PM Lee outlines the Smart Nation vision: Meaningful lives, enabled by technology

Leong Wai Kit, Channel NewsAsia 24 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The Republic needs to take full advantage of technology, particularly information technology (IT), in order to be one of the outstanding cities in the world to live in, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. This means fostering a Smart Nation, where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives enabled by technology.

Mr Lee, speaking at the Smart Nation launch event on Monday (Nov 24), said taking full advantage of technology cannot be "piecemeal" - something that is already being done - but must be approached systematically, to integrate all the different technologies together "in a coherent and comprehensive way", and create a platform where everyone can contribute.

Mr Lee said: "One way in which we are going to do this is to open up our maps, our databases of places and information about that so that the public can share their geospatial information.

"Imagine if we can tap everyone's local knowledge and anyone can contribute data - animal sightings, traffic incidents, potential hazards for cyclists, even the best mee pok or nasi lemak."

Singapore has already embarked on its Smart Nation journey, he said. Nine out of 10 households in the country have broadband access, while every home will soon have access to higher-speed fibre broadband.

Some other initiatives introduced include e-Government services such as IRAS e-filing, National Library Board (NLB) book borrowing services, and an integrated electronic medical records system that allows doctors to access patient information regardless of which hospital they visit.

"We need to build on these valuable elements to make a national effort and set ourselves the goal of becoming a Smart Nation," Mr Lee said.

With the Smart Nation initiative, one concern is cyber security. Mr Lee said that the Government will find ways to protect systems against cyber attacks, and these include banking and energy networks, as well as Smart Nation sensors.


Mr Lee also said that integrating the online with the offline world would create more opportunities for the community to interact and help one another. One example is in the care for the country's senior citizens.

"Many of us have elderly parents to take care of - we worry for their health and safety. But many seniors also want to be independent and live their lives fully, rather than be completely reliant on others," the Prime Minister said.

To this end, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is piloting the Smart Elderly Monitoring and Alert System sensors in HDB flats, which use a combination of sensors, so that if the system detects something out of the ordinary, it can raise the alarm and alert family members or neighbours.

"We will have more than 900,000 seniors over 65 in Singapore by 2030, and our Smart Nation vision can radically change how we approach the challenge of active ageing, to give our seniors more to look forward to in their golden years," Mr Lee said.

Mr Lee also emphasised that no one will be left behind in the journey of becoming a Smart Nation - help will be provided in the form of Citizen Connect Centres, where officers can help those unfamiliar with IT to access Government services. Seniors can also sign up for affordable and customised IT training programmes.

There will also be "Silver Infocomm Junctions" that provide affordable and customised IT training for seniors.

Looking after the elderly with IT is just one idea out of the "endless possibilities" that the Smart Nation vision enables, Mr Lee said. The Government will lay the foundation - building the infrastructure, facilitating innovation and creating the framework for contribution - but ultimately, everyone needs to contribute to make the Smart Nation vision a reality, he said.

Mr Lee said: "Smart Nation is not just a slogan. It is a rallying idea for us all to work together, to transform our future together."

"I have described a few ideas. These are just scratching the surface because there are endless possibilities waiting to be dreamed of. We will only make this a Smart Nation if we get everybody active, engaged, excited, wanting to make this happen."

- CNA/kk/ac

Smart Nation's the way to go, says PM Lee
Rachel Au-yong My Paper AsiaOne 25 Nov 14;

Becoming a "smart nation" will not only improve lives, but make the country more competitive, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

He was spelling out his vision for the Smart Nation initiative, which calls on the Government, companies and industries to develop technology to improve people's lives, from urban planning to credit card-less payments.

If it does not, Singapore might lose its position among leading cities, as peers like Shanghai and Sydney "attract capital, talent, ideas... (and are) pulling ahead of the pack".

"We have to move ahead with them and stay up there among the leading cities of the world. We owe it to our people," he said at the biennial national infocomm awards and launch of the Smart Nation initiative, held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

To that end, he has set up the Smart Nation Programme Office, which coordinates the tech efforts of research bodies and government agencies. It comes under the Prime Minister's Office and will be headed by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. More details will be released next month.

Such a "whole-of-nation" approach helps ensure a systematic way to "make the most of our potential", he said.

At one point during his 35-minute speech, Mr Lee demonstrated how to use a new app to plan bus journeys, to illustrate how technology can make things more convenient for people. "If we can automate the things that are routine, then we can concentrate on the things that really matter," he said.

But beyond personal convenience, technology can also help strengthen the community, and look after the elderly. For example, the Housing Board is piloting a system, which uses motion sensors to detect if an elderly resident's routine has changed suddenly, and send an alert to family members or neighbours if so.

The country is well-placed to become a smart nation, as most own smartphones and have broadband access, said Mr Lee. Many are also tech-savvy, while students' math and science scores are consistently ranked highest in the world.

It is heartening that some government e-services are among the best in the world, he said. Pointing to the Health Ministry's central database, which helps doctors keep track of health records regardless of which hospital the patient is at, he said: "Some countries have spent tens of billions of dollars trying to build a system like this, and sometimes give up.

"We're not completely there but we're making progress and getting it to work."

But even as Singapore ramps up its technology drive, he assured that those less technologically-savvy - especially senior citizens - will not be left behind.

This includes providing those without computers with access to government online services in community clubs. "We have to prevent a digital divide from happening, (between) people who know IT and can afford it, and those who don't have IT and don't know how to use IT," he said.

The local court system, which files documents electronically, has done so, by providing booths and assistance to those who need help filing paperwork. "So you may be rich, you may be poor, if you have to go to the courts, if you need to have access to justice, you get access to justice."

He also promised to beef up security measures, to make sure sensitive information like medical data is not stolen, and protect against malicious attacks like hacking. Several government websites were defaced late last year.

"We already have cyber-security duties residing in the Ministry of Home Affairs, in the IDA, but I don't think that they are as strong as we would like them to be," he said, adding that the Government was also studying how to protect other critical sectors like telecommunications and banking.

But even as the Government works out these obstacles, it must also invest in the next generation of programmers, by encouraging students to learn to code and reviewing the career paths of the Government's engineers. "We need to strengthen our own capabilities. We cannot just be outsourcing everything," he said.

Concluding, Mr Lee said: "We have what it takes to achieve this vision - the capabilities and daring to pull it all together and to make a quantum leap forward."

Teach students computer coding, urges PM Lee
Lim Yan Liang My Paper AsiaOne 25 Nov 14;
Singapore schools should teach students tech skills such as computer programming, so they can learn to create the technology of the future, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Fleshing out the social and cultural aspects of how Singapore can become a technology-enhanced "smart nation", PM Lee noted that this transformation requires the right education as well as a "can-do spirit of experimenting and risk-taking".

Such creative energy is what sets apart tech hubs like Silicon Valley and the headquarters of Chinese Internet giant Tencent in Shenzhen, he said in a speech at at the launch of the Smart Nation vision yesterday.

Singapore needs the same passion and excitement towards innovation, even in government agencies like the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), he added.

While the infocomm regulator "can't quite be like a Silicon Valley company", it must "push the envelope" in using technology to find new approaches to existing problems.

The Government is also keen on building up its in-house tech capabilities and is conducting an ongoing review of how the public sector manages the careers of its engineers and technology workers, PM Lee said.

He also noted the "lively" start-up scene here, with more young people writing apps and building high-tech products, and an increasing number of top students choosing to study computer science and information systems.

"We must get our children in schools exposed to IT, exposed to programming," Mr Lee said, adding that in some countries, all children are required to learn the basics of coding.

Talented students should also be able to pursue their tech interests through various paths, whether by forming a start-up, joining a tech company or working with the Government to make Singapore a smart nation, he added.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, who heads the Government's new Smart Nation Programme Office, echoed PM Lee's comments that education and attitudes here have to change for Singapore to capitalise on the tech revolution.

From learning the three "R"s - reading, writing and arithmetic - people must now learn the "ABCs: an Aesthetic sense of beauty and design, the ability to Build, and the ability to Communicate effectively", he said on Facebook last evening.

Singaporeans also need to overcome their fear of failure and be prepared to experiment, while the country will have to place more emphasis on online security and privacy, he added.

Tech bosses here welcomed PM Lee's remarks, saying workers with a foundation of programming literacy can be more productive at the workplace.

"Even if you don't use programming in your everyday work, if you can write a simple programme to automate tasks or organise information, that's useful in a lot of ways," said Tan Sian Yue, 40, founder of home-grown game developer Ratloop Asia.

New coordinating unit set up to drive Smart Nation initiatives
Leong Wai Kit Channel NewsAsia 24 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The Smart Nation Programme Office, which will help drive initiatives to make Singapore a Smart Nation, was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Nov 24).

The new unit will come under the Prime Minister's Office, with Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan in charge. It will perform a coordinating role, with the aim of bringing citizens, Government and industry together to identify issues, co-develop solutions, prototype ideas and deploy them effectively.

This office will make sure "we take a whole-of-Government, whole-of-nation approach to build the Smart Nation", Mr Lee said, speaking at the Smart Nation launch event on Monday morning.

One example of this approach is the Virtual Singapore project, which the Prime Minister launched at the event. The project aims to develop an integrated, three-dimension map of Singapore, enriched with layers of data about buildings, land and the environment.


Mr Lee also congratulated the winners of the National Infocomm Awards on Monday. The biennial event recognises organisations' effort in using innovation to develop new products or services.

The award was given to 12 private and public organisations, such as the Land Transport Authority (LTA). In 2008, LTA set up a data squad of engineers tasked to improve commuters' travel experience. The team studied data based on commuters' travel patterns.

Then, in 2010, it used the data collected to decide which areas needed more buses, and to determine the frequency of the services. For that effort, LTA won the Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology Award in the public sector category.

Another winner was DBS, which uses technology to study the volume of transactions of ATMs across the island. This helps DBS predict which machines need cash top-ups even before they run out of money.

Nimish Panchmatia, head of consumer banking operations at DBS, said: "The programme that we embarked on was largely around customer experience and customer experience improvement. Naturally, if we do see some trends in withdrawal or anything like that which require us to work together with the authorities, we do."

DBS won the Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology in the private sector category.

This year's award ceremony also featured projects by students. One student from the Singapore University of Technology and Design, Lee Jia Wen, came up with a device to control drones using just hands alone - known as gesture control technology. It also has potential for use in other applications.

He elaborated: "You could turn your lights on in your home with a clap, for example. What happens is that the sensor on your wrist can actually read translational movement, and map the movement on to another form of signal that will activate the light and turn it on."

- CNA/kk/ac

Smart Nation initiative 'about people, not machines': Vivian Balakrishnan
Channel NewsAsia 24 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The man tasked with overseeing Singapore's push to become the world's first Smart Nation said the initiative is "all about people, not machines". Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, touched on priorities for the new Smart Nation Programme Office, announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (Nov 24).

In a Facebook post, Dr Balakrishan said there are some important questions to be answered for the Smart Nation drive to be a success. For instance - how can Singapore foster an "open source" society, where data, insights and solutions are shared openly to create maximum impact and value? Where does Singapore look for best ideas? Also, will those involved be above to overcome their "fear of failure" and be prepared to experiment?

He also raised the issue of security. "We certainly need world-leading digital infrastructure. Also, we need security, privacy and protection of identity, as the volume of online transactions and data increases. Our systems must be secure by design, not a reactive afterthought; and we all as individuals will need to be aware of the risks and know how best to protect ourselves," Dr Balakrishan said.

The minister noted that the world is seeing a "once-in-a-lifetime revolution" with advances in cloud computing, ubiquitous communications and sensors and big data analytics, and more. If Singapore helms these developments properly, he said, it can secure the country's future, enhance quality of life, expand opportunities for all, and build stronger communities.

He said his team will engage stakeholders in the coming months. "Smart Nation is not just another Government plan or committee. We can only succeed if the public, private and people sectors co-create the vision and work together to make it happen," he wrote.

"Join us for the ride of our lifetime. Success is not guaranteed, but it will be exhilarating as we create a working model of the future together - Empowering Everyone Everything Everywhere."

- CNA/dl

Singapore must exploit IT advantage to stay ahead: PM
JOY FANG Today Online 25 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — To compete against other leading cities such as New York, London and Shanghai, the Republic has to fully exploit its advantage in information technology and become a “Smart Nation”, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday as he laid out the vision for Singapore to become a nation “whose people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for all”.

But to make the quantum leap and realise the vision within the next decade, efforts are needed in areas such as beefing up cybersecurity and teaching students how to create the technology of the future, said Mr Lee, who first announced the Smart Nation initiative during the National Day Rally in August.

Singapore must also systematically “integrate all of the technology and the possibilities into a coherent and comprehensive whole”, as opposed to using technology in a piecemeal fashion — which it is already doing. To that end, a new Smart Nation Programme Office will be set up under the Prime Minister’s Office to coordinate the Government agencies, citizens and industries to ensure a “whole-of-government, whole-of-nation” approach.

It will aim to bring citizens, the Government and industry together to identify issues, prototype ideas and deploy them effectively. The office will report to Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, said Mr Lee, adding that he would take a “personal interest”.

Speaking at the National Infocomm Awards and the launch of the Smart Nation initiative yesterday, Mr Lee said the Government will lay the foundation by building infrastructure and facilitating innovation.

On their part, companies should seize opportunities to provide a service or a product that enhances the people’s lives. Citizens can also chip in by participating in the national effort and providing local knowledge and data.

He noted that with the tonnes of information and data put into computer networks and even smartphones, cybersecurity is crucial. “We take it seriously, we already have cybersecurity duties presiding in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), but I don’t think that they are as strong as we would like them to be and we need to reorganise that to strengthen our systems and our institutions. We are studying how best to do that,” he said.

He added that Government systems as well as other critical systems such as in telecoms, banking and energy need to be protected. “You will never be completely impregnable, but I think we need to be as secure and safe as we can be.”

In terms of education, he said that students should be taught to “code, prototype and build things, to fail fast and learn quickly”.

He added: “We must get our children exposed to IT (and) exposed to programming. It’s a long way for us, but in some countries, all kids are required to learn to code.” People also need to have a “can-do” spirit of experimentation and risk-taking, akin to that found in Silicon Valley in the United States, he said.

Mr Lee also urged the IDA to be bolder and push the envelope in using technology to seek new applications and find new approaches to existing problems.

Mr Lee noted that Singapore has already embarked on the Smart Nation journey, with e-Government services in place, high smartphone penetration and a lively start-up scene as well as a tech-savvy people.

Several initiatives are already under way: Driverless buggies are being piloted at the Jurong Lake District and other driverless vehicles will be tested on some routes in One North next year. Near Field Communications (NFC) payments for retail and transport have also been on trial here, while the HDB is studying how to improve parking allocation in its carparks and design flats to plug and play smart devices.

In a Facebook post, Dr Balakrishnan stressed the importance of people and not machines in this “once-in-a-lifetime revolution”.

The skills of reading, writing and arithmetic are no longer enough, he said, pointing out that people need “an Aesthetic sense of beauty & design, the ability to Build, and the ability to Communicate effectively: the ‘ABCs’ of our education system”.

He added that societies left behind in the revolution will be in deep trouble as they are unable to cope with technological disruptions on jobs, environment and culture. “On the other hand, if we do it right we can secure our future, enhance our quality of life, expand opportunities for all and build stronger communities.”

Making payments with a watch, 3D map among Smart Nation projects
KELLY NG Today Online 24 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE — As efforts to turn the Republic into a Smart Nation get further underway, Singaporeans can look forward to using a watch to make payments or turn to a 3D map to find the best nasi lemak in town, among other things, in the near future.

Under the blueprint laid out by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong today (Nov 24), the Government will focus on enhancing citizens’ lives in four key areas: Mobility, homes, lifelong needs, and daily transactions.

For example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is looking into streamlining different modes of payment into a single instrument — which may take the form of a watch, ring, or even an identity card, fitted with a chip. Consumers will thus be spared from having to carry too many cards around.

Over time, Singaporeans will be able to use the same payment device to settle transactions made while they are abroad, as the Government works towards promoting interoperable e-payment solutions in the Association of South-east Asian Nations and other countries around the world.

Then, there is Virtual Singapore, a project that will culminate in an integrated 3D map with layers of data about local buildings, land and the environment. It was launched today by the National Research Foundation, Singapore Land Authority and Infocomm Development Authority.

Virtual Singapore will be an upgrade of the current OneMap (, an online map that includes more than 8,000 data sets — such as traffic information, census data and unemployment rates — from over 60 Government agencies.

The 3D upgrade will not only allow users to access the Government’s wealth of geo-spatial data, but also to contribute information, such as animal sightings, potential cycling hazards and even where one can find the best nasi lemak.

Virtual Singapore creates a platform that “brings the Government, citizens, industry and research institutions together to solve problems”, said Mr Lee. It will also be a framework “for all of us to contribute (towards the Smart Nation vision)”, he added.

The Housing and Development Board (HDB) is also working with industry players and other Government agencies to study digital infrastructure needed to support smart devices in HDB flats. Trials will start next year.

To enhance eldercare, the HDB is piloting the Smart Elderly Monitoring and Alert System sensors in 12 flats. The sensors monitor the movements of the elderly folks in the flats, and alert family members when they detect anything unusual.

Researchers from the National University of Singapore are also evaluating a tele-rehabilitation system with community hospitals, which allows therapists to monitor their patients’ progress remotely.