Singapore sets up smart nation programme office

November 24th, 2014 | by Aaron Tan
Singapore sets up smart nation programme office
Enterprise
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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.

Speaking at the National Infocomm Awards this morning, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the new office, helmed by Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, will come under the Prime Minister’s Office.

“Today, our government agencies are using IT in various ways, to serve citizens better – LTA in public transport, and URA in master planning,” he said, adding that researchers, industries and startups are also finding innovative ways to use technology.

“We can go much further if we bring citizens, government and industry together in this endeavour: to identify issues, co-develop solutions, prototype ideas and deploy them effectively to benefit the whole nation,” he said.

For a start, the government will launch a new project called Virtual Singapore, which will let the public contribute geospatial data such as animal sightings, traffic incidents and potential hazards for cyclists, among others.

Such crowdsourced information can be presented on an integrated 3D map of Singapore enriched with layers of data about buildings, land and the environment, Lee revealed.

Lee also emphasised cyber security as an important aspect of Singapore’s smart nation blueprint, noting that it is vital for Singapore to have secure systems to guard against malware and hacking attacks by hacktivist groups such as Anonymous.

While the Infocomm Development Authority and the Ministry of Home Affairs already have cyber security functions, Lee said the government will study ways to protect its systems and sensor networks against cyber attacks.

In acquiring the skills required to build a smart nation, Lee called for schools to teach students how to create the technology of the future.

“We must get our children in schools exposed to IT, exposed to programming,” he said. “And in some countries, all kids are required to learn to code, at least the basics, so you’ll understand what it is about even though you may not write the next Windows operating system,” he added.

Lee also revealed that the government will be reviewing how it manages the careers of its engineers and technologists in its ranks, in a bid to shore up its IT capabilities.

“We cannot just be outsourcing everything,” he said. “We need to bring in expertise from the industry but we need our own expertise too, not least to be able to specify what we want and be able to interact fruitfully with the industry,” he added.

To prevent a digital divide as Singapore moves towards being a smart nation, Lee said there will be Citizen Connect Centres to help citizens use e-government services, as well as Silver Infocomm Junctions that provide affordable and customised IT training for seniors.

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