Singapore to harness technology to become 'smarter' city

SINGAPORE plans to step up its efforts to become a smarter nation by harnessing technology and learning from the experiences of other cities, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday evening.

He was speaking at the opening of the World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week and CleanEnviro Summit at Marina Bay Sands.

"Really, truly, improving Singapore is a journey without end," he said, speaking to ministers and mayors from around the world. "People's expectations are rising and other cities continue to move ahead, developing innovative solutions and setting new standards."

For instance, PM Lee said, the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro is working with information technology giant IBM to become a smarter city, while Manhattan in the United States has a central hotline for municipal services.

Singapore itself is wiring up to improve connectivity, using green technology such as solar panels, and aiming to use data better to improve sustainability, such as by managing power consumption. And while the island-state has tried to manage water, energy, and nature carefully and transformed Marina Bay from a "dirty river dotted with pollutive industries and slums", it can learn from other cities' experiences. He cited examples such as London on public transport, Copenhagen with its "pocket parks" downtown, and the Spanish metropolis of Bilbao with its arts and culture spaces.

Singapore is also engaging citizens and residents, by preserving Pulau Ubin's nature through the Ubin Project - which asks for public ideas to protect the rustic island for instance; and carrying out public consultations to review its sustainable-development blueprint.

Other successful cities he lauded include this year's Lee Kuan Yew Prize winners Suzhou, which "developed a thriving economy while protecting its cultural landmarks", and Orange County Water District in California. Singapore adapted the district's water-reuse scheme for its Newater water reclamation programme.

In the past two years alone, PM Lee pointed out, more than 100 million people - or 20 times the population of Singapore - have moved to cities. And seven in 10 people are expected to live in cities by 2050.

New challenges such as climate change have also surfaced, producing floods in London this year and Cairo's first snowfall in a century last year, he said.

Cities can help by "pioneering new solutions to the world's problems", he noted.

At the three major biennial events, which run till Wednesday, some 20,000 government leaders, experts and other delegates are meeting and discussing the world's urban issues.

The Straits Times is the media partner of the three events.

Source: Straits Times, 7 Jun 2014