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Moving to the next phase of Smart Nation (Part 1)

Nurdianah Md Nur
Nurdianah Md Nur • 8 min read
Moving to the next phase of Smart Nation (Part 1)
What should Singapore do to become a more efficient, sustainable and resilient city? Photo: Unsplash
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In the Institute for Management Devel­opment’s Smart City Index this year, Singapore is the top Asian city and is ranked seventh globally. The index ranks 141 cities by how they use tech­nology to address the challenges they face to achieve a higher quality of life. It also reveals that Singapore is among six cit­ies to have been continuously improv­ing their performance since 2019.

Lead­ers from various industries weigh in on what Singapore should focus on next to make further progress in its Smart Na­tion journey.

Anthony Ong, chair of SGTech’s Smart Nation Chapter and group CEO of Adera Global Smart Tech

Singapore’s journey towards be­coming a first-world smart city nation can be enhanced by focusing on some key areas. Tackling ethical concerns is crucial as technology becomes perva­sive, especially with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). Singapore must estab­lish robust frameworks to govern respon­sible and ethical technology use, ensuring transparency, accountability, data privacy protection, and preventing bias, discrim­ination and social inequality.

Additionally, Singapore must invest in digital trust technologies and exper­tise to address cyber threats while foster­ing stakeholder collaboration. Awareness campaigns are also crucial to educate in­dividuals and businesses about cyberse­curity risks, promoting responsible digital behaviour and cultivating a cybersecuri­ty culture from an early age. Proactive measures will help maintain trust in Sin­gapore’s digital infrastructure, safeguard critical systems and enhance its compet­itive advantage as a global digital capital.

Besides that, Singapore needs to pri­oritise digital inclusivity in its Smart Nation initiatives to prevent a digital divide, ensuring that all segments of so­ciety, including marginalised groups and seniors, are catered to. This involves im­plementing digital literacy programmes, promoting equal participation and re­ducing social disparities. Achieving this goal requires collaboration among gov­ernment agencies, industry partners, ac­ademia and citizens.

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The ultimate goal for Singapore is val­ue creation, improving citizens’ quality of life. By leveraging technology, Singa­pore can offer more efficient and sustain­able services, benefitting the nation and its people in this digital era.

Mark Tham, country managing director for Singapore, Accenture

For Singapore to continue leading the way as a smart city, it is cru­cial to enhance and prioritise efforts to­wards sustainable progress in terms of environmental concerns and designing for inclusivity, benefitting residents and visitors alike. This includes delivering more sophisticated private services and greener public infrastructure.

See also: How AWS empowers Asean organisations to innovate with generative AI

Technological breakthroughs such as generative AI and multiparty systems can enhance these initiatives. This is exempli­fied in Accenture’s collaboration with the East Coast Town Council to move towards net-zero emissions. It involves deploying cloud-powered sustainability solutions that offer insights and recommendations to help residents and businesses reduce their carbon footprint.

In conjunction, collaborative spaces that bring together the public and pri­vate sectors play a crucial role in foster­ing a human-centred approach to smart city innovation. Accenture’s Singapore Innovation Hub is built for this purpose, enabling stakeholders, including commu­nities, industry, academia and govern­ment, to participate and explore digital possibilities.

Jason Jameson, SVP and general manager for Asia Pacific, Here Technologies

I have been lucky to travel exten­sively and can safely say that Sin­gapore is one of the smartest cities in the world. Almost every aspect of life is digitised, which has contributed to our excellent healthcare; efficient transport system; and clean, safe and sustaina­ble environment. But there is room for more — we need to keep up with the pace of AI and emerging technologies to continue to improve citizens’ qual­ity of life. As we pave the way for our electric vehicle (EV) future, for exam­ple, we need to make EV charging and routing a seamless end-to-end experi­ence, and that’s where location tech­nology comes in.

At Here Technologies, we are helping our partners and customers make auto­mated and EV driving smarter and saf­er, build new mobility experiences, and address today’s supply chain and logis­tics challenges. I strongly believe that all this is only possible through collab­oration and sharing of data between or­ganisations — and that’s the key to Sin­gapore successfully realising its Smart Nation vision.

Jan Morgenthal, chief digital officer, M1

Since 5G is a force multiplier for other innovative technologies such as AI and multi-access edge comput­ing, it is a critical enabler to achieve Singapore’s Smart Nation ambitions, particularly in the digital economy pil­lar. As one of the few countries to de­ploy nationwide 5G standalone cover­age, we’re seeing some key trends and patterns emerge. To no one’s surprise, large companies are proving early adop­ters, but there are many 5G opportu­nities for small and medium-sized en­terprises (SMEs) seeking a competitive advantage too.

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As SMEs are the backbone of Singa­pore’s economy, we need to work with the government to help them overcome barriers to entry through education cam­paigns and co-creating commercially via­ble 5G-enabled solutions. Doing this will unlock competitive gains, such as digital innovations, cost efficiencies and time-saving, which are important for smaller businesses.

Eileen Chua, managing director for Singapore, SAP

Singapore has made momentous progress in its Smart Nation jour­ney. The next big opportunity is leverag­ing data analytics and AI responsibly to drive automation and make data-driv­en decisions that catalyse co-innovation across public, private and plural partner­ships to foster citizen participation and engagement.

With a target to achieve its net-ze­ro ambition by 2050, Singapore also re­quires collective action to accelerate its sustainability efforts and a mindset shift to treat environmental reporting like fi­nancial accounting to drive sustainable success as a Smart Nation. Finally, Sin­gapore needs to continue investing in a skilled future-ready workforce to support its Smart Nation aspirations and contin­ue its journey as a digitally inclusive, in­telligent, sustainable and liveable smart city.

Alex Teo, vice president & managing director of Southeast Asia, Siemens Digital Industries Software

Building a smart city requires ad­vanced technologies, including fa­cial recognition, AI and sharing of person­al data. While these technologies play a substantial role in our daily lives, there are concerns about how they could nega­tively impact society. Most common con­siderations include privacy intrusion, un­governed data, and even potential fraud or misinformation.

Singapore should focus on the responsi­ble use of technology and building digital trust as it progresses on its Smart Nation journey, especially with cyber threats on the rise. To protect data and uphold the technological integrity of new innovations, consider establishing standardised frame­works across different agencies and or­ganisations that include thorough checks, limitations, and regulations set in place. Leverage digital twin technologies to an­alyse what can be done with governed data to improve citizen living. Smart cit­ies must be built in a way that constant­ly evolves and innovates to prepare for any future disruption and change.

James Chan, managing director, SMM (the facilities arm of Surbana Jurong Group)

Smart Nation goals must evolve to include green targets if Singapore aims to green 80% of its buildings by 2030 and if 80% of new builds are to be su­per-low energy. Cutting-edge technologies, including digital twins and AI, are a key en­abler in helping building owners achieve their green targets and meet net-zero am­bitions. Surbana Jurong has advised many asset owners to improve building perfor­mance by taking incremental steps, using sensors and common data environment platforms to aggregate energy, indoor air quality and water usage data to set realistic targets and address gaps as they work towards net zero.

Emily Tan, CEO and country director for Singapore, Thales

To maintain Singapore’s leading po­sition, it is imperative that the tech­nologies deployed are safe and secure, enhancing people’s way of life while en­suring cyber threats are kept at bay. Per­sonal identities and privacy should be safeguarded with a robust technological framework. Collaboration with global tech­nology players and institutions should con­tinue to keep abreast of the latest advance­ment in technologies and counter threats.

Singapore should strengthen local capa­bilities in emerging technologies, including AI, 5G and quantum computing. AI-pow­ered algorithms can analyse real-time data to enable quicker, more informed deci­sions, while quantum computers deliver the new frontier in data processing. As Singapore charts its Smart Nation jour­ney, these digital technologies have the capacity to positively impact society and make lives better for everyone.

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