Singapore: a Strategic Focus on Innovation; a Lesson for the Rest of the World

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Like a bee to honey, people are drawn towards cities for the resources and opportunities offered by the urban centers. But as days pass, they also realize that city life is less ideal than what they had envisioned. Many issues including traffic congestion, housing & healthcare costs, and pollution can make a city intolerable for many. Acknowledging these problems, governments around the world are taking steps to make cities more livable. By using different types of technologies, they are developing systems for monitoring and collecting data and use it to manage assets and resources efficiently for better life in the cities.

Although many countries bought into the smart city movement, Singapore has managed to have the most success when it comes to integrating technology into urban life. It may be one of the smallest countries but this tiny city-state has been the leader in smart city. After all, the forward-thinking island nation has a proven track record for continued innovation and a ceaseless commitment to harnessing digital technologies. Sitting just one degree north of the equator, the state cannot domestically produce its own basic resources and it is consistently hot and humid throughout the year. Defying all the odds, it has evolved into a modern, cosmopolitan city that leads the race to become a global smart city.

Singapore’s status as Smart Nation is internationally recognized. Under its Smart Nation Initiative launched in 2014, Singapore has embarked on strategic national projects that reduce the friction between the government, businesses, and citizens, improving productivity while paying attention to sustainability. With the strong focus on citizen-centricity, the country encourages and promotes the active engagement of its citizens in making their city smarter.

Singapore is an indisputable leader when it comes to smart mobility, safety, healthcare, and convenient administrative services. In 2016, this compact city was ranked as number one in the Juniper Research Global Smart City Index, recognized as a world leader in its application of smart mobility policies and technology. Its lengthy smart city history includes projects such as traffic congestion analytics, waste monitoring, and sustainable buildings.

Despite having very few natural resources and no local water supply, the country has become a global financial powerhouse. It has become a world leader for global commerce, finance, and transport by focusing on doing things well. Their natural, deep water harbor provided the opportunity to attract global shipping, and then a secure and stable economy enabled Singapore to become an attractive location for regional and global banking outlets.

Surprisingly, Singapore has actually benefitted from its relatively small size, enabling it to have a clear overall strategy regarding the goals it wishes to achieve. It follows a strong culture on work collaboratively. Government, universities and businesses, all work closely together to ensure good ideas are being developed and turned into viable commercial products.

What Makes this Island Nation a Leader in Smart City?

Singapore has transformed itself from just an island into one of the world’s most advanced economies in just 51 years. Along with its high level of tech literacy and robust infrastructure, the city focuses its complete energy towards making the smart-city dream a reality.

The first initiative was arguably taken by Singapore when it implemented an island-wide, superfast broadband network and free Wi-Fi for everyone. Today, it provides free Wi-Fi inside subway stations and it has paved the way for its first driverless taxis. There is a nationwide network of street sensors, cameras, and GPS devices, installed in public spaces to monitor safety and crowd density, and atop buildings to monitor air quality and pedestrian movement. Shortly, the city is upgrading to a gantry less system with the position accuracy which provides real-time traffic information and automatic charging for street-side parking. Even the city’s water management system is one of the most advanced in the world. With limited access to freshwater, the city-state has also developed technology that uses only half the electricity required by the current methods to catch rain and desalinate 100 million gallons of seawater a day.

In addition to that, the Selected Housing & Development Board estates in Singapore are testing the use of smart products at the home. To name a few it is implementing, smart lighting to conserve energy, sensors to monitor elderly residents in case they fall, and automated pneumatic waste collection for odor-free refuse collection. And a Singapore-based start-up nuTonomy has also been testing self-driving cars in the consent of the authorities.

With an ambitious government, the city is moving closer to its smart-nation goal. On the other hand, with clean streets, excellent safety, and the convenience and efficiency of a smart city, Singapore will continue to be a highly desirable place to live and work.

What can we Learn from Singapore?

Its transformation from a congested city to a thriving smart city has been very inspiring and offers great lessons for other developing countries in the APAC region. However, not everything can be replicated and implemented but we can learn a lot. The most important lesson is not to center on technology, but around people. A city’s workforce will ultimately be responsible for rolling out smart city measures and keeping it running, so it is vital that the workforce is equipped to handle a highly-digitized future. By using connected devices and sophisticated communications a smart city can deliver innovative services, reduce costs for service providers and allow citizens to improve the running of the city. 

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