Singapore facing two ‘unstoppable forces’ that technology and analytics can counter
Has kicked off initiatives to develop data ecosystem to achieve Smart Nation vision
SINGAPORE has issued a call to all stakeholders to come on board and help the country achieve its aspiration of becoming the world’s first ‘Smart Nation.’
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) executive deputy chairman Steve Leonard said that two ‘unstoppable forces’ have arisen, and technology and data analytics could help manage or solve the consequences.
The first of these ‘forces’ is the expected increase in urban density, he said in his welcome address on the first day of IDA Smart Nation: Data Works, a three-day conference.
“Singapore is already the third most densely populated nation in the world; we need to think about what that means and how we should plan for the future,” he said.
The second force is aging populations, with Leonard saying that by 2050, there will be more people aged 65 years and above than those aged five years old and younger.
“That's a massive change, as there has always been more young people than old in the world, and these shifts are affecting us in Singapore like the rest of the world and we need to think about the implications,” he said.
Big data and the opportunities that can be leveraged via the Internet of Things have spawned the concept of ‘Smart Cities,’ a term referring to a developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and a high quality of life by excelling in multiple areas: Economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and government.
“However, we believe that Singapore has the unique opportunity to become a smart nation rather than city, to bring people, technology and policy together to create something special.
“And there’s a role for everyone to play in this moving forward, from large corporations to startups, and we need all of your help in trying to build this and push Singapore forward towards this vision,” Leonard said.
He also said that it was not about building technology capabilities just for the sake of technology, but it was rather a “people first” mission that sought to improve the everyday lives of citizens of all ages and businesses of all sizes.
Two areas that IDA is looking into are energy and healthcare, in addition to telemetry data in “dashboarding Singapore” to offer real-time insights into areas such a transport and urban planning.
The more immediate goal is to enable true connectivity for the entire island-nation, and provide universal access to every citizen.
“We cannot deliver services like remote medical diagnostics to someone on the train in need if there’s a connectivity issue. So let’s make sure we have everyone and everything, everywhere, connected.
“And we’re not there yet,” said Leonard.
He told conference attendees that he hoped that active discussions would result in constructive contributions towards charting a path forward.
“The whole idea is what we need to do to make sure we’re leading the world in how we use data, how we capture and manage it.
“Our goal is to solve real problems for Singapore, and to build great companies that can solve problems for other countries. We’re looking at real pilots, prototypes and learning – to be okay with things not working and building on it,” he said.
Data governance and oversight issues
Leonard (pic) said that there were key questions for which proper answers needed to be found, before the people of Singapore could truly buy in to the Smart Nation vision.
“Participation from citizens is not possible until we can have great answers to these two questions. And these are the big questions any government or country is thinking about – how do we protect and secure the data, and how do we protect the person?
“You are willing to share data if it’s not attributed to you, but if you have enough time and compute power, you can reconstitute identifiable data. So how do we protect the data and how do we protect the person?” he said.
Speaking to Digital News Asia (DNA) on the sidelines of the event, Leonard admitted that data governance and oversight had not been highlighted.
“I don’t talk too much about the governance piece because in reality, it’s a difficult issue for some people to get their heads around.
“By this, I mean there is a government instruction manual that contains a clear set of statements about data governance and who should access what. And there’s the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which is overseen by the IDA and the Ministry of Communications and Information – and these two dovetail,” he said.
Leonard told DNA that one could view the PDPA as essentially for the private sector, and the government instruction manual for the public sector, with both synchronised, and the reason it is being treated under the instruction manual is because it is specific and clear in the government context.
He shared that IDA was also looking at establishing an independent council of “wise men” comprising people from all over the world from different sectors, to offer advice and perspective on these issues.
“We’re currently evaluating whom we would invite to be a part of this, thinking through which constituencies need to be represented. It’s still at the early stage, but this body will have the role of offering advice and insight into issues surrounding governance and impact.
“We do not expect them to intervene in government because at the end of the day, Singapore is a sovereign government, but the idea is that we would want these things to be offered as ideas, perspectives and suggestions,” he said.
Leonard said that many countries are having a debate over data and its governance, including Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, and such offshore developments were being taken into account as well.
“At the end of the day, government exists to serve citizens, so we always want to come back to this baseline: Are we doing things that are helpful and useful to citizens? And if citizens are uncomfortable or nervous about something, then we are not doing enough to communicate what exactly the data will be used for,” he added.
Laying the groundwork with pilots
To achieve its Smart Nation’ target, Singapore has kicked off a series of initiatives aimed at boosting the nation’s data ecosystem.
The most recent of these is a Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) pilot that seeks to address the challenge of discovering datasets in the private sector through a federated approach.
Data providers from all industries can participate in the DaaS pilot to increase the visibility of their datasets and to reach out to new customers.
These data providers will also be given an opportunity to understand and check the relative quality of their datasets through a set of Data Quality Metrics. IDA will be holding a series of workshops and data challenges to raise awareness of the DaaS platform.
To kick off the pilot, IDA has signed a Memorandum of Intent (MoI) with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide cloud computing services to the first 25 data providers when they sign on to the pilot via AWS.
AWS will offer usage credits worth US$3,000 to each of the 25 participating data providers in hosting their dataset registries and/ or their datasets.
IDA also announced three tech product companies it has accredited – Tagit, Kai Square and V-Key – which had the opportunity to share their value propositions at the IDA Smart Nation: Data Works event.
Their product focuses are in enterprise mobility, video analytics and security, technologies that can address challenges in a Smart Nation, IDA said.
Launched in August, the [email protected] initiative targets Singapore-based companies that develop and own high-growth ICT products in the enterprise space.
Through the accreditation process, IDA aims to provide assurance to government and large enterprise buyers on the core functionalities of the product, and the ability of the accredited companies to deliver, so as to remove the perceived procurement risks associated with smaller, early-stage companies.
IDA also signed an MoI with SAP Asia during the conference. The MoI aims to improve business and technical capabilities in the local information technology ecosystem.
Under this two-year strategic collaboration, SAP will work with IDA alongside institutes of higher learning and industry partners to develop local manpower capabilities in big data and analytics; and drive co-innovation and product development of ICT solutions with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and startups.
In addition, SAP will provide technology expertise and counsel, lead co-innovation workshops for enterprises and government agencies to drive the adoption of big data and analytics, and help to identify capability gaps in the local ICT sector that may hinder the Smart Nation drive.
SAP will also provide access to hardware and software as part of the collaboration for the development of Smart Nation proofs-of-concept and pilot projects with the IDA and other government agencies.
Connecting smart cities the smart way
Greasing the cogs of an ecosystem
SAP innovation centre in Singapore targeting startups, among others
Vision, not technology, the key to better cities: SAP
Fujitsu in sustainable urbanisation partnership in Singapore
For more technology news and the latest updates, follow @dnewsasia on Twitter or Like us on Facebook.