Smart city is a next generational approach to urban management. Singapore is ranked 7th globally in the Smart Cities Index 2019 by the IESE Business School in Barcelona, signalling that it is among the forefront of the digital economy, digital government and digital society.
In terms of the technology dimension on the index, Singapore ranks number 1.
In February 2019, Singapore announced that it will invest US$ 1Bn on smart city planning in 2019. In terms of spending, it already tops the list of smart cities together with New York, Tokyo and London.
Our vision is for Singapore to be a Smart Nation - A nation where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering opportunities for all - Lee Hsien Loong, PM of Singapore
Singapore has a fiberoptic network the length and width of the island and up to three mobiles for every two residents, and it has robot hospitals (with human staff and robots), autonomous taxis (with no driver), and vertical gardens and farms that regulate the temperature by absorbing and dispersing heat while collecting rainwater.
The top 5 smart cities globally are London, New York, Amsterdam, Paris and Reykjavik.
1) Use data and sensors to run a smart, green and liveable city
Singapore has already completed trials to transmit water usage data from smart water meters in Yuhua for over 500 sensors through a wireless sensor network. Smart water meters empower users to save water by enabling them to access near real-time water usage data and detect water leaks through a mobile app.
This year, it is commencing trial on Lampposts-as-a-platform (Laap) to host sensors on lamppost. The trial will use crowd analytics and environmental sensors to measure air quality, rainfall and water level. The data from the sensors will be analysed using various techniques, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), to improve policy making and service delivery for citizens and businesses.
Singapore telcos will roll out 5G mobile networks approximately by 2020. There will also be national NB-IOT (narrow-band IoT) networks that provides better power efficiency, higher cost savings, higher reliability and wider deployment. This will support IoT devices (predicted 75 billion by 2025) to connect. This means more sensors and IoT devices can be installed and become more powerful.
Its buses are already installed with an automatic passenger counting system which benefits the management, scheduling and planning of public transport services. The combination of historical data and real-time calculations makes passenger flows more transparent, enabling authorities to keep track of demand levels and make adjustments to the bus service if necessary.
2) Increase digital literacy of its citizens
Digital literacy is important because it provides the citizens with skills on how to use, consume and share digital data, and how to live, learn, and work in a society where communication and access to information is increasingly through digital technologies like internet platforms, social media, and mobile devices.
Singapore has put in place the SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace Programme and nationwide programmes to increase digital literacy of the elders. Between 2018 and 2022, about 42% of the core skills required to perform a job will change. This means if there are no skill upgrades, people will lose their jobs. Singapore has also encouraged businesses to provide digital services and set up experiential learning journeys for less digital-savvy customers.
Singapore convened a Digital Readiness Council in November 2018 after releasing the Digital Readiness Blueprint. The Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Transport chairs the council. It intends to bring together the government, industry and community to provide strategic direction for national Digital Readiness initiatives, and to guide collective efforts across the public, private and people sectors.
This shows its effort encompasses a wide range of different city services and departments and there is a comprehensive range of stakeholders engaged to sustain innovation.
3) Encourage tech-related start-ups to set up for innovation
There is a vibrant start-up ecosystem in Singapore. It is the gateway to Asia's technology and financial scene. The Government has in place strategies to help startup ecosystem's growth. Singapore has become one of the world’s leading centers for technological innovation, and the go-to place for entrepreneurs — big or small, local or international.
It is ranked among the top 12 startup ecosystems globally. It provides a business climate in a fast moving, well educated city. There is a developed technological infrastructure and legal system, which is invaluable to start-ups. There is also high level of access to funding which attracts many start-ups to set up business. Start ups are setting up in Singapore partially due to the challenge to obtain funding in Hong Kong.
For example, having large number of Fintechs can push for adoption in the e-payment sector, hence enabling a smart nation. The Smart Financial Centre is a subset of the Smart Nation initiative.With the use of AI, blockchain and edge computing, it also improves the performance of the financial industry.
4) Ensure reliable and secure cyber foundations
It recognises that as more services or transactions take place online, there are more persistent cyber threats. It set up the Cybersecurity Agency Singapore to provide oversight of national cybersecurity functions.
The agency has since prepared Singapore Cybersecurity Strategy. Some initiatives under the strategy include enacting the Cybersecurity Act (enacted in 2016) and conducting the Critical Infrastructure Information (CII) Protection Programme to raise cyber readiness.
Its Ministry of Home Affairs also launched the National Cybercrime Action Plan (NCAP) in 2016. Singapore recognises a need for a concerted and coordinated national effort to deal with cybercrime as the surface attack expands with more IoT devices. It is working to enhance its standings by introducing Data Protection Trademarks and working with foreign Data Protection Authorities to facilitate cross-border data flows.
5) Encourage data sharing
Data is a key resource in smart nation. It enables businesses to grow and create new business opportunities, and allows Government to have more informed policymaking, service delivery and operations. Singapore recognises this and is taking steps to set up a value-based ecosystem, looking at both sources of data and consumers of data.
Recently in June 2019, Singapore launched Trusted Data Sharing Framework to facilitate the ease of sharing data between organisations. An example could be retailer and e-payment provider that wants to work together to create more customised shopping experience and deals, but unsure how much customer data to share with each other to achieve the outcome. The framework incorporates content from existing PDPC guides on personal data anonymization and sharing, and guides what should be shared with each other.
The next potential step for Singapore could be such as Copenhagen's City Data Exchange (CDE), where data application silos is broken down by integrating and sharing city data through a collaborative effort involving 50 companies. The CDE roadmap shows how cities need to think beyond the provision of raw data to future requirements in the form of analytical tools. The economies of scale resulting from this strategy lower the costs of data management for all participants.
Other efforts can include providing open access to data such as road maintenance schedules, historical crime statistics, etc.
Singapore is crafting the right strategy for next step of nation building with the strong use of technology. It is pushing every industry, business and government agency to accelerate digitalisation and it intends to be world's first smart nation. It is very innovative, and is already leading the way in terms of technology for smart cities.
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ASEAN Today, Singapore aims to be the world's first smart nation, https://www.aseantoday.com/2017/02/singapore-aims-to-be-the-worlds-first-smart-nation/, published 14 February 2017
Forbes, These are the smartest cities in 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/iese/2019/05/21/these-are-the-smartest-cities-in-the-world-for-2019/#43dad6951429, published 21 May 2019
Smart Nation, https://www.smartnation.sg/what-is-smart-nation/initiatives/Strategic-National-Projects/smart-nation-sensor-platform
Ministry of Communications and Information Singapore, https://www.mci.gov.sg/en/portfolios/digital-readiness/digital-readiness-blueprint