PERISCOPE: Going Digital: The Singapore Roadmap

Written By: Ernest Tan (19-E6)

Designed By: Jo Yeoul (19-A2)

Foreword

Driverless cars, pervasive e-payments, and Artificial Intelligence are amongst the prominent breakthroughs that mankind has seen in recent years. In this installment of Periscope, we present a short summary of the key details of the Smart Nation Initiative and digitalisation efforts in Singapore, so that Eunoians become more informed about the technological changes that shape the world around us. Do use the Universal Concepts (UC) to guide you.

Background

Officially launched in 2014, the Smart Nation Initiative aims to augment Singapore’s status quo as an economically competitive global city and a liveable home, through a national movement to drive pervasive adoption of digital and smart technologies (Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, n.d.). Firstly, it aims to drive economic development. The world is now witnessing an unprecedented growth in connectivity, big data, and smart technologies. Through digitalisation, new business opportunities can be generated and economic relevance is increased (PMO Singapore, 2014). Secondly, the Initiative also aims to resolve urban-municipal issues through utilising digital smart technologies. For example, to prevent secluded elderly people from having an accident undetected, Smart Sensors were deployed in Yuhua (Loh, 2016), which could be monitored remotely by their family members.

Points of Contention

Challenges Faced In Implementation (UC: Power and Influence)

The successful implementation of the Initiative can be influenced by certain key challenges. Firstly, dominative government involvement, coupled together with a lack of the required manpower, has led the private sector to be less proactive in seeking collaborations with the government (Tan, 2017). This would not be beneficial as the private sector may have the expertise that the government can tap on (GovInsider, 2018). Secondly, another key challenge is being demographically inclusive. Seniors may not embrace such technologies because of a lack of prior knowledge, interest or understanding and cause some seniors to be apprehensive of mobile banking because of unfamiliarity (Today, 2017). Therefore, for the success of this initiative, all stakeholders must be actively and closely engaged.

Discussion:

  1. To what extent should the government involve the private sector in this initiative?
  2. How should the government encourage the involvement of seniors and the private sector in this initiative?

The Ambivalent Nature of Digitalisation (UC: Interdependence)

While there are certainly many opportunities and benefits abound due to digitalisation, it is, however, inevitable that digitalisation efforts can lead to unintended corollaries, in particular, structural unemployment. As the initiative catalyses a paradigm shift towards an automated economy (Monetary Authority of Singapore, 2016), certain “low-skilled work” may be rendered obsolescent or irrelevant.  In 2016, data showed that total employment fell for the second time since the 2009 Global Financial Crisis, which was partly attributed to a spike in such skills mismatches (Chia, 2016). Also, Singapore’s digital infrastructure may be vulnerable to cybercrime if there are only ineffective cybersecurity defences, and this may be exacerbated by the adoption of such hyperconnected technologies (Grosvenor, 2018). This may lead to dire ramifications such as crippling of key infrastructure and compromise of personal data as evidenced by the SingHealth cyberattack where the personal information of 1.5 million SingHealth patients was stolen (Tham, 2018).

Discussion:

Do you think that Singapore should continually pursue digitalisation in light of the possible ramifications?

References

For more in-depth reading about this issue, feel free to access the following links.

Chia, Y.M. (2016, October 28). Tech disruption may push up unemployment rate. The Straits Times, Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/manpower/tech-disruption-may-push-up-unemployment-rate?login=true

Monetary Authority of Singapore (2016, October).  Macroeconomic Review Volume XV Issue 2 October 2016. Retrieved from http://www.mas.gov.sg/~/media/resource/publications/macro_review/2016/Oct%2016/MR%20Macroeconomic%20Review_Oct16.pdf

Grosvenor, B. (2018, July 24). Smart Nation agenda needs rethink on cybersecurity. The Business Times, Retrieved from https://www.businesstimes.com.sg/opinion/smart-nation-agenda-needs-rethink-on-cybersecurity

Tham, I. (2018, July 20). Personal info of 1.5m SingHealth patients, including PM Lee, stolen in Singapore’s worst cyber attack. The Straits Times, https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/personal-info-of-15m-singhealth-patients-including-pm-lee-stolen-in-singapores-most

GovInsider (2018, 21 June). How the private sector can partner on smart cities. Retrieved from https://govinsider.asia/innovation/private-sector-can-partner-smart-cities/

Tan, W. (2017, April 14). The Big Read: Speed bumps hinder Singapore’s Smart Nation drive. Today, Retrieved from https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/big-read-speed-bumps-hinder-singapores-smart-nation-drive

Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (n.d.). Strategic National Projects to Build a Smart Nation. Retrieved from https://www.smartnation.sg/whats-new/press-releases/strategic-national-projects-to-build-a-smart-nation

Prime Minister’s Office Singapore (2014, November 24). Transcript of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech at Smart Nation launch on 24 November.  Retrieved from http://www.pmo.gov.sg/newsroom/transcript-prime-minister-lee-hsien-loongs-speech-smart-nation-launch-24-november

Loh, C.J. (2016, April 23). Smart devices trial extended to 3,200 households in Yuhua. Channel NewsAsia, Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/smart-devices-trial-extended-to-3-200-households-in-yuhua-8086356

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