Business leaders and fund managers, like Anton Casey, see Singapore as an emerging market in the mobile space, thanks to the nation’s continued tech usage.
Anton Casey has witnessed the mobile revolution in Singapore first hand, having lived and worked in the country for many years. His view is supported by research data from The Economist, which shows that Singapore’s smartphone penetration rate has increased from 74 percent in 2012 to 86 percent in 2013, while the nation’s tablet penetration rate has increased from 31 percent in 2012, to 53 percent in 2013. This ranks amongst the highest in the world. To put it into perspective, the same poll ranked Germany as having a 55 percent smartphone penetration rate and a 21 percent tablet penetration rate.
The data also revealed a noticeable upsurge in apps usage in Singapore; from 70 percent in 2012 to 75 percent in 2013, which ranks Singapore fifth amongst the countries polled. In 2012, Singapore was ranked as ninth.
Ericsson’s June 2013 Mobility Report support claims of Singapore’s technological use.
“If we look at comparable data for other countries, we can say that Singaporeans tend to make smarter use of their smartphones – respondents surveyed said they used their smartphone for apps, to send and receive instant messages, view video clips, and keep up with friends in their social networks,” Afrizal Abdul Rahim, Ericsson Consumer Lab head for Southeast Asia and Oceania, says.
The top three reasons for downloading apps among Singaporeans are to perform specific tasks, to keep in contact with friends and to access content while on the go.
“Based on this we can conclude that Singaporeans are favoring utility, communication and content based-apps,” he says.
And Rahim believes that the growth is set to continue apace.
“Based on the data that we gathered from the networks that we manage around the world, we now forecast an even stronger uptake of smartphones,” he says. “Smartphone subscriptions in 2018 are now forecast to reach 4.5 billion, compared to our previous (Nov 2012) forecast of 3.3 billion in 2018.”
He believes that this is due to a several factors, including an increase in the number of smartphone subscriptions in the region.
Singaporeans’ increased interest in apps, social media, video and instant messaging is also in line with the Mobility Report’s findings that mobile data traffic continued to double from last year.
“Video will be around 50 percent of mobile traffic in 2018, according to our estimates,” Rahim says.
According to the report, a smartphone user is expected to more than quadruple their mobile monthly data consumption by 2018 compared with today, and will reach an average of 2GB data per user in 2018. Rahim thinks that Singapore subscribers will increase their data consumption, calling the area an “early adopter … when it comes to technology.”
“It’s already apparent in the data that we have gathered,” he says. “Today, as we have seen, Singapore app usage is ahead compared with its neighbors in Southeast Asia and even in Oceania.”
Rahim’s claims draw parallels with a social media usage report for Singapore by tech publication Techgoondu.com, which reveals Singaporeans as amongst the highest users of social media throughout the globe. The report says that 74 percent of Singaporeans would regularly use social media in 2013. The report also found that YouTube has a penetration rate of 76 percent amongst Singaporeans.
To put this into context, a study by Tom Webster and the team at Edison Research from the same time period showed that, by contrast, only 56 percent of Americans have a profile on social media.
One of the major driving forces Anton Casey attributes to this, and to Singapore’s exponentially high per capita internet usage, is the Singaporean government’s Intelligent Nation 2015 initiative. This plan, which was implemented in 2006, was put in place to establish the nation as a global leader in the information-communication sector and to create a well-connected society.
The Intelligent Nation 2015 initiative is designed to double the value of the nation’s infocomm industry, to triple Singapore’s infocomm export revenue and create 80,000 additional jobs. Additionally, it aims to achieve 90 percent home broadband usage and to achieve 100 percent computer ownership in homes with school-going children. As of 2014, all of these goals have been met or exceeded.
Singapore is now at the forefront of emerging markets in both internet and mobile usage. Insiders like Anton Casey point to a hugely effective government initiative and the island nation’s skilled and diverse workforce as reasons for its ascent.
Stephen Elliott contributed to this article.