Public Policy Lecture: Insights into Singapore's Smart Nation journey
Technology has been touted as a solution for many countries seeking new forms of economic progress, higher levels of productivity or a better life for citizens. In reality, the journey to make technology meaningful, widely deployed and socially inclusive is a complex endeavour. Too often, governments fail to partner effectively with business to promote technology or to provide deliberate and innovative governance of new technology that advances our collective well-being over the long term.
How do we ensure that the technologies being rolled out are at the right stage of maturity and meet real needs that exist? How do we strike the delicate balance between policies that enable new technologies to gain traction and ensuring that the implementation of technologies like AI is ethical, sound and socially responsible? How do we ensure that technological disruption proceeds at a pace that allows citizens to keep up and firms to reap dividends?
In 2014, Singapore declared an ambition to become the world’s first Smart Nation. This was a quantum boost for a country that was already considered one of the most high-tech places in the world. Five years on, Singapore has made significant strides in making the promises of AI, IoT, AVs, and biomedical advances a reality for its citizens, but not without some hard lessons learnt along the way.
In this lecture, Ms Jacqueline Poh, Deputy Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office Strategy Group and founding CEO of the Government Technology Agency of Singapore offers some insights on Singapore’s Smart Nation journey. The existential constraints of being a tiny island with no natural resources continues to be a catalyst to innovation in areas like water, urban tech and Fintech.
Beyond this, Singapore built a digital technology stack to be used by businesses and individuals supported by a National Digital Identity, cashless payments and sensor networks. Cybersecurity and privacy concerns have spurred policy innovations in the governance of data-sharing and AI.
The effects of tech disruption on jobs has spawned one of the world’s most ambitious attempts at reskilling a population for the future. Ms Poh will share the challenges of working in the nexus of technology and policy, how to plan for the future across decades, and how R&D supports innovation and enterprise development.
The Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) at the University of Cambridge is a new initiative that aims to cultivate stronger relationships between policymakers and experts in the sciences and engineering.