Even though Singapore is one of the world's smallest countries, with no natural resources, it went from an underdeveloped nation to a "first world" country in one generation under the founding father Lee Kuan Yew's wise administration. Singapore is now looking to become a "Smart Nation" to sustain development and cope with the challenges that will test the entire world with the fourth industrial revolution.
Singapore started its Smart Nation initiative in 2014 to co-create a future of better living for all through tech-enabled solutions. "The world is changing fast. We are a leading city today but other leading cities are building outstanding urban environments. We have to move ahead with them and stay up there amongst the leading cities of the world." Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at the Smart Nation launch event in November 2014. "Therefore our vision is for Singapore to be a Smart Nation – a nation where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for all."
According to the Smart Nation coordination office, Singapore strives to become a Smart Nation to support better living, stronger communities, and create more opportunities, for all. It has identified five key areas that have a significant impact on the citizen and society: transport, environment, business productivity, health and public sector services. Since its establishment it has looked to citizens and businesses to co-create impactful solutions to address their challenges.
Smart Nation is not only about providing Internet connectivity or building infrastructure. It's about creating useful solutions that can make differences in people's daily life by using technology. For instance, Singaporean researchers have built a video game headset to help children who have hyperactivity disorder. In another example, elderly people had physiotherapy sessions from their own homes via an online application that used motion sensors.
Singaporean Foreign Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan is the person in charge of the Smart Nation initiative and he says the digital revolution is the main determinant behind it. "We believe we are living in a time of digital revolution. Because of this rapid change, instead of mass production, every products needs to be unique and customized," he told Daily Sabah on Oct. 17. "The main questions will be how the society and governance change in the age of these significant changes. Thus throughout the Smart Nation initiative we are aiming to cope with the challenges of the digital revolution and provide efficient government services in line with people's expectations," he added.
Having solid infrastructure is a must for the Smart Nation initiative and Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Singaporean Minister for Communications and Information, is responsible for this. "The Smart Nation initiative is government's push to use technology in efficient ways," he told Daily Sabah on Oct. 20. "To achieve this objective we have to have a Smart Nation infrastructure. That means we should have fiber optics and sensors, and these are the responsibility of my ministry," he added.
However, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry, Koh Poh Koon, on Oct. 19 drew attention to the fact that implementation of the Smart Nation project is closely linked with social and economic development and therefore warns other nations: "The whole idea of being a Smart Nation is to build an enabling infrastructure ecosystem that creates a more inclusive society and more inclusive community. The Smart Nation requires more steps rather than pushing. Because it may leave people behind if they are not ready. If the community is not ready, there is a danger of fragmenting society further rather than becoming inclusive together," he warned.