City Profiles is the new editorial channel from SmartCitiesWorld that snapshots global cities and their particular evolution into smart living.
These City Profiles look at individual cities, what their pressing challenges are, and how they are using technological innovation to deal with these in a political, social and economic context.
Rather than being frozen in time, these reports are dynamic, being added to, as and when new developments, policies, initiatives and innovations are reached.
We kick off the series with smart city poster child Singapore.
We will be serializing this report a section at a time -- beginning this week with the introduction to this City State, and the challenges it is faced with.
Singapore is on a journey and the government’s commitment towards becoming the world’s first smart nation is absolute. The stakes are high, but Singapore looks set to pull it off.
We hope you enjoy this first section.
Executive editor SmartCitiesWorld
Singapore City Profiles Report - The Background and Challenges
In the 52 years since Singapore had independence thrust upon it, this former British colony has gone from strength to strength. It has enjoyed impressive growth, moving from a less advanced economy to one of the more developed economies in the world. A free trade policy and an open economy have been central to this growth.
Singapore is a place where big business likes to come and do business. Many multinational companies (MNCs) have setup shop here, providing the country with access to overseas markets.
Singapore regularly tops international league tables. Last year, for example, this compact city-state was ranked as number one in the Juniper Research Global Smart City Index, recognised for being a world leader in its application of smart mobility policies and technology. Singapore’s fixed and cellular broadband services, city apps and strong open data policy leapfrogged it past Barcelona, London, San Francisco and Oslo to the top spot.
Singapore also ranks first in the Asian Digital Transformation Index, and has consistently topped the World Bank’s Doing Business Rankings for the last ten years.
It has ranked second in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index for the past six years.
This republic’s rise has been meteoric. With no natural endowments to speak of (except being a handy port stop-off between India and China), this small city-state has fought hard to carve a place for itself as a contender on the world stage, and continues to do so.
The People’s Action Party has been in power since 1959 and its particular brand of governance -- strict paternalism, anticipatory and interventionist -- has ensured the collective nation has thrived. This republic has only known three leaders, Lee Kuan Yew (1959-1990), Goh Chok Tong, who retied in 2004, and currently, Lee Hsien Loong, son of Lee Kuan Yew.
The longevity and consistency of the political order has allowed for the establishment of a strong digital infrastructure, which has supported business and pushed digital development. And where smart city technologies can be found in a number of global cities, Singapore has boldly gone all out to become a Smart Nation.
At the launch of the Smart Nation Programme in November 2014, PM Loong outlined the government’s vision:
“A nation where people live meaningful and fulfilled lives, enabled seamlessly by technology, offering exciting opportunities for all. We should see it in our daily living where networks of sensors and smart devices enable us to live sustainably and comfortably. We should see it in our communities where technology will enable more people to connect to one another more easily and intensely. We should see it in our future where we can create possibilities for ourselves beyond what we imagined possible.”
The impetus for this vision is challenge. As it moves into the next phase of its history, Singapore, like many other cities around the globe, is faced with a number of problems that it must get to grips with.
In a lecture in June 2015, as part of the Ho Rin Hwa Leadership in Asia Public Lecture Series organised by Singapore Management University, PM Loong identified the economy as the main challenge in the next decade.
For Singapore the issue is how to raise productivity to grow an already advanced economy. The country’s labour force growth is slowing down with smaller cohorts entering the workforce and a slowdown in foreign worker inflow.
“To counter this,” said Finance Minister, Heng Swee Keat in his budget speech in March this year, “future growth has to come from sustained productivity growth. We need to help every worker maximise his potential, and support our businesses in innovation.”
In January 2016, PM Loong announced the formation of the Committee for Future Economy saying, “With an ageing population and uncertain global conditions, growth will be harder to come by. Yet our economy must grow to create opportunities for Singaporeans and to improve our lives.”
Singapore faces an ageing and dwindling population. Now one of the fastest greying populations in the world, expected to edge past Japan by 2030, maintaining economic vibrancy, the tax base, and a defence force are issues of concern.
About 117,000 elderly citizens will be semi or non-ambulant, with 80,000 projected to be living alone.
By 2030, the number of elderly people aged 65 years and above is expected to triple to one in five, a three-fold increase from today. This will put pressure on the healthcare system, not to mention resources such as energy and water.
During the 2015 Ho Rin Hwa Leadership in Asia Public Lecture series, PM Loong noted that the 2014 population growth rate at 1.3 per cent was the slowest in a decade, and while now, every five working people supported one elderly citizen, by 2030 it will be two working adults supporting one senior. Based on current trends, forecasts would see an inversion of the population pyramid by 2050.
Singapore is the world’s second most densely populated nation, surpassed only by Monaco, with nearly 8,000 people per square kilometre. The population has increased from 3.5m in the late ’90s to 5.4 million today. By 2030, it’s estimated that the population will reach between 6.5-6.9million impacting upon everything from public services through to energy and water.
The amount of cars, too, have increased from 700,000 in 2002 to 970,000 now. Currently roads take up 12 per cent of land space, but with limited land space, a decisive, intelligent mobility plan is an absolute priority.
The Singaporean government has established a wide variety of policies, innovative, enabling strategies, initiatives and programmes, involving many organisations to prepare and propel the population for digital living. These include local universities, tech-start-ups, R&D institutes and investment capital firms who are joining with it to create sustainable solutions and economic growth.
We look here at many of the solutions designed to tackle the very real future challenges, and the innovations associated with turning Singapore into the World’s first Smart Nation.