GSMA THRIVE ASIA PACIFIC: Singapore Minister of Communications and Information, S Iswaran (pictured), urged nations to encourage the free flow of data across borders to help maximise what he sees as vast opportunities around digitalisation of economies and businesses.

“It’s imperative we stay open and connected digitally. We should facilitate the free flow of data so international trade can continue to flourish and our people can remain connected to the global commons.”

He argued it was essential nations collectively strengthen the global flow and protection of data to deliver better outcomes for businesses and consumers.

Singapore was an early advocate for digital economy agreements, which Iswaran said are the next frontier in the global economic architecture. The city-state is developing an international network of such deals to build interoperable digital systems, and frameworks for cross-border data flows and electronic transactions.

It signed deals with New Zealand, Australia and Chile, and is holding talks with South Korea.

“We welcome more countries to partner in this venture. At the same time, robust regulations and common standards must undergird the free flow of data. The key is to foster mutual trust, so countries have certainty their data and information will be safe when moved beyond their borders.”

He also noted governments must foster inclusivity by equipping workers and vulnerable groups with the required digital capabilities.

To narrow the digital divide in Singapore, the government established the SG Digital Office in June, with more than 1,000 digital ambassadors working in the community to help micro enterprises use e-payment services and teach older people.