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Fear of failure may be holding S'pore back: Study

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As Singapore makes a push to modernise its economy, a new study has found that the country's fear of failure - which locals might recognise as the "kiasu" mindset - may be holding it back.

The Connecting Commerce report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), which was launched yesterday, placed Singapore 14th out of 45 cities in terms of how confident businesses are that the city's environment supports a digital transformation.

The study, commissioned by Australian telco Telstra, looked at five indicators: innovation and entrepreneurship, financial environment, people and skills, development of new technologies as well as information and communications technology infrastructure.

Bangalore in India was ranked first in the report, ahead of San Francisco in the United States, with seven other Asian cities in the top 10.

Of South-east Asian cities, Manila and Jakarta were the highest ranked at sixth and eighth, respectively.

Singapore fared most poorly in "innovation and entrepreneurship", where it ranked 21st, and "people and skills", where it ranked 18th.

Mr David Burns, Telstra group managing director of international and global services, said this is largely because innovation often involves being willing to fail repeatedly before achieving success.

Speaking yesterday at a panel discussion, he noted: "In corporate society in Singapore, failure is not in the dictionary, whereas that innovative environment works on trying things and seeing what works."

Mr Marcus Gnirck, founder of homegrown start-up Tryb, agreed, saying: "There hasn't been enough learning or learning through failure, but conversation about it is finally happening."

Big data analytics skills were most in demand for companies in Singapore seeking digital transformation, with 38 per cent citing it as their biggest requirement. Digital security came second at 32 per cent.

The research polled 2,620 senior executives and at least 28 business leaders in 45 cities.