#Asia Singapore plans to spend $1.7b this year in contracts for Smart Nation apps


GovTech chief executive, Jacqueline Poh.

GovTech chief executive, Jacqueline Poh. Photo credit: GovTech.

The Singapore government plans to dedicate US$1.7 billion to working with the private sector in financial year 2017, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) announced yesterday. The announcement was made during the annual Smart Nation and Digital Government Industry Briefing.

The government will work with industry vendors, including small businesses and startups, to develop technologies in data analytics and sensors as well as communications infrastructure that will connect internet-of-things sensor networks with data centers. In short, tech you need to make Smart Nation, Singapore’s vision of an always connected digital society, a tangible thing.

The Smart Nation Sensor Platform is a particular focus – a sensor network that covers the entire island and enables connectivity, data and video analytics, and data sharing between different government agencies. The project, previously known as just Smart Nation Platform, was first announced in 2015 by the Infocomm and Media Development Agency (IMDA).

In April, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong commented that the Smart Nation initiative isn’t proceeding as fast as expected. At the end of March, GovTech was placed within the Smart Nation Digital Government Group (SNDGG) to implement the Smart Nation agenda. The SNDGG was formed directly under the Prime Minister’s office to streamline and accelerate the process.

In 2016, expenditure and workload was mostly dedicated to laying down the foundations of the project. That focus on infrastructure, including data centers and cabling, is why this year’s budget is smaller than last year’s by about US$300 million. “This is basic infrastructure that we have to lay out to ensure that there is capacity for the growth of Smart Nation applications,” says GovTech chief executive, Jacqueline Poh. “In [financial year] 2017, the government intends to spend a larger proportion on digital and data, cyber security, and Smart Nation applications.”

See: IMDA launches, announces new programs in Singapore’s Smart Nation roadmap

Startups and small businesses welcome

Startups and small businesses have a way into the process through IMDA’s Accreditation initiative, which evaluates promising businesses and validates them, ensuring easier access to capital and partnerships.

Small businesses accounted for two-thirds of the total number of contracts awarded last year, Poh says. For example, local startup DC Frontiers was awarded a contract for its Handshakes platform, an AI-powered tool that analyzes networks and connections between people and companies to identify things like legal ownership, conflicts of interest, and potential fraud.

Small businesses accounted for two-thirds of the total number of contracts awarded last year.

The city-state’s cyber security strategy is revamped in order to enable quicker reaction and prevention of online attacks and crime. Security operation centers throughout the government will be designed to identify threats and respond faster through data analytics and more automation.

Other applications include the development of an “immersive storytelling room” in the National Library, which will use various technologies like wall projections to enhance narratives. A virtual library containing ebooks, audiobooks, and virtual exhibitions is also in the works.

MyMaritime@SG, in the meantime, spotlights Singapore’s port and marine specialization. The system will make it easier to request marine services, permits, and approvals. The Maritime Single Window platform will be used for submitting port-related documentation for port clearance.

The government also has plans to partner with universities and institutions to keep developing technologies like robotics and healthcare. Examples include an inventory robot project with Temasek Polytechnic, and home diagnostic tools and assistive robots with the help of Integrated Health Information Systems.

Converted from Singapore dollars. US$1 = S$1.38

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