Singapore: Social Impact of Being a “Smart Nation”

Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Hsien Loong has a vision to make his country a ‘Smart Nation, where his countrymen live a meaningful life enabled by technology. But, with this vision arises a question that whether such a nation will have a positive impact on the society? Digital sociologist Nilanjan Raghunath said as a Smart Nation, Singapore has some “hard choices” to make.

Smart Nation SingaporeImage Credits: Ida Smart Nation

She further said, “Being able to constantly upgrade our skills – that is going to be a hard choice because it’s going to be a sacrifice of time, we’re going to need resources.”

Two of the toughest choices to make:

According to Ms. Nilanjan, Singapore will have to think about the two major ‘hard choices’.

  • How we are going to use the technology for communication in the future – offline, online or a combination of the two, and that how to maintain a balance between them?
  • What kind of jobs are we going to have as we progress more towards a knowledge sharing and a smart society? What transitions will take place in doing so?

The Major Social Concerns:

  • Meet the need of the Aged

Dr. Raghunath shows her concern about how to maintain a balance between the ever increasing speed of technology and the speed of our degeneration, physically and mentally. A need is felt to design a technology that suits the requirements of the aged population in Singapore.

Usability is really about ease of use. How do you design in the ease of use? So we are talking about look and feel. We’re talking about the text size, how to organize the information, colors for the different widgets on the screen. So it’s very much how you present information. How you design ease of use, ease of learning,” explained Associate Professor Chui Yoon Ping, Head of Human Factors in Safety programme at SIM University.

  • Bridging the gap between aged and affordability

A report says that over 13 per cent of households are still without internet access and 9 per cent faces affordability issues. More and more programmes like Silver Infocomm initiative (launched in 2007 for the elderly) and Enhanced NEU PC Plus (for the needy households with school-going children) should be planned to eliminate this digital divide in Singapore.

Ms. Jacqueline Poh, managing director at IDA (Infocomm Development Authority) explained, “Smart Nation to begin with, is for all citizens. The whole aim of Smart Nation, for the Government, was to improve the quality of life for our people, using technology in a very much more pervasive way.