Singapore is a small but fascinating country. The year of independence, 1965, was the beginning of the country’s journey from a poor third world country to one of the recognized world leaders, both in economic development and in the standard of living and implemented technology. This year Singapore topped the Juniper Research rating of smart cities. In today’s article, we’ll tell you about the unique path of this amazing mini-city, its successes and prospects for the near future.
The Smart Nation project, supported by the government of Singapore, has succeeded in bringing together entrepreneurs, scientists, officials, and citizens in the common task of introducing the latest technology into everyday life and creating a pragmatic and comfortable living environment.
Singapore’s ambitious plans include claiming to be the most technologically advanced country in the world. “To survive, Singapore must be an extraordinary nation. If we are ordinary, we will simply not exist” – this is how Lee Kuan Yew, one of the national leaders of the 20th century and author of the “Singaporean economic miracle”, once defined his view of the future of this amazing country.
After its separation from Malaysia in the mid-1960s, Singapore found itself in a highly dependent and cramped situation – without an army and support between the permanently conflicting Indonesia and Malaysia, alone with social and economic problems, with extremely limited access to natural resources and, of course, the traditional level of corruption for the Asian region. The time span of 50 years looks negligible from the point of view of human history, but these few decades have been a real test for the country, which it has managed to pass with dignity.
The systematic development of a market economy, the influx of international investment, the ruthless fight against corruption and skillful diplomacy in the foreign policy arena has placed Singapore at the forefront of prosperity on a global scale.
A bit of statistics
The Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) named Singapore the “Smart Community of the Year” in 1999 for its success in implementing a program of mass introduction of high-speed Internet, which the city-state launched in 1998. The spread of the Internet at this stage is actively supported by the government, which allowed by 2003 to connect to the network 65% of homes and workplaces. Meanwhile, 74% of Singapore’s population owned a PC.
At the beginning of the 3rd millennium Singapore focused on IT-technology, shifting the emphasis to create the most comfortable conditions for the development of innovative businesses, both by attracting international intellectual resources, and by supporting its own entrepreneurial innovators. The slogan: “Registering a company online in 15 minutes” perfectly illustrates the main priorities of Singapore at that time, reflected in the level of large-scale government support for business innovation.
For the 9th year in a row, Singapore has topped the prestigious World Bank international ranking in terms of business environment. Ookla ranked Singapore as the country and nation with the fastest Internet and Tufts University as the fastest growing digital economy in the world.
A Smart Nation
Bill Hutchinson, an expert in innovative urban development, roughly divides smart cities into versions: 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. Smart city 1.0 develops without an overall strategy, it automates separate, unconnected elements. Version 2.0 integrates initiatives, builds relationships and aims to bring as many sources of information together as possible. In a smart city, version 3.0 is a comprehensive strategic convergence, and smart technologies become an integral part of the infrastructure. This is the level of development that Singapore has reached today.
Singapore’s roads, which carry around one million cars, cover 12% of the total land area, while the total residential area covers 14% of the city-state. And here, it becomes fundamentally important for Singapore to reduce traffic congestion. This problem is solved in several ways.
The city has an excellent public transport system. Much of the city’s subway (Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)) is fully automated and operates in unmanned mode. Information about the time of arrival of the desired bus and the number of seats in it can always be found using a special application. A carsharing system is also widespread.
Since 2010, Singapore has had a contactless fare card program for all public transport. The city operates a program of priority passage of buses at traffic lights, and at many crossings there are devices that extend the green signal for the elderly and people with limited mobility after the application of the social card.
Significant reductions in urban transportation are planned through the introduction of public unmanned vehicles. Such vehicles, developed at the National University of Singapore and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), are already being tested in the city.
The Parking Guidance System (PGS) will find a free parking space for a car and the Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system will charge for it, and ERP works from in-car devices (In-Vehicle Unit, IU). The same system will save the driver from having to spend time paying for the use of roads and travel in certain areas of the city. The local IU system is detected by the citywide system through surveillance cameras and generates the appropriate bill.
Caring for one and all
According to the World Health Organization, by 2025, 10% of the world’s population will be over 65. In Singapore, however, that age threshold will be crossed by 2030 and only by every fifth inhabitant. In addition to numerous programs of social and financial support, technology is actively working in this country to help retirees.
Another manifestation of care for city residents is the possibility to provide remote medical care. Today, several hospitals in the city are testing diagnostic systems that allow them to receive required information over wireless networks from sensors connected to the patient’s body. The active support of the state will make it possible to integrate telecare systems with physicians into social housing and the national health care system, and to leverage the capabilities of specialists from various communities to provide people with social and emotional support.
A tele-rehabilitation program is now under development that will allow communication with psychiatrists via Skype. In some cases, such services are irreplaceable and save time for both sides.
Singapore and the Environment
An almost total lack of natural resources, including drinking water, becomes a powerful incentive for the development of clean technology, renewable energy issues, renewable energy. And this country has something to show: according to the results of research conducted by Siemens Green Cities division in 2011, the city received the highest rating for the development of environmental technologies among Asian cities.
Singapore – a haven for start-ups
Particular “weakness” of the government and the initiative groups in Singapore is felt to startups. The country has positioned itself as a global laboratory for testing new ideas and technologies. Singapore actively attracts IT-business by creating better conditions for development. Just at the right time is its convenient location in the center of Southeast Asia – within a radius of five to six hours of flying lives more than 4.2 billion people.
Almost 95% of the city’s territory is covered by a high-speed Internet network (1 Gb/s). And it brings its results: today 40% of all start-ups in Southeast Asia have settled in Singapore.
Privacy “the Singapore way”
Under Singapore law, any decision involving the use of data collected by Smart Nation requires no further court or citizen approval. Here, everyone has massively agreed that the government has a better understanding of what information and to what extent it can and should own it.
Singapore has a one-party political system, and its restrictions on freedom of speech are keenly felt. For a first-time visitor to Singapore, the ubiquitous “second eye opposite” evokes a dual feeling, but the vast majority of city residents have long made their choice: some freedoms may well be sacrificed if the ultimate goal of such restrictions is the growth of welfare and technological development of urban infrastructure. And a special role here was played by the high trust rating of the government, which proved loyalty to its priorities and promises.