"Secondly, we have a population which is IT savvy who understand technology, at least understand how to use it," he added. "Students go to school and have a strong foundation in maths and science. If you look at PISA maths and science results comparing student in the different countries in the world, as far as Maths and Science is concerned, we are ranked one or two, comparable to Shanghai. And if you look at where our people have gone overseas in companies like Google, Facebook, Silicon Valley, there are many Singaporeans holding key engineering positions. We have the talent, network and know-how to help us get a head-start.
"Thirdly, this is a highly connected and wired up island," he said. "We have more mobile phones in Singapore than there are people. In fact, there is one and a half phones per person. On trains and buses, more than half the people are looking at their smart phones. On railway stations and platforms, we are now installing Wi-Fi so that from the Wi-Fi hotspot, we can tell how many people are standing on which parts of the platform. Our smartphone penetration is the highest in the world. We have rolled out national gigabyte fibre access, available to homes and offices across the country. We currently top the Ookla chart as the nation with the highest download speeds. If you want to know how easy it is to get addicted to that, you travel overseas and book into a hotel and try to get Wi-Fi, and it is not very Wi-Fi. That is why we have set ourselves the goal of becoming a Smart Nation."
Not just a Smart City, but a Smart Nation
"There are a lot of Smart Cities around the world and many experiments in using technology to improve lives," he said. "For example, Kansas City is wiring up with Gigabit Internet, courtesy of Google Fibre. Rio de Janeiro has set up a central operations command centre for municipal and emergency services, I think done with IBM. Seoul is collecting public transport data to run the transport system more efficiently. New York City has NYC311, a one-stop shop for all government information and non-emergency services. So there are a lot of cities wanting to be smart, the difference in this city wanting to be smart, is Singapore is also a country. We can take a holistic national view, and not just a municipal one."
He said that Singapore is mustering the full resources of our institutions, people and companies to focus decisively on big, complex problems, things which matter to us and our people. "So it is not gee whiz high-tech, but can actually make a difference in people’s lives," he said. "For example, as a city we could work with companies to develop solutions for tele-rehabilitation, have your physiotherapist across skype, but as a country we can integrate tele-rehab with the public housing infrastructure and the national healthcare system, and rally different communities to provide emotional and social support to patients. So we are trying something to be more than a smart city."
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