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Singapore after Lee Kuan Yew: Mudflat to metropolis to smart nation

Zafirah Salim | March 23, 2015
Under Lee Kuan Yew's leadership, Singapore - which was once an impoverished port - is now ranked as one of the richest countries in the world.

"If someone living in Singapore in the 1950s could have entered a time machine and traveled to the Singapore of today, he would have found the transformations of this island literally unbelievable," former Singapore president SR Nathan said at a September 2013 conference on the legacy of "LKY", as he is commonly referred to.

According to a grieving PM Lee Hsien Loong, as he delivers his speech to the nation addressing the death of his father this morning, these were some of late Lee's parting words: "I have spent so much of my life, so much of it, building up this country. There's nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life."

Singapore to be world's first Smart Nation

Singapore wants to be a smart nation in 10 years, making it one of the world's leading cities.

This means Singapore will be a "nation where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for us all," said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at last year's launch of the Smart Nation initiative on November 24.

A Smart Nation Programme Office will be set up in the Prime Minister's Office to bring Singaporeans, government and business together to realise the vision.

The government will also build the infrastructure, facilitate innovation and create the framework for all to contribute to making Singapore a smart nation.

PM Lee said Singapore can achieve this smart nation people as it has the people, resources and ability. And one important edge it has - which must be fully taken advantage of and used extensively - is technology, particularly IT, according to him.

He noted that Singapore has already embarked on this smart nation journey - we are wired up and well-connected, our smart phone penetration is one of the highest in the world, we have e-Government services in place, a lively start-up scene and tech-savvy citizens. The country needs to build on these elements and drive this as a national effort, he added.

PM Lee also urged people to have a can-do spirit of experimentation akin to that in Silicon Valley. Right skills and mindsets are needed, and the education system is already equipping students with up-to-date knowledge and skills to use technology. But beyond that, schools need to teach students to create the technology of the future.

Lee concluded, "If I may go back to what Mr Lee Kuan Yew said when first we became independent and take it one step forward, update it, today perhaps this is what he would say: 50 years ago, we built a modern city. Today, we have a metropolis. 10 years from now, let's have a smart nation!" 


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