Smart Nation 101 – Why Singapore Can Succeed

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How did the term “Smart Nation” come about? Smart Nation is an initiative by the Singapore Government to harness infocomm technologies, networks and big data to create tech-enabled solutions with the aim of improving citizens’ lives, generating more opportunities and forging stronger communities.

It was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 24 November 2014. In 2017, the government set aside $2.4 billion to support the Smart Nation initiative which involves the government purchasing services from technology startups rather than offering grants to support them. 

Some focus areas include enhancing public transport networks, enabling successful aging and ensuring an open but secure data marketplace. The Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP) collects, tracks and analyses data related to housing, amenities and public infrastructure. 

1. How Is Data Collected?

It is done through an interconnected network of 110,000 lamp posts with wireless sensors so data is collected and analysed via video analytics. The insights will be used for urban and operational planning, maintenance and incidence response so that at any point of time, the technology can be leveraged by citizens, businesses and government agencies to improve lives in a Smart Nation. 

With that in mind, the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGO) is collaborating with the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) under the Prime Minister’s office in leading the development of a National Digital Identity framework for online transactions between citizens and businesses, building on the current SingPass system.  

smart nation

2. Why A Smart Nation?

At the fundamental level, Smart Nation is about making daily living as seamless as possible. Eg. Payment transactions and applying for a work permit etc. At the broader level, it is about maximising effectiveness and efficiency be it managing traffic or monitoring security threats through the use of smart system monitoring.

Digitising saves overhead costs by a huge margin and helps to drive business growth. Citizens can also use technology to improve their quality of life by monitoring their health, planning commutes and reducing the time spent on administration matters. 

All in all, the technology that enables all this transformation must have a smooth interface, intuitive design, convenient and user-friendly because ultimately, it is about transforming Singapore’s economy, and ensuring the supply of jobs as well as opportunities in the future. 

3. How Does It Help Singapore?

In today’s world, technology has become more advanced with the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) etc. It is the catalyst for change and can improve lives beyond imagination as compared to traditional models. Some of them include:

  • Domestic – Smart monitoring systems can help the elderly to live more independent lives and age successfully. Dialect-speaking apps are available to reach out to many seniors in Singapore, assisting them with aging in a familiar and friendly voice. 
  • Business – A Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) owner can benefit from automated licensing with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA). Smart forms will incrementally ask for the right information required. A National Trade Platform helps with the import and financing of products. 
  • Young Parents – A digitised school transport system helps to make travel more efficient and children are enabled to learn online at their own pace. Automated transport pods make bustling around easier at smart HDB precincts. 
  • Services – They will be personalised and event-driven. Anticipating users’ behaviour and needs, they will deliver what is needed even before they ask for it. This will enhance the simplicity of everyday processes and provide a seamless experience with the government. 

In summary, Singapore may be small but it is compact and has a largely digitally literate population. Additional factors like its good infrastructure, high speed connectivity, high smartphone penetration and a large talent pool – they help to place the country in a good position to succeed in being a Smart Nation. 

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