On 5 June, at the Smart Nation Innovations Week Opening Symposium, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Coordinating Minister for National Security Mr Teo Chee Hean delivered his opening address on how Singapore as a Smart Nation aspires to empower citizens, energize businesses, and engage internationally.
His speech answered a core question: What does Smart Nation mean to Singapore, including its citizens and businesses and international partnerships?
According to DPM Teo, developments in the digital domain offers Singapore new ways to interact, collaborate and form new partnerships, as well as embrace exciting opportunities to grow future economy and improve the lives of all citizens.
As one of the most networked economies in the world, Singapore has invested in physical infrastructure and connectivity as the foundation for its Smart Nation vision. Currently, fibre broadband connectivity is available in Singapore to support affordable high-speed broadband mobile internet connectivity to both companies and citizens all across Singapore
However, DPM Teo believed that while Singapore has a strong foundation to build a Smart Nation, new back-end, whole-of-nation enabling systems are needed to enable the country to fully exploit new technologies to create new businesses and jobs, and to allow citizens to enjoy access to public and private sector services in new ways that make a real difference to their daily lives.
Digital Government Blueprint
At the same time, DPM Teo also shared that government services in Singapore are also going through a major transformation to put citizens at the centre.
“The objective is to make services intuitive for all to use – in several languages, and even if we are less familiar with technology,” he said.
DMP Teo then announced the release of the Digital Government Blueprint, which outlines how the Government will reorganise and transform itself to deliver public services better through the use of technology. This involves improving the user-experience interface where citizens interact with a greater range of government e-services; but also important back-end, whole-of-nation enabling systems.
He shared the example of SingPass Mobile as a whole-of-nation enabling systems. Scheduled to be rolled out later this year, SingPass Mobile will be rolled out as part of Singapore’s National Digital Identity system. It is a 2 factor authentication, PKI-based system which will enable citizens to easily and securely transact with each other and access government services without the need for physical tokens or SMS passwords. Users can pay bills or sign documents online, apply for public housing, buy or sell a house or a car.
Empowering citizens to thrive
“A Smart Nation has meaning when our citizens are more empowered, when we are able to take more control of and see real improvements in our day-to-day life experiences – better work-life balance, better use of our time, staying more aware and connected with our friends, smoother and faster commutes, taking charge of our healthcare and financial needs,” said DPM Teo.
While Smart Nation will be powered by technology which DPM described as “the enabling game-changer”, technology is not an end in itself.
“To achieve widespread use and benefits, the applications need to be seamless and intuitive to use, without the user needing to navigate the complex underlying technology,” he emphasised.
For example, it is common for people to use wearables and mobile apps to track health and exercise pattern. To help citizens stay fit and healthy, technology can be used to encourage young working adults, including National Servicemen to maintain their fitness. Advancements in healthcare technologies also allows for the birth of personalised digital health coach and telemedicine consultations.
Another example is the use of Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics for preventive maintenance and municipal operations in public housing estates where more than 80% of Singaporeans. With the aim of making the Singapore more liveable and sustainable, sensors can help households and estates save on utilities, and operators can do more targeted and timely maintenance to improve lift reliability or public cleanliness.
“In future, with more data, for example from smart street lamps, and tools to better plan bus routes and improve car-pooling and bike-sharing, commuters can plan their journeys, save time and have a better, safer experience getting around our city for work or leisure,” DPM Teo envisioned.
Energising businesses to seizing opportunities
“A Smart Nation has meaning when our businesses can exploit new opportunities in the Digital Economy – this includes operating more efficiently, reaching out to new markets through digital platforms, and creating new businesses in sectors which were not available in the pre-Digital Economy,” said DPM Teo.
According to DPM Teo, new jobs in the Digital Economy are in both emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and data science, as well as the utilisation of commonly available digital tools or platforms to expand businesses in innovative ways or to create new businesses.
In Singapore, the Government has implemented a whole range of programmes to help businesses and the workforce be digitally ready and digitally skilled. To facilitate new opportunities and business models in the digital economy, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is working with industry partners to enhance our National e-Payments ecosystem through building common links at the backend, while supporting a range of e-payment platforms at the user-interface.
At the same time, IMDA is working with businesses, industry associations and unions to accelerate digitalisation and build digital capabilities across our industries. One of the examples that DPM Teo cited is the focus on the Services and Digital Economy in Singapore’s S$19-billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Masterplan, which aims to boost digital innovation to support Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, Health and Biomedical sciences, and Urban Solutions and Sustainability.
Engaging internationally to form partnerships
“The digital domain cuts across national boundaries. A Smart Nation also means that we collaborate with our international partners and other Smart Cities to deliver digital solutions that link and benefit people and businesses across boundaries,” said DPM.
According to DPM Teo, national level-project such as the National Digital Identity and the epayments infrastructure not only enable more secure and convenient digital services in Singapore, but also allow businesses to develop innovative new services and business models that can apply across borders and economies.
For instance, Singapore has recently adopted the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line e-invoicing (PEPPOL) standard to facilitate the exchange of machine-readable e-invoices.
DPM also shared that the country is also working on a blockchain-based trade financing project with Hong Kong to enable trade-related digital transactions across borders. The collaboration aims to provide traders, banks and clearing facilities a common view to enable trusted transactions and execute contracts faster.
At the same time, to strengthen its cybersecurity defences, DPM Teo said that Singapore will continue to explore joint exercises with its international partners, such as other global financial hubs to share experiences and collectively raise their systemic capabilities to deal with cyber incidents and emergencies that have effects across borders.
This year, under Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship, 26 ASEAN cities together formed a Smart Cities network to exchange experiences in using technology and digital solutions. This enables ASEAN cities to strengthen their interconnectivity, and industry partners to deploy and scale up solutions, to improve the lives of our people across ASEAN.
“A Smart Nation is about enabling our people and businesses to exploit the full potential of the new digital technologies to improve the lives of our people and provide more opportunities for our businesses,” DPM Teo concluded.