Three-Pronged Approach to Boost Singapore’s Smart Nation Journey

 

After the launch of Singapore's Smart Nation initiative by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 24 November 2014, Singapore has won accolades for driving its smart city initiatives. It was named Smart City of 2018 at the Smart City Expo World Congress held in Barcelona. Singapore was also ranked first among the Top 10 smartest cities in the world by the IMD World Competitiveness Centre and Singapore University of Technology and Design1 in 2019 and 2020.

SGTech advocates a three-pronged approach for the tech industry to play a more significant role in contributing to Singapore’s Smart Nation journey. Firstly, there is an opportunity to build better solutions more quickly, by leveraging the diversity of ideas and expertise in the industry, by creating more flexibility for companies to propose and co-create Smart Nation projects. Secondly, the tech industry can collaborate within the ecosystems across various industry verticals, to raise the awareness and adoption of smart solutions by the private sector. Thirdly, SGTech can bridge Singapore solution providers to overseas markets to export ideas and solutions that were incubated and validated in Singapore. The international use cases can in turn spur innovation in their solutions, which can benefit future deployments in Singapore.

 

Tech Industry Can Participate More Actively in Singapore’s Smart Nation Initiatives

A key thrust of digitalisation in Singapore is the multitude of government-led Smart Nation initiatives. The initiatives under the Smart Nation umbrella, with multiple touchpoints in the community, promote and drive digital transformation throughout the country. 

Until now, most of the Smart Nation applications and platforms have been built in-house, with teams in GovTech doing all the heavy lifting from defining the problem statement, identifying suitable technology approaches, to the actual coding, implementation and deployment.

SGTech thinks that the industry is a rich source of technology and potential solutions for Singapore’s Smart Nation problem statements. Singapore can co-create better solutions to benefit Singaporeans and do it more effectively  if we leverage the diversity of ideas and know-how already in place in the industry.

Therefore, SGTech advocates more collaboration with industry in the curation of Smart Nation solutions. We believe leashing the industry’s innovations, creativity and expertise will deliver robust and meaningful solutions in less time. We applaud the outcome-based procurement approach, through calls for solutions, that has been adopted for some agencies’ requirements so far and look forward to this becoming common practice.

To facilitate this, SGTech will:

  1. Rally the industry to respond to new Smart Nation themes/initiatives, by creating platforms for firms to collaborate to create synergistic solutions, and enabling large enterprises to develop holistic solutions by tapping on technologies or solutions provided by SMEs.
  2. Curate solutions and technologies in line with Smart Nation themes and create thematic forums for solution providers to present them to GCIOs and other project stakeholders.
  3. Promote these thematic forums as ready sources of technology and solution ideas for various Smart Nation application areas.

When the industry leads such Smart Nation projects, it allows companies to extract the full economic value of the innovation. Firms can apply the intellectual property that they have created to other commercial solutions and export them, generating higher returns for the Singapore economy. The experience and credentials that SMEs gain from participation in government projects can position them competitively for business in overseas markets.

 

The private sector must also get on the “smart solutions” bandwagon

Pervasive as the government’s Smart Nation initiatives may be, the government cannot be the party responsible for building everything. Furthermore, the Smart Nation initiatives will deliver the most significant impact only when the entire ecosystem participates in them. When the solutions are allowed to be "smart" end-to-end, i.e. integrated across the user journey within a setting, citizens can enjoy the real benefit of smart solutions.

Hence, rather than relying on the government to take the lead in creating all the smart projects, the private sector should also be more active in initiating such projects. There are significant opportunities for private enterprises to benefit from deploying smart projects that have revenue potential. Particularly, they may be able to find new business models by looking for ways to deliver a better quality of life2.

With its understanding of the possibilities enabled by technology, the tech industry can help to raise the awareness of this among user-organisations, to “connect the dots” for them and increase the focus on private sector deployment and adoption of smart solutions.

By broadening the understanding that “Smart Nation” is a national effort, not solely a government effort, SGTech wants to increase the awareness among companies and encourage them to be open to exploring relevant use cases for smart solutions in their domain. Companies, too, can create their way of deriving benefits from smart solutions.

It is thus necessary to extend outreach to user-organisations in the respective vertical ecosystems, for example, built environment,, urban mobility, healthcare, tourism and lifestyle, etc. . With our members’ collective understanding of the verticals, SGTech is well-placed to bridge this understanding.

SGTech propose that our role includes:

  1. Build on existing relationships with and extend outreach to ecosystem organisations to raise the awareness and adoption of smart solutions by the private sector.
  2. For verticals associated with identified Smart Nation themes, SGTech will work with the sector trade associations and chambers (TACs) to outreach to their members, by helping to communicate the business case for deploying smart solutions.
  3. Leverage our relationship with TACs and our members’ know-how to create meaning between the technology and the problem statements. We could become the Smart Nation Industry Partner Spokesperson (“spokes-association”) for IMDA’s industry outreach.

Therefore, in promoting the adoption of smart solutions to the industry sectors, IMDA can tap on SGTech to rally industry participants to generate solution ideas and support in the outreach to those sectors of interest. This is similar to the partnership approach adopted for the  Punggol Digital District.

TACs representing industry sectors interested in developing smart solutions for their industry may also engage SGTech and its members to explore potential directions and approaches jointly.

 

Help Singapore smart solutions extend their reach to markets outside Singapore

Countries in the region are actively driving smart city initiatives. For example, Indonesia announced its “Movement Toward 100 Smart Cities” initiative in 2017, while Malaysia has launched state-level smart city projects for Johor, Sabah and Sarawak in 2019 and 2020. These smart city initiatives present both business and partnership opportunities for Singapore companies in the smart solution space. 

SGTech can help our members who are keen to expand into the region, by engaging the regional Smart Nation forums, such as the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, to:

  • Create platforms for our members to contribute their ideas and share their knowledge with potential problem statement owners, and 
  • Explore possibilities to showcase our members’ solutions or,
  • Connect our members with potential partners in their markets of interest. 

Conversely, the regional forums and groups undertaking activities to promote the adoption of smart solutions can benefit through:

  • Gaining access to a greater diversity of ideas,
  • Supporting their users/problem-statement owners better by providing access to diverse groups of solutions providers, and
  • Helping their local solutions providers by bridging them to Singapore providers for partnership or business opportunities

To help our members bring their smart solutions to regional markets, SGTech will:

  1. Establish a clear position of SGTech as the representative of the industry for Smart Nation solution providers in Singapore. The publication of Singapore’s first Smart Nation Navigator in 2020, which pulls together all companies in the smart solution space, is our first step in this direction.
  2. Identify the regional Smart Nation and Smart City forums and establish relationships with them to create opportunities for our members, e.g. for business matching and partner matching.
  3. Leverage relationships with overseas TACs and multinational federations of associations such as ASOCIO and APICTA to facilitate collaborative partnerships with in-country providers to jointly pursue opportunities. 

Eventually, our members can leverage the experience they garner working on regional projects to uplift the solutions that they offer in Singapore.

 

Conclusion

SGTech believes that it is possible to spur faster and better development for Singapore’s Smart Nation journey. One, through creating flexibility for companies to propose and co-create Smart Nation projects, we can build better solutions more quickly. Two, the tech industry can be an industry ambassador to raise the awareness and adoption of smart solutions by other industry sectors. Three, by bridging Singapore solution providers to expand to overseas markets, the experience can spur innovation and uplift future deployments in Singapore.

 

About

SGTech's Smart Nation Chapter aims to promote and facilitate the growth of an ecosystem of smart technology innovators and adopters to provider holistic smart city solutions for both the Singapore and international markets.

Please contact alicia@sgtech.org.sg if you’d like to find out more about the Chapter.

 

Footnote:

https://www.imd.org/smart-city-observatory/smart-city-index/ 

Smart Cities: Digital Solutions for a More Livable Future, McKinsey Global Institute, Jul 2018 

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Published Nov 2020