What does a Smart Society look like?

24 Jul 2018

Openness to talent is vital to Singapore's ambition to become a Smart Nation. That requires a more holistic view of immigration that recognises a shared patriotism between local and imported talent.

Singapore's recent Smart Nation Innovations Week and its hosting of the World Cities Summit served as tangible reminders to Singaporeans and thousands of visitors that the country is perhaps the world's foremost living lab for widespread deployment of new technologies from fibre-optic Internet to online government services and, soon, autonomous vehicles.

The Government has moved quickly across a wide spectrum of areas, but has rightly begun to emphasise that a nation can only be as smart as its citizens. That is why Enterprise Singapore and other agencies have been experimenting in recent years with incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises to introduce productivity enhancements such as using new technologies and encouraging workers to take up upskilling courses. With a healthy but ageing population and high life expectancy, Singapore is arguably ground zero for putting the notion of lifelong learning into practice. This is how a smart nation becomes a smart society.

A proactive approach to technology is the crucial factor in ensuring that all Singaporeans are future-ready. Home sensors and telemedicine mean affordable and high-quality care for the growing ranks of elderly pioneers. Reskilling centres and digital job-matching services can effectively sustain the professional relevance of the semi-retired. Industry leaders - both domestic and foreign firms - must strengthen cooperation with universities and polytechnics to ensure students and entrepreneurs have the most up-to-date skills in digital marketing, programming languages and engineering.

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Parag Khanna

Senior Fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy