The keys to realising Singapore’s Smart Nation vision

Besides investing in relevant technologies, having the right processes or standards, and getting citizens' support are key in enabling the republic's goal.

By Nurdianah Md Nur
Dec. 22, 2015

redit: FutureEverything

Smart Nation has been the buzzphrase for Singapore this year but what does it take for it to be realised?

According to the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), a Smart Nation is one that uses technology to improve the quality of life for its citizens, and create more opportunities for enterprises. The Smart Nation vision also seeks to create a government that could better serve its citizens by enabling citizens to engage more with the government.

While technology seems like the only enabler of Smart Nation, having the right processes (via standards) and getting citizens' buy-in are vital for the vision to become a reality.

In terms of technology, the Singapore government has partnered various IT companies to develop the infrastructure to support the Smart Nation vision. Called the Smart Nation Platform, it will enable greater connectivity, better situational awareness through data collection, and sharing of collected sensor data, said IDA. Some initiatives that help refine the platform include: the progressive deployment of Above Ground (AG) boxes to provide a ready-built common infrastructure for sensor deployment; and the trial of a sensor network and platform that provides anonymised data to public agencies to enable them to better serve the citizens.

As the Smart Nation vision comes to life, we can expect the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), in which things that are not normally connected to the Internet — such as street lamps and traffic lights — are fitted with sensors to allow them to constantly collect and transmit data. Interoperability and compatibility of the data are vital in enabling public agencies and private organisations to take advantage of data collected by IoT devices.

Understanding this, the IDA and Singapore's IT Standards Committee have formed a technical committee, which is responsible for developing technical references and standards for IoT and sensor networks to ensure seamless sharing across services and devices. So far, the committee has published the first version of sensor network technical references for public areas and homes.

As mentioned above, one of the goals of the Smart Nation vision is to enable two-way conversations between government/public agencies and citizens to create a better Singapore for everyone. Even though citizens' participation is mandatory to achieve this, not everyone might be ready to be a part of Smart Nation. "Smart Nation is very pervasive that it doesn't [seem to] allow citizens to opt out. But is everyone [— especially the less technology savvy ones —] willing to be part of it?", said Tong Yee, Founder and Director of the Thought Collective, at the FutureEverything Singapore conference in October.

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