Singapore first expressed its ambition to be a smart nation in November 2014.
In launching this initiative, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described the smart nation as a nation where “we can create possibilities beyond what we imagined possible.”
Basically, Singapore’s smart nation’s journey strives to transform Singapore through technology.
A smart nation makes the most of technology with the goal of improving the lives of citizens, creating more opportunities, and building stronger communities.
Today, developments in digital technology are advancing rapidly and the next frontier of technologies (mass data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things, robotics and blockchain) will fundamentally transform the global economy and change the our way of living and working.
A smart nation is part of the next phase of Singapore’s nation building and presents opportunities to improve its strengths, overcome national challenges and physical boundaries, and build new sources of comparative advantage.
To continue to thrive and maintain its relevance, Singapore must embrace digitalisation 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.
Our health care system will go beyond health care, as Singaporeans will be better equipped and able to take care of their own health.
Health services, where necessary, will be provided efficiently. Singaporeans already use portable devices or smartphones to monitor their health and activities, and this data can empower people and inform service delivery.
Some national projects in this regard: HealthHub, telehealth, healthcare technology and health robotics
Data analysis, intelligent systems and autonomous vehicles are key solutions for the future of transport planning and operations.
Our roads and transportation system will be optimized, which will make traffic smoother, public transportation more comfortable and reliable, and the air filter less in need of private cars.
Some national projects in this regard: autonomous vehicles, payment of contactless fares for public transport, open data and analysis for urban transport
3. Urban solutions
Our homes and farms will be safer, more comfortable and more sustainable. The use of sensors and intelligent systems will improve the efficiency of municipal services, save energy and ensure a sustainable use of resources.
Some national projects in this regard: automatic meter reading test (AMR) to make water use data easily accessible to consumers from the tap to the application, drones to conduct surveys of dengue points, the OneService app to provide a common platform for the public to report on municipal issues between public agencies.
Singapore will continue to be a leading regional and global financial center, driven by financial institutions that easily adopt fintech solutions for better customer service, greater efficiency in business financing, enhanced supervision and a lower compliance cost.
Digital technology opens up a new field of self-directed and collaborative learning. Relationships between students, teachers, and parents, as well as physical infrastructure capabilities increase to create a holistic and conducive environment for effective learning.
Routine and repetitive tasks are also automated to help educators focus on the work that matters. In the long run, Singapore needs to rethink its philosophies, content and mode of learning as technology evolves.
A smart nation will also involve every person and organization, taking steps to learn about and adopt digital technologies.
Singapore has actually established mutually reinforcing plans to build a digital economy, a digital government and a digital society.
This means that all industries, businesses and government agencies must try to accelerate their digitization efforts to drive a nationwide movement driven by a society of digitally prepared citizens and communities.
This widespread transformation is exemplified through major national projects, in areas such as digital infrastructure and service delivery, and involving the public, private and people sectors.
Where do we stand among other countries in the race of the smart nation?
According to the Smart City Index, Singapore was the first smart city in the world for two consecutive years (2019 and 2020).
Despite our stellar performance, much can still be done to maintain our position as the world’s number one smart city.
In Helsinki, one of the initiatives currently being explored is smart household waste management.
Refrigerators are equipped with smart sensors that monitor food expiration dates. Owners will then be notified when the expiration date is approaching and will be provided with suggestions on how to use the food instead of disposing of it.
In Singapore, food waste is one of the largest waste streams generated 744,000 tons in 2019 ground. In a step towards greater sustainability, Singapore should consider these digitization solutions in our upcoming smart city projects to better manage our country’s food waste.
Meanwhile, Zurich’s multifunctional smart streetlights are designed to provide a wide variety of benefits and services. It supplies power to electric cars, collects environmental data, records traffic flow, measures the fullness of a trash can, identifies empty parking spaces, and provides public WiFi.
While smart lighting is not a new concept for Singapore, our capabilities are limited to optimizing the use of lighting and understanding human traffic trends.
We are advancing at an accelerated pace, but we are not there yet
To achieve a smart nation, we start from a position of strength, building on Singapore’s first investments in technology and connectivity infrastructure, and strong institutions that are prepared to seize these opportunities.
Singaporeans are also digitally literate and have a wealth of talent that works well in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.
While Singapore is making good progress, 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 we can expect fundamental changes for society and the economy in the coming decades.
Beyond achieving the future we can foresee, Singapore must continue to move forward in this moving space, to continually innovate and transform and strengthen its capabilities and experience to be prepared for the unknown.
We can secure our future by strengthening the nexus between academia, industry and government, making strategic bets on frontier technologies and establishing strong relationships with the international community.
The basic smart core is to empower your people. It is understandable that there may be some fears and tensions about technology that destabilizes livelihoods, increases costs, and increases vulnerabilities.
However, if we identify these challenges and address them head-on, technology can lead to better jobs and business opportunities, more security, and improved livelihoods.
Featured Image Credit: Siemens