Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, at The Festival of Technology

10 October 2015 - Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, at The Festival of Technology on 10 October 2015, 1930 hours, at Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall.

Speech by Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, at The Festival of Technology on 10 October 2015, 1930 hours, at Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall

His Excellency Mr Scott Wightman, British High Commissioner to Singapore

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Evening. It is my pleasure to join you today.

2. The Festival of Technology celebrates SG50 with Singapore’s first art-and-technology extravaganza. Art is an expression of human creativity. It inspires us to imagine a different reality, and challenges technology to find ways to bring those imaginations to life. Imagine the world’s first Smart Nation, that is Singapore. We envision building better lives for our people, strengthening communities, creating new opportunities for businesses, and enabling an anticipatory government that uses technology to better serve citizens’ needs. Everyone has a role to play in this vision – not only tech professionals, but also designers, artists, students – basically everybody.

Celebrating the Past

3. As we celebrate SG50, we thank the pioneers who came before us and established a firm foundation over the past 35 years of Singapore’s tech journey. From the days of the National Computer Board in the 1980s to today’s Infocomm Development Authority, we have much to be proud of. The bold use of technology has been one of the contributing factors of Singapore’s success. Singapore is honoured to be listed by INSEAD this year as the world’s most tech-ready country.

Imagining the Future

4. In the next lap, we hope to build a Smart Nation upon this strong foundation. We want to tap on technology to tackle important issues arising from national trends and challenges, such as an ageing population and urban density. As society ages, we want to use technology to help our elderly to age in place and live meaningful and fulfilling lives. As land becomes scarcer, we want to have more efficient transportation and improve the commuting experience. Smart is better living, more opportunities, and stronger communities.

5. In this Smart Nation journey, we cannot be laggards in harnessing technology.
Therefore, to enable and complement this vision, my Ministry unveiled the Infocomm Media 2025 in August. It is a 10-year plan to harness the potential of infocomm media to power innovations through three strategic thrusts. We hope to (i) better capitalise on data, advanced communications and computational technologies, (ii) nurture an infocomm media ecosystem that encourages risk-taking and continuous experimentation, and also (iii) connect our people.

6. Indeed, Smart Nation is a nationwide and whole-of-government effort. It is no mean feat. But that does not mean we cannot have some fun along the journey. In fact, Smart can be creative, and sometimes even playful! Imagine talking to a street furniture such as a lamp post, fire hydrant or bus stop, perhaps to ask for directions. You may think that this sounds absurd. But here at the Festival of Tech, there are talking street furniture in the form of a mini Merlion and AG Box. These pieces of talking street furniture encourage people to interact with systems that we take for granted and look at the city surroundings with fresh eyes.

7. Going further, imagine lamp posts that brighten as a visually impaired pedestrian approaches, a street crossing that gives extra time to an elderly person, and signs that announce their location out loud. As more and more things become connected via the Internet, smart street furniture could one day help create a liveable and exciting urban environment for everybody. They could make the city literally come alive and respond to the individual needs of the people on the street.

8. Smart Nation offers us endless possibilities. We are all aware of how technology, especially Big Data, has transformed the way we socially interact, listen to our music or shop online. Social media platforms recommend us friends, Spotify and iTunes recommend us music and Amazon recommends us products. But the power of technology goes much deeper than this. If you head down to The Cathay this week, you will see the Chronarium Sleep Lab. People today sleep significantly less than generations before, which has health implications. The Chronarium, thus, explores the role of public space in tackling this challenge. Once visitors enter The Chronarium, they will be exposed to different environmental stimuli that aim to reset their internal rhythm for better, more harmonious sleep. This is a powerful example of how Art, or human creativity, can be merged with technology to transform the way we live, work and play in interesting and impactful ways.

Opportunities for Enterprises

9. Experimentation and innovation are therefore critical in our Smart Nation journey. We envision Singapore as a living lab and a centre for innovation, where new ideas are generated, not simply a hub that facilitates and resells. Singapore can and should be the builder of solutions to global challenges brought on by the inevitable trends of ageing population and urban density. To achieve this, the Government has invested greatly in R&D, business accelerator programmes, cash grants and other support schemes to create an ecosystem that encourages experimentation, innovation and risk-taking.

10. All of this offers immense possibilities not only to top-tier multinational firms, but also to the smaller businesses and start-ups, especially in building innovative solutions that address real world challenges globally as well as for Singapore. In the spirit of SG50, let me share the story of a Singapore start-up called Trakomatic, which helped ensure the safety of our public at Singapore’s 50th National Day Parade. Trakomatic delivers video analytics which transforms video cameras from “dumb” devices into “smart” sensors. This is achieved using OTrack - an intelligent sensor installed directly overhead to accurately monitor and measure metrics such as omni-directional people tracking and occupancy within a premise. Traukomatic also incorporates OSense – a facial-based system for people-counting that classifies them by age group and gender. These metrics are processed in real-time and presented visually on a dashboard. Therefore, while large crowds gathered at the Marina Bay area to soak in the celebratory spirit, helping to keep the crowd safe was Trakomatic’s video analytics technologies, which provided real-time data on crowd density and build-up — thereby allowing the people in charge to make informed decisions to ensure crowd safety.

11. There are numerous other real world problems and challenges out there that require further experimentation and solutioning, such as assistive technologies to help older workers remain in an inclusive workforce, home care solutions for patients with chronic diseases, and real-time multi-language speech translation for effective service delivery. Each of this challenge is an opportunity for innovative Singapore companies and start-ups. If successful, these solutions can even be exported to the rest of the world, and propel the Singapore company onto the global arena.


12. To conclude, everyone, regardless of age or background, and every company, whether big or small, can participate in this Smart Nation journey. Being Smart is not only about being “techy”, but also creative, innovative and original. We want your ideas to help us shape the vision – our one Singapore Smart Nation Vision. So unleash your imagination and share your ideas with us. Ultimately, Smart is thinking big even when you are small. So let’s rally together and build a Smart Nation!

Last updated on: 13 Mar 2023