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.
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.
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.