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Singapore's Prime Minister shares his Smart Nation vision with the world

Zafar Anjum | April 26, 2015
Not just a Smart City, but a Smart Nation, declares PM Lee Hsien Loong

He showed he was aware of the ambitions of the world's other great cities. "Of course other countries have similar ambitions, for example UK has a tech nation initiative," he said. "Each country will stake out a different niche for itself. But our advantage is that we are compact, we have a single level of government, we can decide efficiently, and scale up successful experiments and pilots without any delay. Also we are able to take a long-term view, and see through big transformations to the end, until they bear fruit for citizens."

Smart Nation Programme Office  

"I have set up the Smart Nation Programme Office, to bring all the pieces together, within Government, and also between Government and the private sector, to use technology to achieve social and economic objectives, and to make a difference in all our lives." he said. "The Smart Nation Programme Office lives in the Prime Minister’s department.  I take a personal interest in this. 40 years ago, after doing a math degree, I went on to study computer science, on my father’s advice.  He said there is a future in that, and he was right.  So for the Smart Nation Programme Office, I have put Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in charge, reporting to me.  Vivian is both a hacker and a dabbler – He used to be an eye surgeon but since he does not get to operate on eyes nowadays, he dabbles in building simple robots, assembling watches, wireless devices and programming apps.  His day job is to be the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, and so when he builds apps, he uses the real time APIs generated by the Ministry.  That’s called user-testing."

The Prime Minister even revealed how he  wrote his last programme as a Sudoku solver in C++ several years ago but because of his two children who are in IT, two of them – both graduated from MIT--Haskell could one day be his retirement reading.  

"Let me share three priority areas for the Smart Nation vision," he said. "First, we want to help older Singaporeans to age-in-place and to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.  Our society is aging.  Already, today, one person in nine is elderly, meaning 65 and above – so I am just “un-elderly” by a little bit.  But within 15 years, by 2030, we shall be one person in five aged 65 and above, which is about where the Japanese are today.  Technology can help them to live independently in their own communities with their own support networks, and give their children peace of mind."

"The second is to look for breakthrough solutions in mobility, transportation," he said. "Land is scarce in Singapore.  Already, we are one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and we can’t keep on building more and more roads indefinitely, becoming like Los Angeles.  We have got to find solutions, using technology, using data, to make our transport more efficient and to improve the commuting experience – through information for commuters, through responsive management of public transport systems, through smart city planning to minimise long and unproductive commutes.  So that is the second area – transportation breakthroughs."


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