20,000 visitors, representing more than 700 cities across 120 countries, attended the Smart City Expo World Congress 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. Singapore received the City Award at the Congress, a recognition of the city-state’s efforts to drive transformation through technology. Minister-in-charge of GovTech Dr Janil Puthucheary highlighted that Singapore’s Smart Nation investments will improve the lives of citizens for generations to come.

Like moths to a flame, people are drawn towards cities for the resources and opportunities offered by these urban centres. Yet, just as the insect eventually finds the heat of the flame unbearable, people may come to realise that city life is less ideal than what they had envisioned. Issues like housing and healthcare costs, traffic congestion and pollution can make a city intolerable for its inhabitants if not managed properly.

Acknowledging these problems, governments around the world are taking steps to make cities more liveable. Using technology, they are developing systems of monitoring and feedback to leverage data and optimise everything from energy use to urban planning. It was thus apt that Barcelona—known as one of the smartest cities in the world for its pervasive digital connectivity and clever use of the Internet of Things (IoT)—played host to the Smart City Expo World Congress (SCEWC) 2018.

“We are here in Barcelona to learn how we can do more [with smart cities], to take back the best possible lessons for our people,” said Singapore’s Minister-in-charge of GovTech and Senior Minister of State for Transport, Communications and Information Dr Janil Puthucheary in his speech at the conference.

A focus on innovation and inclusivity

Highlighting the need for “transformation through technology”, Dr Puthucheary said that the challenges that Singapore faces are not unique, and this underscores the need for mutual exchange of ideas among cities across the globe.

Indeed, there were several beacons of inspiration at SCEWC. On the housing front, Cape Town in South Africa, which experiences a severe shortage of affordable housing, is using a smartphone mobile app to bring prospective local developers, investors and tenants together to drive a community-funded housing scheme. The team won the Innovative Idea prize.

But innovation alone does not qualify a city as smart—the active use of technology to reach out to vulnerable populations matters as well. “[Smart city initiatives] have to be inclusive by design so that the benefits are spread to all citizens,” said Dr Puthucheary.

Winning the Inclusive and Sharing Cities award was The Hague, a city on the western coast of Netherlands, which is using a living lab to gather data about some 150 ageing citizens. With insights from the living lab, The Hague aims to develop better digital health solutions and scope national policy.

An eye on the future

Meanwhile, Singapore was named the Smart City of 2018 at the Congress, receiving the coveted City Award. The Award recognises the Singapore government’s early investments in technology and connectivity infrastructure, as well as its stable institutions, which have enabled the nation to move quickly to develop, capitalise on and integrate frontier technologies.

Under its Smart Nation Initiative, launched in 2014, Singapore has embarked on strategic national projects that reduce friction between the government, businesses and citizens, improving productivity while paying attention to sustainability.

For example, Dr Puthucheary mentioned Singapore’s National Digital Identity system, which serves as a secure online ‘passport’ that citizens can use to transact with both the public and private sector. Also in the works is “a national grid of IoT sensors to fuse data across our country”, he added, referring to the (smart lamp posts) that will monitor everything from traffic to temperature and humidity. Importantly, the digital platforms established, and the data collected, must put Singapore in a better position to face future challenges, including climate change and an ageing population.

“The application of these technologies must benefit our grandchildren and re-engineer our country to improve lives for generations to come. And to do so, these efforts have to be sustainable, not just financially, but also with respect to resources and energy consumption,” Dr Puthucheary concluded.

 

This article is originally from GovTech SG.

 

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