Singapore: Gateway to Southeast Asia’s Smart City market

Singapore: Gateway to Southeast Asia’s Smart City market

Small in size, big in city smartness: The small island-state of Singapore ranks amongst the best cities worldwide for entrepreneurs, accelerators and investors. Dive in to see what’s behind the country’s success!

Singapore is one of the smallest states in the world. But it is also one of the smartest. Smart cities are urban areas that use data and technology to optimally utilize their resources and work more efficiently. The smart city government score measures the quality of a government’s commitment to building a smart city and with a score of 32.3, Singapore comes second only to London.

So what puts Singapore ahead of its peers? We have collected some insights to answer this question.

Strong governmental support is an important factor in turning a city into a smart one. Singapore started the ‘Smart Nation’ initiative in 2014 to drive technological and digital advancements that turned the city-state into a globally connected innovation hub. The Smart Nation Office coordinates all measures being taken to drive Singapore forward as a smart city.

One element of the initiative is the National Digital Identity (NDI), which allows citizens to interact digitally with the government (no paperwork needed any longer), another is building an extensive network of Smart Urban Mobility, making public transport faster and more convenient. The Smart City Office has a budget of US$ 1.7 billion to invest over the course of 4 years and the Prime Minister’s Office coordinates directly between ministries to facilitate spending.       

Even amongst its similarly smart neighbours (Seoul is in 3rd place on the smart city government score, Hong Kong 10th), Singapore stands out. It has a head start on a digitalized, improved and inclusive public infrastructure, which allows it to now focus on the next big steps. Whether it is autonomous driving innovations or designing new citizen experiences, Singapore offers a large scale digital sandbox of possibilities to play in with lightning fast communication networks and smart applications for almost every part of daily life. There are no limits to what entrepreneurs and founders can invent and research on.   

If one would look for a Silicon Valley within the island-state, it would not take long to find Punggol Digital District. The Smart Nation Office is building this district as a place where a business park, university and community facilities come together to facilitate the creation of synergies between them all. The aim is to integrate industry and academia more closely, and foster an innovative community. Punggol Digital District is a pilot project exploring new ways of working and living together, creating jobs of the future in the process. Furthermore, the district’s construction loops back to Singapore’s explorative sandbox concept: The close collaboration of academia, industry and cohabitation allows for perfect conditions for testing new smart city solutions on a small level first, before rolling them out nationwide.

Another not-so-secret secret to Singapore’s success? It shares. The ecosystem’s guiding principle is that data is too valuable a resource to not be shared openly for others to learn from it. This means that the public can access every data set that government agencies have gathered via online portals. Making this huge amount of data accessible to everyone encourages the public as well as businesses to experiment – potentially leading to new apps being developed, solutions found, as well as attracting new businesses and talent.  An example of this is the Land Transport DataMall, which made around 100 data sets available, therewith enabling 40 mobile apps to be built. With open-source platforms like Singapore’s, innovation opportunities are limitless!

In simple terms, Singapore’s success can be narrowed down to strong partnerships between the public and private sectors. The government is highly supportive of companies that are in their initial growth stage and offers them necessary infrastructure to scale and stand on their own feet. This means that the government is not involved in a company’s dealings for good, but encourages independence. The McKinsey report on Southeast Asian Smart Cities names an example: “Beeline, an on-demand transit service in Singapore, was initiated through a government unit and piloted by the government. But it was rapidly spun off to be operated by private service providers, with minimal impact on users.”  

But apart from all the theory – what does it practically mean to be working in such a smart environment? StartUp AsiaBerlin offers the Berlin startup ecosystem a chance to find out firsthand! We are inviting a delegation of Smart City, Mobility and Urban Innovation players to personally explore the vibrancy of Singapore’s smart startup ecosystem.

Delegates will meet key players of the Singapore startup world, local governments and corporates such as the founders of Singapore’s unicorn Grab. Sessions will include practical advice like “How to set up an office in Singapore” as well as panel discussions on how the IoT can propel a startup ecosystem forward to the future.

True to our mission of fostering an exchange between the Asian and Berlin startup ecosystems, this trip will provide delegates with a powerful network and the opportunity to gain access to the Singapore market and its key actors.  

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