for those with little to no online presence.

From personal experience, in-person seminars, workshops, and on-the-ground activities are critical, allowing us to meet these business owners and founders on the ground, and understand their needs. From there, we can tailor advice and solutions to their needs, and see what they need to take their business to the next level.

Beyond that, there has to be greater accessibility to solutions themselves. Democratizing digital solutions suites for streamlined operations and collaboration can create more efficient back-end services, while web development and design services can help better drive lead generation and e-commerce.

Lastly, giving SMEs comprehensive cybersecurity solutions from the get-go allows them to leap into digitalizing their business with confidence and safety.


The journey toward digitalization can oftentimes be overwhelming, leaving numerous businesses perplexed as to where or how to start.

Comprehending these concerns should be the cornerstone of any solution provider, such that they can deliver comprehensive digital solutions that render the path to digitalization more accessible for businesses of all sizes and online presences.

The time is ripe for SMEs to embrace digitalization.

In a landscape where the potential of digitalization remains boundless, SMEs need steadfast partners, equipping businesses with the tools and support they need to flourish in the digital era.

Regardless of a business’s scale or digital literacy, the future of Singapore’s business ecosystem hinges on collective efforts toward a more digitally inclusive landscape, one where SMEs thrive and contribute to a brighter, digitally empowered tomorrow.

Chan Kee Siak is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Exabytes Group.

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