Smart Nation

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Smart Nation Singapore
Smart Nation Singapore

Smart Nation is a Singaporean government initiative to harness infocomm technologies, networks and big data to create tech-enabled solutions.[1][2]

Through strategic deployment of technology across the nation, leveraging on investments in digital infrastructure, a tech savvy population and a single layer government that can work quickly to coordinate policies and synergise efforts, the Smart Nation initiative aims to develop people-centric solutions to address global urban challenges.


Singapore's Smart Nation initiative was officially launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 24 November 2014.[3] Minister-in-charge Vivian Balakrishnan believes that the various platforms will empower citizens, enabling them to make use of the information available and come up with their own solutions, instead of relying on the government for problem-solving.[4]

The government plans to dedicate $2.4 billion to working with the private sector in financial year 2017.[5] It will support technology startups by doing business with them instead of grants to spur innovation.[6]

To encourage innovation and collaboration between citizens and companies, open data is made available at government portals such as and Datamall.

Some areas of focus include enhancing public transport networks, enabling successful ageing and ensuring a secure but open data marketplace. The Smart Nation Sensor Platform (SNSP) tracks and analyses data related to housing, amenities and public infrastructure. Former civil servant Peter Ong explained that “encompasses hardware like lamp-posts and public cameras, as well as software that enables sensor data exchange and data and video analytics”. A interconnected network of 110,000 lamp posts with wireless sensors will collate data that will be used for urban and operational planning, maintenance and incident response.[7]

The Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGO) and Government Technology Agency (GovTech) under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) lead the development of a National Digital Identity framework for online transactions between citizens and businesses, building on the current SingPass system.[8]


Singapore emerged top in the 2017 Global Smart City Performance Index by Juniper Research and Intel. The ranking is based on the integration of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and connected services, and which the nation came out tops in all four of the key areas measured - mobility, healthcare, public safety and productivity.[9][10]

Ministerial committee[edit]

The initiative is coordinated by the SNDGO and supported by other government agencies. GovTech will also be placed under the PMO as the implementing agency of SNDGO. Collectively, the SNDGO and GovTech forms the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG).

The SNDGG is overseen by a Ministerial Committee chaired by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean. Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information will be Deputy Chairman and Minister-in-charge of Cybersecurity and the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA). The other members of the Ministerial Committee are Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative; Minister Ong Ye Kung, who has been appointed to champion Public Service innovation; and Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary, who will be the Minister-in-charge of GovTech and who will also coordinate GovTech's strategy with IMDA's industry development efforts.[11]

Smart Nation Initiative[edit]

As part of the Smart Nation initiative, the government of Singapore has been introducing cashless payments on a large scale. For that case, they are required to open the bank accounts, and to retain the cash inside the banks, not to dispose the money around.

Land Transport Authority Initiative[edit]

Cash top-up services are removed from passenger service centres from January 2017, completing their job by 6 April 2018 with the last stations, Tampines, Changi Airport, Somerset, Orchard, Dhoby Ghaut, Expo and Chinatown being switched over. In September 2017, the first stations are Simei, Eunos, Aljunied, Kallang, Lavender, Clementi, Jurong East, Lakeside, Pasir Ris, Farrer Park, Serangoon and Marsiling, and rolled out eventually in batches from November 2017. There is also awareness that the staff needs to concentrate on managing the station and station supervision, which also streamline the work and task allocation. TransitLink Service Agents are situated at the affected stations to guide passengers, and on 24 April 2018 they were removed. Only those in Changi Airport and Orchard Road will retain their service agents until 13 June 2018.[12]

Land Transport Authority has announced that by 2020, all payments for public transport in Singapore will be made through digital payment. Cash payment options for public transport transactions will also be removed, which will complete their job by 12 December 2018. Bus services will stop accepting cash on 24 November 2018, there will not be any more single-trip tickets on 1 December 2018 and removing cash top-ups thereafter at the general ticketing machines. There may be objections for the general ticketing machines (GTMs), some of which they will still continue to exist for the cash and cashless modes, and some are mainly for their school kids and tourists (Note: School kids will temporarily use the general ticketing machines to top up the card currently until it becomes totally cashless. Once it goes cashless, all school kids will use the ATM card to top up travel cards, with the ATM card be given from the parents). Cash top-ups will continue to remain available at ticket offices and convenience stores. It has been announced that the first station to be cashless will be Esplanade, Promenade and Marina South Pier with effect from 15 July 2018.[13]

The account-based ticketing pilot programme launched since 2016 enables commuters to use their debit or credit cards like VISA and MasterCard with the contactless function to pay for their fares. Beginning 8 May 2018, American Express, NETS and GrabPay will also be added.[14]

Cashless system at hawker centres[edit]

During the National Day Rally speech in 2017, plans for a unified cashless payment system in Singapore were unveiled, especially in regard to payments at hawker centres.[15] DBS Bank, OCBC Bank and United Overseas Bank, which jointly own the existing electronic transaction system Network for Electronic Transfers (Nets), had collaborated with other banks such as HSBC, Maybank, Standard Chartered Bank and Citibank to unify the cashless system in Singapore. Consumer from all seven banks will be able to use Nets' QR code system to make payments at hawker stalls. More than 600 stalls had implemented the system in 2017.[16]

As a subsidiary of Land Transport Authority, contactless transport payment card operator EZ-Link has also partnered up with Nets to introduce e-payment methods in local hawker centres.[17] Starting from April 2018, payment at hawker centres can be carried out using EZ-Link or Nets card using a single Nets terminal.[18]

There were mixed responses from the food vendors. Several stall owners expressed their opinions on the efficiency of the system, stating that sometimes the cashless electronic transactions do not go through, causing delays in the queue of the business.[19] Others mentioned that the new system can prevent hygiene issues, which might occur when cash is involved.[20]

Surveillance concerns and issues[edit]

With the gradual implementation of the Smart Nation initiatives, there are new concerns raised by security experts that the ubiquitous surveillance, with the proposed "Lamppost-as-a-Platform" (LaaP) with extensive facial recognition technology, could undermine individual privacy.[21] There were also concerns that the expectation of mass surveillance by the government could also result in "self-surveillance, self-monitoring, self-censorship", and a general aversion to "improvise, innovate and take risks".[22]

The government responded by stating that the Public Sector (Governance) Act passed in January 2018 clarifies when data-sharing is allowed across government agencies, as well as which agency is responsible for the request and sharing of data. Public servants' data access rights is given based on security clearance and authorisation. The Act also criminalises the sharing of personal data without authorisation and the using of data for self-benefit or for the re-identification of anonymised data without authorisation.[23] The government also stated that it has no plans to use the surveillance methods for the purposes of social credit scoring or moral policing.[24]

Further reading[edit]

  • Big Data and Internet of Things are the Keys to Singapore's Smart Nation Dream[25]
  • Singapore is Part of the Digital Silk Road, a Test Bed for the World: Vivian Balakrishnan[26]
  • Singapore Studies to get Smarter[27]
  • Singapore Prime Minister Posts His Own Puzzle-Solving Computer Code[28]
  • 4 Smart Cities That Put People First[29]
  • 5 Amazing Healthcare Innovations coming out of Singapore[30]
  • Smart Nation Not About Technology But Boosting Quality of Life: Vivian Balakrishnan[31]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "National Digital Identity system to be cornerstone of Singapore's Smart Nation vision". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-08-25. 
  2. ^ "Vision of a smart nation is to make life better: PM Lee". The Straits Times. 25 Nov 2014. 
  3. ^ Singapore, Prime Minister‘s Office. "PM Lee Hsien Loong at launch of Smart Nation, 24 November". Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  4. ^ "Smart Nation an opportunity to 'shift tone of society': Vivian Balakrishnan". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-08-25. 
  5. ^ "Government to Partner Industry to Spark Innovation and Build Capabilities in a Smart Nation". Retrieved 2017-08-25. 
  6. ^ "Singapore Is Seeking Business With Startups to Spur Them". 2017-08-22. Retrieved 2017-08-25. 
  7. ^ "Commentary: Singapore's Smart Nation vision blurry without a success story". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-08-25. 
  8. ^ Kwang, Kevin (2017-08-20). "National Digital Identity system to be cornerstone of Singapore's Smart Nation vision". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2017-08-25. 
  9. ^ "Singapore pips London, NY to top global smart city ranking". The Straits Times. Mar 14, 2018. 
  10. ^ "Singapore tops charts again – this time for best performing global smart city". Business Insider. Mar 13, 2018. 
  11. ^ "New Smart Nation and Digital Government Office to be formed on May 1". Channel NewsAsia. 2017-03-20. Retrieved 2017-08-25. 
  12. ^ Ong, Yunita (11 August 2017). "Singapore aims for fully cashless transport system by 2020: LTA". ChannelNewsAsia. Retrieved 10 April 2018. 
  13. ^ "Joint News Release by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) & Transitlink – Towards a Cashless Public Transport System by 2020". 12 April 2018. 
  14. ^ "Tap & Pay for Train & Bus Rides with Contactless Card". 12 April 2018. 
  15. ^ "National Day Rally 2017". 10 April 2018. 
  16. ^ Ong, Yunita (21 November 2017). "Nets QR code to roll out to 120 hawker centres by 2018". thenewpaper. Retrieved 10 April 2018. 
  17. ^ Tham, Irene (25 January 2018). "Ez way to pay for food at hwaker centres". The Straits Times. Retrieved 8 April 2018. 
  18. ^ "Towards a Smart Cashless Society with Contactless Pay". 2 March 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018. 
  19. ^ Phua, Rachel (14 March 2017). "Mixed response to cashless payment options at hawker centres". ChannelNewsAsia. Retrieved 20 April 2018. 
  20. ^ Phua, Rachel (14 March 2017). "Mixed response to cashless payment options at hawker centres". ChannelNewsAsia. Retrieved 20 April 2018. 
  21. ^ Aravindan, Aradhana (13 April 2018). "Singapore to test facial recognition on lampposts, stoking privacy..." Reuters. Retrieved 25 April 2018. 
  22. ^ Kuah, Adrian W. J. (24 April 2018). "Living in the gaze of the Smart Nation and its sensor-enabled lamp posts". The Straits Times. 
  23. ^ "Parliament: New laws on data sharing between public sector agencies". The Straits Times. 8 January 2018. 
  24. ^ "Govt takes data security, personal privacy seriously". The Straits Times. 17 April 2018. 
  25. ^ "Big Data And Internet Of Things Are The Keys To Singapore's 'Smart Nation' Dream". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  26. ^ "MIS-Asia - Singapore is part of the digital Silk Road, a test bed for the world: Vivian Balakrishnan". Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  27. ^ "Singapore studies to get smarter". CNBC. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  28. ^ Purnell, Newley (2015-05-05). "Singapore Prime Minister Posts His Own Puzzle-Solving Computer Code". WSJ Blogs - Digits. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  29. ^ "4 Smart Cities That Put People First". WIRED. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  30. ^ UTC, Singapore Tourism Board2015-11-02 10:37:10. "5 amazing healthcare innovations coming out of Singapore". Mashable. Retrieved 2016-03-17. 
  31. ^ "Smart Nation not about technology but boosting quality of life: Vivian Balakrishnan". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 2016-03-17.