DPM Teo Chee Hean at Opening of Smart Nations Symposium

SM Teo Chee Hean | 5 June 2018

Speech by DPM and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, at the Smart Nation Innovations Week Opening Symposium on 5 June 2018.


“Building a Smart Nation – Empowering Citizens, Energising Businesses, Engaging Internationally”

Your Excellencies, 
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentleman,

I am happy to join you at the inaugural Smart Nation Innovations Week Opening Symposium. To our overseas guests, a warm welcome to Singapore. 

Strong Foundation for Building a Smart Nation  

Singapore has worked with like-minded regional and international partners over many decades to build an open and inclusive global environment for the exchange of ideas, the flow of trade and investments, and the deepening of people-to-people ties.  Even as we continue to enhance physical connections in the traditional air, land and sea domains, the digital domain now offers new ways to interact, collaborate and form new partnerships; with exciting opportunities to grow our future economy and improve the lives of all our citizens.

Today, Singapore is one of the most networked economies in the world .  We have invested in fibre broadband connectivity so that high-speed broadband mobile internet connectivity is available and affordable to companies and individuals all across Singapore. This physical infrastructure and connectivity provides the foundation. But new important back-end, whole-of-nation enabling systems, are needed to enable us to fully exploit these new technologies to create game-changing exciting new businesses and jobs, and to allow our citizens to enjoy access to public and private sector services in new ways that make a real difference to our daily lives.

What does Smart Nation mean to us, as citizens and businesses and for our international partnerships?  Our Smart Nation journey has to improve daily life in our city and make it more convenient and secure; create exciting jobs and opportunities for everyone; and energise those who are able, creative and driven to pursue their dreams not only in Singapore, but with friends all around the world. 

Empowering Citizens, Improving Lives 

A Smart Nation has meaning when our citizens are more empowered, when we are able to take more control of and see real improvements in our day-to-day life experiences – better work-life balance, better use of our time, staying more aware and connected with our friends, smoother and faster commutes, taking charge of our healthcare and financial needs. 

Smart Nation will be powered by technology -  the enabling game-changer. But technology is not an end in itself. To achieve widespread use and benefits, the applications need to be seamless and intuitive to use, without the user needing to spend time to navigate the complex underlying technology. Let me illustrate with a few examples. 

Many of us are already using wearables or our mobile apps to remind us to exercise, such as tracking whether we have walked our 10,000 steps today. We want to help more citizens stay fit and healthy. Citizens can manage their own diet and exercise, and decide what is more suited to their individual needs and contexts. For example, we can help our young working adults, including our National Servicemen maintain their fitness. Or we can monitor our vital signs or manage our medications with a personalised digital health coach; and be alerted to call in for a telemedicine consultation. This means that healthcare is not delivered only at the hospital or the doctor’s clinic. We can re-design our healthcare system by working with our citizens to keep us all as fit and healthy as possible, while making best use of our healthcare resources. I would like to emphasise this last step because when we put together all these individual devices for the use by individuals, and re-design the entire healthcare system, that is where the real opportunity comes -  systems-level efficiency and systems-level delivery, for high quality services to our citizens.

In our public housing estates where more than 80% of Singaporeans live, the use of the Internet of Things and analytics for preventive maintenance and municipal operations can help make the environment more liveable and sustainable. Sensors can help our households and estates save on utilities, and operators can do more targeted and timely maintenance to improve lift reliability or public cleanliness. 

Today, we already use data and data analytics, together with a network of sensors and roadside cameras to keep residents safe and ensure that traffic is smooth. In future, with more data, for example from smart street lamps, and tools to better plan bus routes and improve car-pooling and bike-sharing, commuters can plan their journeys, save time and have a better, safer experience getting around our city for work or leisure. The Digital Readiness Blueprint launched by Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran last weekend also outlined our plans to help all Singaporeans gain digital skills and use digital tools in their daily lives. 

Our government services are also going through a major transformation to put our citizens at the centre. The objective is to make services intuitive and easy for all to use – in several languages, and even if we are less familiar with technology.   At significant Moments of Life, for example, when welcoming a newborn to the family, parents will be able to select from a suite of public services from different agencies, including registering baby’s birth and automatically enrolling baby onto relevant support schemes, such as the “baby bonus”. Parents will also be able to find information about preschools, what they offer around their residence.  We are releasing a blueprint for Digital Government today, outlining how the Government will reorganise and transform ourselves to deliver public services better through the use of technology. This involves improving the user-experience interface where citizens interact with a greater range of government e-services; but also important back-end, whole-of-nation enabling systems, such as SingPass Mobile, which will be rolled out as part of our National Digital Identity system which is being implemented later this year. This is a 2 factor authentication, PKI-based system which will enable our citizens to easily and securely transact with each other and access our government services without the need for physical tokens or SMS passwords. We can pay our bills or sign documents online, apply for public housing, buy or sell a house or a car.

Energising Businesses, Seizing Opportunities  

A Smart Nation has meaning when our businesses can exploit new opportunities in the Digital Economy – this includes operating more efficiently, reaching out to new markets through digital platforms, and creating new businesses in sectors which were not available in the pre-Digital Economy. 

There will be many exciting new jobs in the Digital Economy – in emerging technology like Artificial Intelligence or data science, but also from making use of commonly available digital tools or platforms to expand businesses in innovative new ways, or to create new businesses.  There are now a whole range of programmes to help everyone be digitally ready and digitally skilled, from introductory programmes in the community to make best use of digital services, to those for the tech-experts at the sharp end of the new enabling technologies in our universities and research institutes. 

To facilitate new opportunities and business models in the Digital Economy, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is working with industry partners to enhance our National e-Payments ecosystem. Our focus is on building common links at the back-end, while supporting a range of e-payment platforms at the user-interface. This will enable consumers and businesses to enjoy more convenience, flexibility and efficiency at the point of sale, whether physical or virtual. Simplicity of use at the front-end and integration at the back-end will help to make the overall e-payment ecosystem flexible, open and contestable – allowing new technology, and new payment platforms to come into the market to serve consumers and businesses better. 

To help our businesses take full advantage of the Digital Economy, the Infocomm Media Development Authority is working with our businesses, industry associations and unions to accelerate digitalisation and build digital capabilities across our industries.   

The Services and Digital Economy is also a focus area in our US$ 14 billion (S$ 19 billion) Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 Masterplan. We aim to spark digital innovation to support Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, Health and Biomedical sciences, and Urban Solutions and Sustainability. For instance, we have strengths in Artificial Intelligence which are being applied in aircraft engine design and maintenance forecasting. Our medical researchers and data scientists are working together using the resources at our National Supercomputer Centre to develop precision medicine for our citizens in our future healthcare system.  

Engaging Internationally, Forming Partnerships 

The digital domain cuts across national boundaries. A Smart Nation also means that we collaborate with our international partners and other Smart Cities to deliver digital solutions that link and benefit people and businesses across boundaries.

Our national level-projects, such as the National Digital Identity and the e-payments infrastructure not only enable more secure and convenient digital services in Singapore, but also allow businesses to develop innovative new services and business models that can apply across borders and economies. 

The National Digital Identity provides definitive proof of identity, not just physically face-to-face, but virtually over the Internet. Our e-payments infrastructure allows a trusted exchange of value to take place virtually -  allowing parties who may otherwise be unknown to each other to transact reliably.  This infrastructure enables the secure, trusted exchange of information and value that underpins digital commerce and digital transactions. 

For instance, businesses can access trade finance instruments digitally to reduce time-to-market and save on transaction fees. We have recently adopted the Pan-European Public Procurement On-Line e-invoicing standard, to facilitate the exchange of machine-readable e-invoices. We are also working on a blockchain-based trade financing project with Hong Kong to enable trade-related digital transactions across borders. This will provide traders, banks and clearing facilities a common view to enable trusted transactions, and execute contracts faster. 

At the same time, as economies become more integrated and connected digitally, we are also keenly aware of the rapid way in which cyber-threats evolve and grow.  Our systems that underpin global commerce and finance are constantly being probed. The more interconnected we are, and the more we rely on such interconnected digital systems, the more vulnerable we are to not just a local disruption, but potentially a system-wide global one. For instance, the WannaCry ransomware attacks impacted more than 150 countries, affecting public healthcare systems and also key shipping lines, with knock-on effects on nodes which were themselves not attacked. The impact of WannaCry was not very dissimilar from the volcanic disruptions in Iceland several years ago, that not only disrupted air traffic in North- Western Europe, but also impacted air traffic globally. One of the international airlines that operates its call centre in Singapore was helping to re-route passengers who were affected.  When the WannaCry ransomware affected some major shipping lines which had global operations, they operated out of Singapore as well as some of their digital tools were not available. Such knock-on effects on nodes and cyber attacks can be quite a global concern.

Our public agencies and companies in Singapore have been implementing cybersecurity defences that cover 11 Critical Information Infrastructure sectors – from aviation and energy, to healthcare and water supply. We conduct cybersecurity exercises every year to test the resilience of our systems as well as our collective operational responses. Last year, for the first time, we conducted a national exercise covering all the 11 Critical Information Infrastructure sectors. We will continue to explore joint exercises with our international partners, for example with global financial hubs to share experiences and raise our systemic capabilities to deal with cyber incidents and emergencies that have effects across borders. While these exercises are conducted on an annual basis, there is still much that can be done.    

Under our ASEAN Chairmanship this year, I am glad that 26 ASEAN cities have come together to form a Smart Cities network to exchange experiences in using technology and digital solutions.  This enables ASEAN cities to strengthen their inter-connectivity, and our industry partners to deploy and scale up solutions, to improve the lives of our people across ASEAN. I thank the ministers-in-charge of ICT in ASEAN and our dialogue partners, Digital Government and Smart City leaders for your strong support for the Network, and strengthening community-building in ASEAN. 

Our Ministry of Communications and Information, together with our Smart Nation and Digital Government Office will continue to seek out international partnerships to share experiences, and explore collaborations.


A Smart Nation is about enabling our people and businesses to exploit the full potential of the new digital technologies to improve the lives of our people and provide more opportunities for our businesses. 

This Smart Nation Innovations Week has brought together a strong community, including ICT Ministers, Government Chief Technology Officers, Smart City leaders, startups, investors and academics from Singapore and beyond to discuss how we can ride this digital wave together to benefit our citizens and businesses. 

I trust that you will make full use of the opportunity to have productive exchanges over the coming days to strengthen connections, generate new ideas and create robust partnerships.

I wish you all a fruitful Smart and Innovative Week ahead. Thank you.