Vision of a smart nation is to make life better: PM Lee
Technology will also help Singapore to keep pace with world's top cities
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2014

THE need for Singapore to be a "smart nation", using the latest technology to benefit the country, is about making life better for the people and more.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also envisions it helping the nation to keep abreast of leading cities such as Shanghai, San Francisco and Sydney.

Bringing the current piecemeal uses of technology into a cohesive, nationwide whole "will make our economy more productive, our lives better, and our society more responsive to people's needs and aspirations", he said yesterday at the launch of the Smart Nation initiative.

To achieve this new goal, Mr Lee is setting up the Smart Nation Programme Office. It will come under the Prime Minister's Office and be led by Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who will give more details about it next month.

Previously, individual technological efforts came under the Smart Cities Programme Office, a unit of statutory board Infocomm Development Authority (IDA).

One major initiative will be to let people access maps and build up geospatial databases by contributing information such as animal sightings, traffic incidents or the best mee pok eateries.

During his 35-minute speech, Mr Lee also used an improved app for planning bus journeys, to demonstrate how technology can make life more convenient. "If we can automate the things that are routine, then we can concentrate on the things that really matter."

Technology can also strengthen communities and aid the elderly, he said. For example, the Housing Board is piloting the use of motion sensors to detect irregular behaviours of elderly folk and send alerts to their caregivers.

Mr Lee is confident Singapore can become a smart nation, as most people own smartphones and have broadband access. Many are tech-savvy, while students consistently top the world in maths and science.

Some government e-services are also among the best in the world, he said, citing the Health Ministry's central database that helps doctors keep track of patients' health records across hospitals.

But even as Singapore ramps up its technology drive, he assured the less technologically-savvy - like senior citizens - they would not be left behind. Those without computers will have access to online government services in community clubs, said Mr Lee, pledging to "prevent a digital divide from happening".

He also promised to beef up security measures, to make sure sensitive information like medical data is not stolen, and to protect against hacker attacks.

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

It also aims to groom the next generation of technology experts by encouraging students to learn to code and by reviewing the career paths of its engineers.

In 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."

Equip students with skills to create future tech: PM
These include a 'fail fast, learn quickly' mindset
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2014

SINGAPORE schools should equip students with the skills to create the technology of the future, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

These include not just abilities like computer programming, but also a "fail fast, learn quickly" mindset, he added.

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

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

Singapore needs the same passion and excitement towards innovation, even in government agencies such as the Infocomm Development Authority, he said. While the 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 a review of how the public sector manages the careers of its engineers and tech workers, Mr Lee said.

He noted how lively the start-up scene here is, 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 said.

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

From learning the three "Rs" - 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 Mr Lee's remarks, saying workers with a foundation in programming literacy can be more productive in the workplace.

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

S’pore must take full advantage of technology to make people’s lives better: PM Lee
New Smart Nation Programme Office will co-ordinate Govt agencies, citizens and industries
By Joy Fang, TODAY, 24 Nov 2014

Someday Singaporeans could control their appliances from their phones, switching them off and on remotely, they could also call for a self-driving car, and use a watch to pay for items.

These are some exciting new possibilities, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of in his speech this morning (Nov 24) at the National Infocomm Awards and Smart Nation Launch, where he handed out awards to recipients, including Numoni which nabbed the Most Innovative Infocomm Product/Solution award.

Mr Lee said Singapore has to take full advantage of the use of technology and deploy it not in a piecemeal fashion, but to integrate all technologies in a systematic and comprehensive manner to make people’s lives better and its economy more productive.

The country has already started on this Smart Nation journey, with e-Government services in place and a lively start-up scene as well as tech-savvy people, but the country needs to build on these elements and drive this as a national effort, he noted.

He urged people to have a can-do spirit of experimentation akin to that in Silicon Valley. Right skills and mindsets are needed, and the education system is already equipping students with up-to-date knowledge and skills to use technology. But beyond that, schools need to teach students to create the technology of the future.

To realise this “quantum leap forward”, a new Smart Nation Programme Office will co-ordinate the Government agencies, citizens and industries to ensure a whole-of-government approach to build a Smart Nation. It will come under the Prime Minister’s Office under the charge of Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

Mr Lee said the Government will lay a foundation by building infrastructure and facilitating innovation for everyone to contribute, and urged enterprises to provide innovative products as well as for citizens to chip in by participating and providing data.

But even as the nation drives this movement, Mr Lee reiterated that technology will be used in an inclusive manner so that all groups, particularly seniors, can benefit.

Writing in a Facebook post, Dr Balakrishnan said the new Smart Nation Programme Office will engage with all stakeholders over the coming months. He listed various considerations, such as, how can everyone be included in the digital revolution, how can an “open source” society be fostered and where to look for the “best ideas”.

“Certainly, we need to engage the best companies in the world. But we will also innovate, develop, prototype and deploy these ideas locally,” said Dr Balakrishnan. He added: “There will be many failed projects, but we need to learn and persevere in the face of these failures, and not give up in despair. Our attitude to success and failure must change.”

Dr Balakrishnan also listed some necessary “pre-requisite skills” Singaporeans need for the digital age: An aesthetic sense of beauty and design, the ability to build, and the ability to communicate effectively.

“What are the physical and technical pre-requisites? 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,” he said.

Data shows LTA the ride way to lift service
By Marissa Lee, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2014

DIGGING deep into the data contained on commuters' bus fare cards helped the Land Transport Authority (LTA) improve bus services - and clinch an infocomm award.

By assembling a data analytics team to make sense of the 3.7 million bus rides that Singapore commuters take every day, the LTA collected useful information to add new bus routes and relieve crowding.

This innovation allowed it to reverse the decline in customer satisfaction with bus services since 2010, and made it one of four top winners at the biennial National Infocomm Awards yesterday.

It bagged the prize for Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology in the public-sector category, a sign of recognition for its pioneering efforts in this area.

"Over the last four years, being the only one rushing around trying to do something very new, we weren't sure we were doing the right thing," said Ms Rosina Howe-Teo, LTA group director for innovation and infocomm technology. Now, LTA is building on its data capabilities to move into real-time analytics - for instance, using Wi-Fi to measure how crowded train platforms are.

Another winner of the National Infocomm Awards, organised by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and trade body Singapore Infocomm Technology Federation, was payment services firm Numoni.

It took the award for Most Innovative Infocomm Product or Solution with its self-service terminal, which enables users who may not be able to get a bank account - such as migrant workers - to perform small banking transactions.

These include topping up the pre-paid value on their mobile phones, making small remittances and repaying micro-loans.

"Our vision is to empower the migrant community around the world. This fits into Singapore's goal to be an inclusive smart nation," said Numoni founder and chief executive Norma Sit.

DBS Bank won the award for Most Innovative Use of Infocomm Technology in the private sector category, for its use of analytics to reduce the instances of ATMs running out of cash. The bank managed to cut such occurrences by more than 90 per cent at its 1,100 ATMs across the island.

Said Mr Nimish Panchmatia, DBS managing director of consumer banking operations: "The next thing we're looking at is how to predict failure in machine parts."

Singapore District Cooling, a Singapore Power subsidiary, emerged top in the small and medium-sized enterprises category for its electronic form generator app, iTransform. It reduces mountains of paper forms - a headache for plant maintenance technicians - into user-friendly data.

The winners were picked from a total of 164 submissions.

They were presented with their prizes by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a ceremony held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre yesterday.

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