Singapore as a Smart Nation


Prof Tan (left) and Mr Csizmadia (right)


COVID-19 has led Singapore to step up on its digital transformation strategies and there is no returning to pre-pandemic days, said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

Speaking at an e-conference session on Smart Cities, Prof Tan also highlighted Singapore’s multi-faceted strategies in this respect, ranging from infrastructure and regulations, to manpower and industry.

“As a result of COVID, the Singapore government realised that there is a need to quickly step up the various digital transformation initiatives,” he said.

“There is no returning to the pre-COVID era, and we actually have to move much faster.”

The hardware is key in Singapore’s Smart Nation strategy.

“One of the most important and fundamental (aspects) is to make sure that we have a sound IT infrastructure for seamless connectivity. Singapore is small, so fortunately more than 90 per cent of our households have access and also a computer. In fact, our mobile penetration is pretty high, it’s 150 per cent,” said Prof Tan.

The mobile penetration rate refers to the number of mobile subscriptions divided by the total population. A figure higher than 100 per cent means that the average person subscribes to more than one mobile line.

In relation to this, it is important to have a safe but open data architecture, underpinned by strong cyber-security. “It is important to protect users and to inspire trust in a digital future,” he said.

Additionally, Singapore has set up a trusted regulatory framework, including landmark legislation such as the Personal Data Protection Act in 2012 and the Cybersecurity Act in 2018.

“The whole idea is to have an integrated data management framework to promote sharing of data between government agencies to support decision making, operations, and service delivery – and also to allow trusted companies and industry players to tap on all this,” said Prof Tan.

People and industry

Alongside the infrastructure and hardware, people and industry are also key pillars.

Prof Tan highlighted the efforts to ensure the population is digitally enabled. The SG Digital Office, under the Infocomm Media Development Authority, is tasked with helping businesses and individuals – especially seniors – to go digital.

Digital inclusiveness is an important pillar of a Smart City, noted Prof Tan. This involves ensuring that every person has digital access and digital literacy.

The driving force in the transformation would be skilled tech talents, where Singapore is focusing on key industries like health, education, transport, finance and urban solutions. 

Vibrant industries and an entrepreneurial start-up ecosystem are playing a key role in driving Singapore ahead, as are tech-enabled industry sectors.

In this regard the government has set up the $4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme for industries to address issues and deepen partnerships to raise productivity.

“Industry and the startup ecosystem have to be a key part of (the digital transformation) – and likewise, the tech-enabled industry sectors,” said Prof Tan.


Prof Tan highlighted Singapore’s Smart Nation strategy

Prof Tan was speaking on 27 Oct at a session titled “Smart cities for a healthy future? Innovation in urbanisation and the importance of digital literacy”, held as part of the Budapest Eurasia Forum 2020. The moderator was Mr Norbert Csizmadia, President of Pallas Athéné Domus Meriti Foundation (PADME) which was established by the Hungarian National Bank to support the education of economics, finance and social science professionals.

Another speaker was Mr Jiang Jianduan from the China State Construction and Engineering Corporation. The conglomerate, the largest construction company in the world by revenue, has multiple projects across Europe.

Mr Jiang praised the historical and current collaborations between China and European countries such as Hungary.

“We look forward to further cooperation with Europe to bring the concept of Smart Cities to more places,” he said in Chinese. “We believe such cooperation will bring autonomous, balanced and sustainable development.”