Let’s say you could design a prototype of an ideal city.
- A large enough population to be substantial but not unmanageable;
- A form of government that is both respected and stable, yet flexible;
- A society focused on racial harmony and tolerance;
- A culture committed to innovation and prosperity that embraces change;
- Reliable and fast public transportation, reasonable tax burden and a strong education system; and
- A robust economy that creates ample opportunity for global businesses.
If you think this sounds like an idyllic fantasy land that couldn’t possibly exist in real life, think again. It’s called Singapore. I had the chance to visit the city-nation for four days, care of GovTech Signapore, a government agency that deploys ICT solutions and digital services within the public sector while also developing Smart Nation infrastructure and applications.
What I learned, observed and concluded is that this is a community leading the smart city and digital-city movement. They are a small nation and a new nation. Only just declaring independence in 1965, they have both a deep history and a chance to begin anew. As a small nation of only 5.7 million people who have a deep trust of their government, they have the opportunity to pilot new programs, quickly scrapping the failures and scaling what works.
As a tiny city-nation vulnerable to outside threats, they are very clear their chance for survival depends on staying ahead of the curve. They are investing in the infrastructure of innovation, forging private-public partnerships that make sense beyond the buzzword and encouraging everyone from industry to education to get on board.
In a seven-part series, I will explore what I experienced in this brief but bountiful journey to Singapore. My reviews will of course be influenced by the narrow lens and limited period of time that I was in country. I am not proclaiming to be an expert or to have the material to do a full, unbiased examination of every policy and principal. I will, however, describe my reality and share perceived best practices that may be helpful to others who are building digital, connected, smart cities. Even if we can’t replicate it, there is a lot we can all learn from utopia.