ITU study on Singapore’s Smart Nation progress provides reference points for other cities and standardisation experts

ITU study on Singapore’s Smart Nation progress provides reference points for other cities and standardisation experts

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the United
Nations specialised agency for information and communication
technologies (ICTs), has released a
new case study offering an evaluation of Singapore's progress in meeting the
objectives of the country's 'Smart Nation' strategy. This evaluation was undertaken
using the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Smart Sustainable Cities
developed by ITU and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The ITU press release states that the Singapore case study
provides a valuable reference point to other cities pursuing greater efficiency
and sustainability as well as for standardization experts responsible for
the refinement of the ITU-UNECE KPIs and can be accessed
for free.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao hailed Singapore as a
leading example of a country with strong institutional support for smart city
innovation. "Singapore's ability to act as a testbed for smart city
innovation, and its willingness to share the results, continues to make a
key contribution to international efforts to promote the transition to Smart
Sustainable Cities," he said.

The findings of the case study will feed into the work of
ITU's standardisation expert group for 'Internet of Things, Smart Cities and
Communities', ITU-T Study
Group 20
. ITU-T Study Group 20 develops international standards for Internet
of Things (IoT) technologies and applications. One of its top priorities is to
leverage IoT technologies to address urban-development challenges. 

The findings will also be taken up by the United for Smart Sustainable Cities
(U4SSC) initiative
 which advocates for public policy to ensure
that ICTs, and ICT standards in particular, play a definitive role in the
transition to Smart Sustainable Cities. U4SSC is supported by 16 United Nations bodies and is open to the participation of all stakeholders interested in driving smart city innovation.The key findings will contribute
to the development of the world's first "Global Smart Sustainable Cities

Commenting on the case study, Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister
for Communications and Information of Singapore, said, "This collaboration
with ITU has given us an objective assessment of our journey towards
transforming Singapore into a Smart Nation. We are heartened that ITU has rated
many of our efforts favourably, and we will continue to do more to foster a stronger
digital society and economy. We hope that the Singapore experience will also
benefit other countries and help accelerate their efforts to harness technology
for greater societal and economic benefit."

Three phase study

Singapore entered into a collaboration with ITU in October
2015 to test and verify the ITU KPIs on smart sustainable cities for the period
2015-2017. Many other cities have similar collaborations with ITU including Dubai
(UAE), Valencia (Spain), Buenos Aires (Brazil), Pully (Switzerland), Manizales (Colombia),
Rimini (Italy) and Montevideo (Uruguay). Singapore was the second city to enter
into this collaboration, after Dubai.

The ITU KPIs are sorted into six dimensions: Information and
Communication Technologies, Environmental Sustainability, Productivity, Equity
and social inclusion, Quality of life and Physical Infrastructure.

Currently Singapore relies on various authorities and
governmental departments to collect data and report on the various KPIs. The
data and feedback were consolidated by the Infocomm Media Development Authority
of Singapore (IMDA), which acted as the co-ordinating office for this pilot
project, working with more than 20 different agencies. A total of 108 KPIs were tested.

Data was collected during the first phase and an independent
auditor performed an onsite validation and verification in July 2016. The final
phase involved the preparation of the case study now released.

Singapore’s performance
and suggested actions for other aspiring smart sustainable cities

The report notes the recent
realignment of the Smart Nation programme directly under the Prime Minister’s
(PMO) demonstrating that this is considered to a key part of
Singapore’s future. The five strategic
Smart Nation projects
are mentioned (National Digital Identity (NID) framework, e-payments,
Nation Sensor Platform
, Smart
Urban Mobility
and bundling relevant government services, across different
agencies, to the citizen at key moments of life).

The report goes on to explore how the six dimensions of the
ITU KPIs fit into Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives. Under each dimension,
it notes the measures taken by Singapore and suggests actions for other aspiring
sustainable smart cities. For example, Singapore has implemented a number of
public programmes targeted at those who need assistance (including senior
and disabled individuals) to be able to access digital services
from government. Stakeholders in other cities are encouraged to reach out to
those left behind in the digital divide.

Another highlighted example is the Building and Construction
Authority’s (BCA) Green Mark scheme
to drive Singapore’s construction industry towards more environmental-friendly
buildings. Urban stakeholders in other cities can also develop national
certification programmes for building projects.

Through effective national policies and initiatives in
fostering ICT adoption, Singapore has become a leading country in ICT-readiness
and e-government performance. And these aspects are reflected in the good
performance of Singapore in the KPI dimensions of "ICT" and

Significant progress has also been made in "Equality
and Social Inclusion". But the study recommends that Singapore should
divert more efforts to the dimension of "Environmental
sustainability" in order to drive sustained reduction in greenhouse gas
emissions; to promote noise-based monitoring systems; and to improve public
perception of the capital's surroundings.

According to the report, in view of the robust ICT-based
infrastructure the city-state already has in place, a few
additional networked applications will enable Singapore to become a leading international city that fosters a secure
urban ecosystem, underpinning the goals and targets in the 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development.

Feedback on the KPIs

With Smart City initiatives already in place, Singapore was
able to apply the KPIs to the existing initiatives. In general, Singapore found
that the ITU-KPIs were effective in helping the country transition into a
smart, sustainable city, taking into consideration the interplay between ICT
and the country's environment, economy, government, infrastructure and the
residents' daily lives. However, it was noted regional differences (including
population density, terrain, climate, availability of resources, cultural and
social restrictions) may affect the validity of certain metrics.

For instance, telemedicine is often seen as a smart
technology that can increase patient access and overcome geographical barriers
to care for those who live in less populous regions. However, in Singapore,
where all citizens already have access to brick-and-mortar health care,
population distribution does not play a key role in access. Instead, in a small
city like Singapore, it is used to support patients with mobility issues,
provide greater convenience to patients through time and cost savings, and
operate as a work-force-multiplier to address the challenges of shrinking
manpower in the health-care sector (as can be seen from two initiatives announced this year here and here).

Furthermore, it is possible that the adoption of telehealth
or telemedicine could, in some cases, increase a patient's costs per "unit
of care" due to over-use of services. This could make telehealth an
unsustainable practice without careful planning, re-engineering of the care
process and an assessment of the business case for each type of telemedicine
service with proper clinical protocols and safeguards. As such, Singapore
suggests that cities implement smart technologies, taking the implementation
and additional costs into consideration, over existing brick-and-mortar health
care services.

Singapore was able to provide feedback on how: KPIs fit into
the current Smart Nation framework; KPIs could be used to measure an individual
initiatives’ progress; KPIs could be improved to provide better feedback; and
new KPIs could be introduced. For instance, Singapore suggested that certain
e-government indicators be measured, such as top 10 services available
electronically and percentages of citizens transacting online with government,
public sector procurement conducted electronically and public sector invoicing
completed electronically.

Singapore and ITU also recognised that certain KPIs were not
sufficiently defined to permit data collection. Others did not match current
data collection priorities. Considering the findings, ITU, together with 15
other UN agencies and programmes, reviewed the KPIs. Both ITU and Singapore have
implemented new KPIs and discovered better ways of tracking existing KPIs.