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Smart Nation Programme – The Summary

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Smart Nation

Realising, that many big neighbours around Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, China are creating competitive landscape and moving fast; Singapore follows the concept “If you don’t move forward, you fall behind” . The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), together with other agencies is working towards Singapore’s vision to becoming the world’s first smart nation

Singapore announced plans for a new Integrated Infocomm Media Masterplan [i]in June 2013, the vision has coalesced around the transformation into a Smart Nation underpinned by data and analytics.

According to the Gartner’s estimates[ii] , fuelled by public sector spending on software, IT manpower and outsourcing, the Singapore government’s IT bill is expected to reach US$3.2 billion this year

Singapore has set up a new smart nation programme office to coordinate efforts by various government agencies that are already using IT to serve citizens. The Smart Nation Program constitutes Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s priority, and every government department is involved.

In a usual practical approach, projects under Smart Nation Programme revolve around the question: “what problems are we going to solve; and the “Innovation” itself is defined as solving people’s problems.

In this approach, the “Innovative technologies” serve as the backbone of a smart nation’s infrastructure and should not necessarily be cutting-edge ones; but rather, present new and innovative way of bringing together existing technologies that makes these technologies “innovative.” The main goal of such innovation is the optimization of existing resources, rather than reliance on new ones.

The key to understanding governance in a smart nation; unlike business entities, the government cannot choose its customers and must serve all citizens: citizen-centric approach calls for long term view and plan in order to deal with added complexity;

  1. Common Data Infrastructure for the Government, which would solve the problem of the incompatibility of data sets coming from different government agencies. The government cloud platform to serve the needs of ministries and agencies.
  2. Collaboration with citizens, industry and academia - The government nurtures a collaborative ecosystem and serve as a connector and matchmaker without attempting to dominate.
  3. Government to review and reform its own structures to support the required level of agility, efficiency and flexibility, and effectively manage change.
  4. Diversity - nurture diversity among its own staff to ensure a variety of views and diversity of skill sets, so that government employees can learn from each other and partner with those outside the government in order to sustain the co-creation and inclusiveness of the ecosystem.

And the projects are built upon Cross-agency collaboration, Data Sharing and Big Data analytics

Smart Nation will collect and process data across the country, and derive insights by analysing the data in order to improve performance and enhance services across the board. The concept rides on strategic deployment of cutting-edge technology trends, such as a nationwide network of connected sensors and sensory devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), along with the infrastructure of data centres to handle big data and analytics.

Essential components of a smart nation include a pervasive, scalable, ultra-high speed, intelligent and secured ICT infrastructure, coupled with a ICT eco-system with a ready pool of skilled tech workforce, a regulatory environment that protects the data and privacy of citizens while ensuring fairness and access to essential information. The country made progress in laying the backbone infrastructure to prepare for Big Data & Analytics, the Internet of Things and other transformational trends and developments, thanks to its 10 years Intelligent Nation (iN2015) Masterplan. Singapore has completed its Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (NGNBN) rollout and is developing a nationwide wireless network, with plans for a new Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) that will enable seamless mobile connectivity for citizens across different networks.

Since then iDA has announced several multi-pronged initiatives that will deliver the Smart Nation vision, including the roll-out of a Smart Nation Platform (SNP) that includes an operating system for public agencies and companies to connect to.

Singapore’s SNP is aimed at bringing together a nationwide sensor network and data analytics abilities.The SNP has three focus areas

  1. Connect - the enhancement of Singapore’s pervasive network and communications backbone, with new developments such as Above Ground (AG) Boxes – utility boxes that allow sensors to be easily powered and quickly connected to the fibre network — and the HetNet.
  2. Collect - the roll-out of a nationwide sensor network, communications backbone based the SNP operating system where public agencies could be plugged in to access essential sensor data; provide the efficient sharing of collected sensor data (protected, and managed, before being shared)
  3. Comprehend – providing situational awareness through data analysis that will empower individuals, government and businesses alike via data analytics and real-world applications

Challenges in Singapore:

Singapore faces two big pressures – increased urban density and an ageing population

There are three priorities for tackling these pressures:

Smart health care

  1. Health care in the context of an ageing population: The country’s vision includes remote diagnostics, DNA sequencing, automated ambulances and smart public housing that react to residents’ needs
  2. Transport: Singapore is testing autonomous vehicles in the west of the island. Plans to use a virtual model to track real-time commuting patterns and plan future transport systems. The Multi-Agent Transport Simulation Toolkit Singapore (MATSim Singapore) takes data from the Land Transport Authority and the Urban Redevelopment Authority. It uses real patterns of behaviour to create virtual commuters, which are used to test the impact of potential train lines, bus routes, cycle lanes and new solutions such as autonomous cars and car sharing.[iii]
  3. Housing: Smart housing, which includes waste and energy management. Advantage - around 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in public housing, which are broadly wired the same way. New block of housing in Punggol will test smart lighting, waste management and car park monitoring.[iv]

Smart Nation Prerequisites:


Fast internet access is essential everywhere in Singapore. Train tunnels, lift shafts, any square meter will have connectivity. The priority is expanding the existing reach in a plan called E3A – connecting Everything and Everybody Everywhere All the Time.

The experimental city

Singapore will continue to open labs to test parts of its Smart Nation plan. In place - lab in Jurong West for testing out smart street lights and transport


“Whenever we see something where we say ‘that’s cool’, we add it in.”

The Smart Nation Programme itself is a living blueprint and does not feature complete end-to-end strategy design, featuring sometimes the approach “we do it now and fix later”, rather that miss the opportunity and inhibit development. With so much data involved, concerns about data privacy and security were causing discussions, however, the discussion were not as hot as expected to be.

Data Sources:

  • Citizens data
  • Data relayed by sensors that are being installed on the ground for better situational awareness and resource allocation.


The IDA will be partnering with providers of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to offer online analytics courses to grow the local talent pool. The first focus training area will be on Data Sciences & Analytics, and iDA will be using Coursera MOOC platform's data sciences platform with content provided by Johns Hopkins University.

Living Analytics Lab (LARC ) at Singapore Management University (SMU) aspires to make pioneering breakthroughs in statistical and experimental theories, methods and tools for conducting Behavioral Insight Experiments within pervasively networked environments and defines the following priorities for Smart Nation Projects:[v]

  • Intelligent Systems for Mining and Analytics
  • Social and Management Science
  • Network Experimentation
  • Security, Data Fusion and Privacy Preservation
  • Systems and Infrastructure

Cyber security and privacy issues

Becoming a Smart Nation also makes Singapore a bigger target for hacktivists, cyber criminals and state actors

The government has announced a new Cyber Security Agency to pull together this capability [vi]

Key Components

  1. A Smart Nation Platform will bring together a nationwide sensor network and data analytics abilities to provide better situational awareness through the efficient collection and sharing of data.
  2. A HetNet (heterogenous network) will enable mobile users to switch seamlessly between different types of wireless networks.
  3. Aggregation Gateway (AG) Boxes will provide high-speed fibre connectivity and power at the street level, and accommodate sensors from different government agencies to monitor everything from traffic to street lights and crowded buses.

Singapore is making headway in developing its own smart grid infrastructure. State-owned energy utility Singapore Power (SP) is currently involved in a project to upgrade and renew the country’s ageing grid infrastructure.

Concurrently, SP is in partnership with national energy regulator Energy Market Authority (EMA) to evaluate and develop the Intelligent Energy System (IES) pilot to modernise electricity transmission and distribution networks with new information, communication, and sensor

However threats, specifically cyberthreats, are evolving at a greater rate than the grid can keep up with. Developed before cyber-security was a concern, the primary risk factor for the power grid in the 80's and 90's was physical security threats.

Governance recommendations to protect the infrastructure:

  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Consider switching to a static Code Management Systems
  • Enforce lock-out policies
  • Patch anti-virus and browsers
  • Segregate key assets


The Singaporean government is to set up its own telecommunications network to manage a network of sensors across the country as part of a 'Smart Nation' project; The 'internet of things' network[vii] will include security cameras across the centre of the city, and sensors to monitor things as diverse as potential flooding in drains and the health of elderly residents in their homes.

IDA’s tender documents, available on the government tender website Gebiz, describe how a supplier has to connect to the various data collection boxes, known as AG or Above Ground boxes[viii], around the island. It seems the government wishes to avoid depending fully on telecom operators to provide all the links to its many sensors in future. While that unusual move is understandable, more puzzling is another government announcement on its smart nation project this “nationwide operating system” that it is working with Microsoft on.

There is not much known of this operating system, except it is supposed to be the “brains” of the smart nation installation in the next few years [ix] “The Government will own the operating system of the Smart Nation Platform (SNP) in order to safeguard the robustness and trustworthiness of the system, and to protect all data collected, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA)”

Central Role of a Cloud

Announced at CloudAsia 2014 Cloud Service Providers’ Registry (CSP) allows choosing cloud vendors through registry, standards. The CSP Registry was conceived to engender trust through transparency for the benefit of cloud adopters by making available online information about CSPs. This was facilitated by services such as a self-disclosure form and information on a CSP's Multi-Tier Cloud Security Singapore Standard (MTCS SS) certification

Security, continues to be one of the largest impediments to cloud adoption, which was why the IDA and the Singapore Standards Council, launched the world's first Multi-Tier Cloud Security Singapore Standard (MTCS SS). The MTCS SS provides specifications for CSPs to give clarity around their security service levels for customer understanding, while also increasing the level of accountability and transparency from them.

While adopting the MTCS is voluntary, certification by a Certification Body will be a requirement for CSPs participating in future public cloud service bulk tenders from the Government.


IDA announces the launch of a pilot for Data-as-a-Service (DaaS), to become an important building block for the Smart Nation. The DaaS pilot seeks to address this using a federated approach with individual Dataset Registries (DSR) based on an open source data portal platform, creating a coherent mechanism for users to easily discover private sector datasets made available from data providers across various industry sectors. Participating data providers will operate their own instance of DSR which runs on their own infrastructure and maintain the dataset catalogue.

The data providers will be given an opportunity to understand and check the relative quality of their datasets through a set of industry-domain agnostic Data Quality Metrics. The metrics cover areas such as reliability, relevance, accessibility, timeliness and ease of use, and will also give potential users a base of comparison between similar datasets from distinct owners.

New platform,, serves as a central source of government data contains more than 8,000 datasets that are available to citizens, app developers and researchers.

Network of information centers called Citizen Connect has been established to bridge the digital divide and facilitate free access to government services including eCitizen, an e-government platform, for those who do not have internet access.

The government recently awarded a tender for the development of the Social Service Net (SSNet), a unified content management system for the social service sector to facilitate information sharing among multiple social services providers and government agencies.

At least 15 trials involving more than 20 partnering companies and various public agencies are being rolled out at Jurong Lake District, where over 1,000 data sensors are being deployed to create a “live environment and living lab” for Smart Nation projects ranging from smart queue monitoring and smart navigation to autonomous buggies.

Indoors, efforts are underway to enable seamless interoperability between connected smart devices within the home, under the IoT@Home initiative. An Industry Working Group has been set up within IDA’s IT Standards Committee to identify relevant open standards and establish a set of Technical References.

Smart Nation Projects

  • A*STAR catalyses R&D value capture for Singapore amounting to over $380 million from over 1,700 industry projects
  • The creation of a detailed 3D model of Singapore by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to help planners and architects design and build the city with greater insight and sensitivity to finer details · Virtual Singapore, a project that will culminate in an integrated 3D map with layers of data about local buildings, land and the environment. It was launched by the National Research Foundation, Singapore Land Authority and Infocomm Development Authority.
  • Project Bus Stop, the re-imagining of a bus stop in Jurong East as a meaningful social node which incorporates greenery, interactive smart boards, a phone charging station, a swing and bicycle parking.
  • PLANET (Planning for Land TrAnsport NETwork), the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) enterprise business intelligence platform for big data analytics, public transport performance monitoring and predictive simulation of public transport initiatives.
  • myENV (My Environment), an app which gives members of the public real-time access to information on Singapore’s weather and heavy rainfall alerts, the latest air quality information, location of dengue clusters and 3R (reduce, reuse and recycle) tips, amongst others.
  • The Police Camera (PolCam) project by Singapore Police Force, under which about 18,000 cameras have been installed at 3,300 HDB blocks and multi-storey car parks across all 16 Town Councils and 87 wards since May 2012 to enhance SPF’s crime-fighting ability in HDB estates.
  • The tele-rehabilitation project[x] led by A/Prof Gerald Koh enhances the use of technology to supervise the recovery of stroke patients in the comfort of their own home. The tele-rehab system will be able to perform supervised rehabilitation exercises from home which potentially alleviates stress and inconvenience suffered by caregivers and patients who would otherwise have to travel to rehab centres
  • Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is looking into streamlining different modes of payment into a single instrument — which may take the form of a watch, ring, or even an identity card, fitted with a chip. Consumers will thus be spared from having to carry too many cards around.
  • To enhance eldercare, the HDB is piloting the Smart Elderly Monitoring and Alert System sensors in 12 flats. The sensors monitor the movements of the elderly folks in the flats, and alert family members when they detect anything unusual.

Legal Challenges

To consider:

  • Legal mechanisms that limit risk and liability as corporations tap on growth opportunities in Singapore's Smart Nation Initiative.
  • How to acquire technology and bid for ICT projects
    Smart Grids and IoT, privacy
  • Privacy challenges in acquiring and processing data collected via smart meters
  • Systems availability beyond service level agreements

Collaborating with Start-ups


The Accreditation@IDA programme - the programme allows young Singapore-based tech companies with the “IDA Accredited Product” mark to be considered first, where relevant, for innovative tech government projects[xi]

IDA Accreditation, together with IDA Accelerator and IDA Labs, were the three key programmes[xii] introduced in 2014 to help local companies strengthen their competitive edge in a dynamic global ecosystem.

The Accelerator initiative, which is managed by IDA’s investment subsidiary Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd (IIPL), aims to raise the quality of tech start-ups in Singapore by putting them through an “internship” where they will be challenged as to the kind of “go-to-market” strategies that they have, whether their business are scalable and whether they have the right people.

Recently IIPL has partnered with leading accelerators like Joyful Frog Digital Incubator (JFDI) or Startupbootcamp FinTech to run accelerator programmes to groom promising tech start-ups in Singapore at the early and seed stages.

Another initiative to build up Singapore tech companies is the iPACT[xiii] (Partnership for Capability Transformation for the Infocomm Sector), introduced to help them work more closely with large enterprises on projects to boost their productivity. IDA has committed S$15 million to drive the iPACT initiative over three years through to March 2017; and

IDA has also continued to give recognition to role models for the tech industry through its National Infocomm Awards [xiv], which were presented in November 2014.

Embracing overseas start-ups

The IDA has opened outposts in London and San Francisco to monitor the latest start-ups and university research projects.

The government is also investing in start-ups – regardless of where they are based in the world

Small prints:

  1. While the city invests in foreign start-ups, iDA does like them to have a connection to Singapore, to have a strong link to Singapore - whether it means a percentage of the staff are Singaporean or the company is based in Singapore for the longer term. In return, Singapore is a gateway to Asia, representing access to markets including Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia. The city is keen for start-ups to see it as a testing ground;
  2. The government wants to tackle the big issues and won’t be investing in any taxi booking apps.

According to CommunicAsia 2014 Conference, Top Technologies are:

  • Smart Technologies
  • Internet of Things
  • Mobile Services
  • 4K Ultra HD
  • Telco OTT













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Guest Saturday, 11 July 2020