Smart Nations

Add Singapore to the list of Nations establishing a Smart Nation agenda. In a recent Article authored by Eileen Yu, she describes the launch of Singapore’s national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy. The Singapore government aims to drive AI adoption to generate economic value and provide a global platform on which to develop and test AI applications. As future scenarios go, Smart Nations represent a complex intersection of multiple ecosystems – broader than similar complexities associated with the Smart City scenario.

Per the article, the government identified five national projects focused on challenges that include intelligent freight planning in transport and logistics, chronic disease prediction and management in healthcare, and border clearance operations in national safety and security. In all, nine sectors have been identified for deployment, including manufacturing, finance, cybersecurity, and government. Their focus is on driving  productivity gains and creating new areas of growth by rethinking business models and making deep changes.

As many are grappling with the societal challenges that lie ahead, Singapore hopes to address some of them By 2030 – the goal is for the country’s workforce to have the necessary capabilities to support an AI-driven economy and for its engineers and entrepreneurs to create new AI products and services to serve the local and global markets.

Smart Nations are the likely foundation of a Society 5.0 agenda embraced by nations such as Japan. Proactive strategies such as these help society work towards mitigating the risk of unintended consequences through education, awareness and action. The Singapore government Describes their Smart Nation initiative as:

Through the Smart Nation initiative, we aim to make Singapore “an outstanding city in the world…for people to live, work and play in, where the human spirit flourishes.” To achieve this, we have to apply technology systematically and extensively, rather than in a piecemeal manner, to improve the lives of our people.

But first, why does Singapore need to be a Smart Nation? Growth in two main factors of production drove Singapore’s growth in the first 50 years: our labor force, and capital investment. As our population ages and the inflow of immigrants slows (given our finite physical space), labor as a factor of production will grow more slowly. Consumption as a percentage of GDP will also likely rise relative to investment as Singapore’s population ages. The main contribution to growth and prosperity will have to be total factor productivity, which could be achieved through a mix of technology and better business processes.

These challenges are not unique to Singapore. Advances in science and technology represent not just opportunity, but a number of Societal Challenges – they also hold the keys to solving them. In so doing, the hope is that Society 5.0 represents another advancement in our human development.

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