The first Asia ICT Innovation Forum was held on 31 May in Singapore. The event, organized by Singapore Exhibition Services and partnered with Huawei, was designed to help delegates understand the impact of digital technology on the Asia-Pacific economies. A number of renowned local and overseas speakers were invited to give their views around the theme – “Building a Better Connected World” – and they did not disappoint the audience of government and industry representatives that gathered to get a better understanding of how connectivity will play a central role in any digital economy.
After a welcome address by Zhou Jianjun, President of Carrier Business at Huawei Mr Tan Kok Yam, Head of Singapore’s Smart Nation Programme Office, kicked off the event by sharing what Singapore’s take is on what being a ‘smart nation’ entails and why it is so important. He stated that nations cannot simply ignore the pace of technological revolution, led by technology that exists, is cheap, is ubiquitous, is pervasive and exists in our pockets – the smartphone.
Society, too, is shifting in response to the opportunities created by connectivity. As a nation, when you look at all the opportunities that this new found connectivity creates, governments also have to change in the way they interact with citizens and this can be quite a challenge.
For Singapore, which is a relatively small island-based nation with a single layer of government, it can hopefully respond faster at system and national level. The education system is geared to producing students with high computational skills and a history of adopting and deploying technology in an ‘impactful’ way.
Singapore’s objective is to use connectivity to overcome the natural constraints of its size to improve living standards, to create opportunities through jobs and translate that into social cohesion and community strength. It is focusing on key areas such as transport and the use of autonomous vehicles to reduce pressure on road systems; aids for monitoring an ageing population; productivity gains for both private and government sectors; streamlined e-government initiatives and public housing.
Mr Tan used an example of data collection from buses and sensors being used by the Land Transport Authority to monitor loads and travel times to be able to inject extra services dynamically to manage demands. The same data is also made public so that app developers can provide apps for consumers to help them optimize their own travel experience. This is a form of supply-demand matching or ‘Uberising’ of public transport and with the help of autonomous vehicles in the future there will be a truly pervasive pubic transport system in place.
Data and connectivity are key issues in developing a national sensor communications backbone where different agencies and, in future, the private sector will benefit from the reduction of cost in rolling out new sensors and applications. To achieve this the Singapore government continues to invest in enablers such as R&D and intellectual property creation; talent development; industry ecosystems and cybersecurity.
Professor Tyler Cowen from George Mason University and author if ‘Average is Over’ adopted the theme - ‘Impact of Technology on the Asia Pacific Digital Economy’. He posed the simple question – “Are you working with tech, or against tech?” Thanks to more people working with tech the world has become far more competitive. In the bigger picture connectedness drives down inequality.
Smart software is doing more and more work for us. In some of the emerging economies we’re seeing information technology in place before those countries have fully developed middle classes. This phenomenon is known as ‘premature deindustrialization’. Cowen believes that innovation and scalability are key to growth and development and that China and the USA will lead in these areas and continue to flourish.