A look at Singapore’s smart nation ambition: are we still there?

Singapore first expressed its ambition to be a smart nation in November 2014.

At the launch of this initiative, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described the smart nation as a nation where “we can create possibilities beyond what we imagine possible”.

Essentially, the Smart Nation of Singapore Journey strives to transform Singapore through technology.

A smart nation fully harnesses technology to improve the lives of citizens, create more opportunities, and build stronger communities.

Today, developments in digital technology are advancing rapidly and the next frontier of technologies – big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things, robotics and blockchain – will fundamentally transform the global economy and change the way we live and to work.

A smart nation is an integral part of Singapore’s next nation-building phase and presents opportunities to enhance its strengths, overcome national challenges and physical limitations, and create new sources of comparative advantage.

In order to continue to thrive and stay relevant, Singapore must embrace digitization and the benefits it brings.

So what would a smart nation look like?

In a smart nation, we will see transformation in key areas: health, transportation, urban solutions, finance and education.

1. Health

Our healthcare system will go beyond healthcare, as Singaporeans will be better equipped and empowered to take care of their own health.

Health services, where they are needed, will be delivered efficiently. Singaporeans already use wearable devices or smartphones to monitor their health and activities, and this data can empower individuals and inform service delivery.

Image Credit: Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS)

Some national projects in this context: HealthHub, telehealth, assistive technologies and robotics in health care

2. Transport

Data analytics, intelligent systems and autonomous vehicles are key solutions for the future of transportation planning and operations.

Our roads and transport system will be optimized, making traffic smoother, public transport more comfortable and reliable, and cleaner air requiring fewer passenger cars.

autonomous vehicles singapore
Image credit: Department of Transportation

Some national projects in this context: autonomous vehicles, payment of contactless tariffs for public transport, open data and analyzes for urban transport

3. Urban solutions

Our homes and estates will be safer, more comfortable and more durable. The use of sensors and smart systems will improve the efficiency of municipal services, save energy and ensure sustainable use of resources.

pub smart water meter
PUB will install 300,000 smart water meters by 2023 / Image credit: PUB

Some national projects in this context: automated meter reading (AMR) test to make water use data easily accessible for consumers from the tap to the app, drones to investigate dengue hot spots, OneService app to provide a common platform for the public to report municipal issues in public bodies

4. Finances

Singapore will continue to be a leading regional and global financial center, fueled by financial institutions that readily adopt fintech solutions for better customer service, greater efficiency in trade finance, enhanced oversight and compliance costs. reduced.

5. Education

Digital technology opens up a new field of self-directed and collaborative learning. The relationships between students, teachers and parents, as well as the capacities of the physical infrastructure are increased to create a holistic and conducive environment for effective learning.

Routine and repetitive tasks are also automated to help teachers focus on the work that matters. In the long term, Singapore needs to rethink its philosophies, content and learning modalities as technology evolves.

A smart nation will also involve every person and organization, taking steps to learn and embrace digital technologies.

Singapore has in fact developed mutually reinforcing plans to build a digital economy, digital government and digital society.

Digital Government Plan / Image Credit: Smart Nation and Digital Government Office

This means that every industry, business and government agency must step up efforts to accelerate their digitization efforts to lead a national movement fueled by a society of digitally ready citizens and communities.

This widespread transformation is exemplified by large national projects, in areas such as digital infrastructure and service delivery, and involving the public, private and people sectors.

Where are we among the other countries in the race for the smart nation?

According to Smart city index, Singapore has been ranked the world’s top smart city for two consecutive years (2019 and 2020).

Despite our exceptional performance, there is still a long way to go to maintain our position as the world’s leading smart city.

Smart city initiatives around the world / Image credit: Singapore Computer Society

In Helsinki, one of the initiatives currently being explored is smart waste management in homes.

The refrigerators are equipped with smart sensors that monitor the expiration dates of foods. Homeowners will then be notified of the approaching expiration date and receive suggestions on how to use the food instead of disposing of it.

In Singapore, food waste is one of the most important waste streams, generating more than 744,000 tonnes in 2019 alone. In a move towards greater sustainability, Singapore should consider such digitization solutions in our upcoming smart city projects to better manage our country’s food waste.

Meanwhile, Zurich’s multifunctional smart street lights are designed to offer an array of benefits and services. It powers electric cars, collects environmental data, records traffic, measures the filling of a garbage can, identifies empty parking spaces and provides public WiFi.

Although smart lighting is not a new concept in Singapore, our capabilities are limited to optimizing the use of lighting and understanding human traffic trends.

We are moving at a rapid pace, but not there yet

To achieve a smart nation, we are starting from a strong position, building on Singapore’s early investments in connectivity technology and infrastructure, and on strong institutions ready to seize these opportunities.

Singaporeans are also digitally savvy and have a solid pool of successful talent in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.

While Singapore is progressing well, we are still in the early days of the digital revolution and our smart nation initiative.

The effects of this digital age may not always be revolutionary in the short term, but fundamental changes in society and the economy can be expected in the decades to come.

Beyond realizing the future we can foresee, Singapore must continue to forge ahead in this rapidly evolving space, continuously innovate and transform, and build capacity and expertise so that we let’s be prepared for the unknown.

We can secure our future by strengthening the link between academia, industry and government, making strategic bets in cutting-edge technologies, and building strong relationships with the international community.

At its core, the smart nation aims to empower its people. Naturally, there could be fears and tensions about technology destabilizing livelihoods, increasing costs and increasing vulnerabilities.

However, if we identify these challenges and tackle them head-on, technology can translate into better jobs and business opportunities, more security and improved livelihoods.

Featured Image Credit: Siemens

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