A ‘Smart City’ Not Just One Full of the Latest Gadgets

Smart cities. What are they? How are they developed? And by whom and to what end?

These are some questions we grappled with at a recent workshop I attended titled ‘Smart City Blueprint’ organised by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD).

It was an event meant to equip regional political parties with the skills for implementing smart city policies.

With most delegates coming from a political, rather than a technical background, concerns were raised about the potential conflict between technologies and democracy. Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party showcased their smart city initiatives, all of which involved civic participation and consultation.

Coming from Singapore, where technological infrastructure building is dominated by the state and its business partners, I was rather sceptical about the notion of a citizen-centred “smart city”. Indeed, in our teleconference with the Taiwanese Digital Minister, Ms Audrey Tang, I inquired about how governments can avoid a technocratic regime which excludes “non-experts” from decision-making processes.

To answer my query, she shared with us the g0v (pronounced gov zero) movement that took root since 2012. Symbolically, the zero represents a shift from traditional, statist views of governance.

However, symbolism is never completely the same as actual practice. In Singapore, “Our Singapore Conversation” was similarly symbolic insofar as it alludes to a conversation between the government and the citizenry.

In actual practice, however, questionably worded surveys confused the “Conversation” with the state’s agenda while many valid and sincere concerns raised by Singaporeans simply did not translate into actual policies.

This was apparently not the case with g0v. Since its inception, the movement has implemented many projects that were shaped by citizens, with many more in the works through regular public hackathons. One impressive project was the Government budget visualisation. Beyond displaying analyses of government taxation and spending, it included a feedback mechanism that was accessible to users as long as they had Internet access. The democratic implications are evident, governments could not shroud their spending through questionable appeals to the “greater good”, nor could they feign ignorance of citizens’ perspectives, for these are both transparent and available to the public.

Beyond the virtual realm, consultative practices were also actualised through the Digital Ministry’s Social Innovation Lab. In this space, citizens were able to initiate and showcase their social innovations.

Minister Tang showed us the example of a self-driving tricycle created by a group of social entrepreneurs. This tricycle was modified by other members of the public to better suit the needs of the city. Eventually, this project was funded and promoted by the government.

This particular initiative struck close to home as it reminded me of my own start-up experience five years ago. A business partner and I created samples of Virtual Reality “Learning Journeys” that enabled students to explore heritage sites in Singapore which were beyond their usual National Education curriculum.

However, we learnt that such initiatives were monopolised by the Ministry of Education and any funding for innovations was limited to their testbed schools. While we had to scuttle the project, I learnt a valuable lesson, that state support was very important in fostering social innovation.

In the Taiwanese case, social initiatives did not have to undergo crippling red tape, nor were they limited to addressing government-defined problems. After all, who could better understand the problems faced by citizens, other than the citizens themselves? This is also true in the Northern European countries as well.

While we are constantly told that our Ministers are the best in the world, insofar as indicated by their earnings and qualifications, certain concepts fall beyond the grasp of ministries and government officials. In its recent move to ban PMDs and bicycles in 15 PAP-run estates, the government adopted a reactive approach and failed the account for the nuanced implications of such a drastic blanket ban.

Many of my friends who relied upon providing food delivery services for a living felt that such a ban had a significant reduction on their mobility and delivery rates, some even felt that food delivery was no longer a viable job option. While the safety risks of PMDs are well-documented, such populist and reactive policies without considering alternatives reflect an inherent lack of regard for the diverse needs of society and its members.

Herein lies the importance of consultative governance. Taiwan has shown that consultation and transparency can be greatly augmented through technological means. A “Smart City”, then, is one that is founded upon a smart citizenry and active civic engagement – not just one with the latest gadgets.

Stanley Tan

* Stanley Tan is a member of the Young Democrats and serves in the SDP Communications Team. He is a Sociology and History major at a local university.




13 Responses to “A ‘Smart City’ Not Just One Full of the Latest Gadgets”

  • N.Jungne:

    Smart City?? Don’t even know “How much is paid”.

    GD Star Rating
  • smart city??:

    Smart City??
    Oh! come on!! we can’t even get the simple basic operation like the car park barriers in most HDB carparks working in tiptop conditions!!
    In most cases, the barriers are not in working conditions or failed to respond whenever cars wanted to enter or leave the carparks!!
    This stink-in-the-arse condition has been there since donkey years!!
    Smart City!!??…Ha!

    GD Star Rating
  • HDB flats depreciate to ZERO:

    You cannot have a “smart city” if it is made up mostly of spineless” people. There is no such thing as a “smart wimp”.

    GD Star Rating
  • smart city is this:

    smart city is possible only if citizens living in the city are smart.

    who, then, is a smart citizen?

    1. a smart citizen is one never wastes time watching pap tv mediacorpse or wasting money patronizing pap mouthpiece states times.

    2. a smart citizen always drives a car, whether latest maserati or cheapest China chery qq. car lite is for the stupid pap ministers ONLY.

    3. a smart citizen always have at least one basic degree, best of all from overseas U and not BSed ranked nus ntu smu. cannot eat degree is for pap ministers ONLY. a smart citizen never wastes time getting BSed ranked degree from nus ntu smu but overseas Us, better still from London Us Ivies.

    4. a smart citizen never votes pap. Because the less votes pap gets the harder it works and the more S$300 pa pap returns to smart citizen.

    5. a smart citizen never votes an INDIAN when it is a malay president that is due on the card. Because a smart citizen is smart enough to know the difference between an INDIAN and a malay.

    6. a smart citizen never believes in the pap lie HDB is asset that can be enhanced. Because a smart citizen knows HDB is over priced rental units whose values go to zero at end of rental lease.

    7. a smart citizen always try to convert another sheep into OPPO fold every waking moment of the day. Because a smart citizen knows the future welfare of their offsprings starts with what they the smart citizen does now today in the land of lying pap S$m thieving liars approved by a pliant pap parleement.

    GD Star Rating
  • The sinkies in 90s:

    with sinkies u can never be wrong.

    the most ironic politically apathetic people in the world even beating north koreans . Why? North koreans do not have internet. SO we can understand why they are in that mental state. But singaporeans have internet , yet ironically they turn out to be the blindest sheep of all sheep anywhere in the world.

    long ago i saw sinkies take courses in IT technology and sh}t like that. The sh|theads Saying things ike “oh, u can earn a lot of money” . Fast forward 20 years later. What do i see? the same sinkies unemployed and working as security guard, grab driver replaced by CECa, Marcos offsprings, CCP immigrants with qualification from universities unranked in the world.

    They even dare look down on me for having ARTs degree. Now i am still in employment vs them . Guess the jokes is on them now .All waiting to choose opposition govt. ..I doubt they have the critical thinking a ARTs degree provides to even vote out the party.

    GD Star Rating
  • Jman:

    I totally agree with Smart City is This:

    “smart city is possible only if citizens living in the city are smart.”

    The PMD riders were given lots of chances over the past 2 years. Instead, one punk after another did all sorts of dangerous stunts like high speed riding without helmets, riding and texting and seriously injuring people, and many riding as if all the roads belong to their grandfathers.

    What’s more, the downright rotten tech industry like all those food delivery companies operate on the razor thin margins and pass these pressures to the riders.

    Why should the food delivery industry be allowed to go on in this way? And why should public safety be compromised to this extent for PMD riders?

    This argument put forward by the author is stale and doesn’t hold water.

    The Govt has done its part. It has given PMD space and time. And the PMD community squandered the goodwill and its opportunity, and now it is deservedly gone.

    GD Star Rating
  • Bapak:

    Smart City is for controlling stupid people. We have 70%.

    GD Star Rating
  • Smart City What For ?:

    What the point of having intelligent gadgets around in our island when we do not have the smart leaders to lead us ?

    Our Scholars leaders got outsmarted and tricked by the leaders of India in the CECA Agreement where we sacrifice the jobs of PMET Singaporeans for DBS Bank to open branches in India and lose more than S$100,000,000 all along and only until now manage to win only S$2,000,000/-. SingTel and others also lose money investing in India.

    The real Smart People are the leaders of ASEAN, China,Japan, New Zealand, Korea and Australia. They refuse to allow India to send their people to work in their countries as requested by Modi in order to sign the RCEP Agreement just like they tricked our Singapore leaders. Now we cannot do anything about it or else Modi will complain to the WTO.

    GD Star Rating
  • PAP's Smart City:

    How to milk dafts smartly.
    How to lie smartly.
    How to Wayang smartly.
    How to fix critics smartly.
    How to pocket smartly.

    GD Star Rating
  • Stupid is as stupid does:

    [In the Taiwanese case, social initiatives did not have to undergo crippling red tape, nor were they limited to addressing government-defined problems. After all, who could better understand the problems faced by citizens, other than the citizens themselves? This is also true in the Northern European countries as well.]

    The crippling red tape dear man, comes from a crony-capitalist agenda that pits their government-linked companies against the general public enterprises, with the excuse of doing it in Singapore’s interest. But don’t we all know better whose interests the elites serve, huh?

    GD Star Rating
  • Scholars Fail:

    Singapore has inventions.
    But do not be fooled :

    1.You need to ask, who are these inventors?
    A. Top scholars? Very unlikely.

    B. Singapore horned? Extremely unlikely.
    Most likely foreigners who setup research shops here. Invited? Given funding?

    C. Ping pong Olympics?

    D. Name one Singapore born TOP SCHOLAR engineer who has invented any greatest product in the world.

    The answer is Zero.
    Academic result is missing.

    GD Star Rating
  • NotMyProblem:

    Only way to be a smart city is for the people to be smart.

    Just ask you this, who is smarter, Malaysian or Singaporean?

    Here the clue; Singapore has plenty of university graduates, much more than Malaysia by proportion. Malaysians sensed something wrong was brewing in 1MDB when Nazib placed his cronies surrounding its cookie jar, covering all his act. Malaysians kicked out Bossku pronto to save the country billion.

    You try asking our graduates if anyone knows anything about GLC, GIC and Temasek. Everyone will give you a blank look on his/her face.

    If you ask what is POFMA for, they would think it was for their protection.

    If you ask what’s CECA, they will tell you they can go to India to work and India creates jobs for Singaporeans.

    Some Singaporeans said S$1=RM3 is good for Singapore. Do they know how many million S$ is brought back to Malaysia every day? How many Malaysians actually spend S$ in Singapore? Malaysians buy breakfast and lunch from Johor before coming into Singapore to work!

    Weekends and holidays, Singaporeans bring S$ to Johor. What can you buy with S$1 in Singapore? What can you buy with RM3 in Malaysia?

    Now you got it?

    GD Star Rating
  • Great Asia:

    When you walked into a fast food restaurant, at the entrance it has a kiosk for you to DIY to order your food and make payment by NETs or Credit Card. At many restaurants, they have tablets for you to make order.

    Why? Because these equipment are paid by the PAP government using taxpayers’ money. PAP monkeys called it PIC scheme.

    In China, all the tables in the restaurants have a sticker with QR code pasted on it, and customers just need to use their smartphones to scan the QR to order food and make payment.

    Now you know why PAP set up the $2 AIM Pte Ltd?

    What Smart Nation the PAP liars are talking about?!

    In China, mobile data starts at 20G for the most basic package.

    All PAP fat cats will have to go to jail if another political party forms the government and starts investigation.

    Ha ha ha!

    GD Star Rating

Leave a Reply

 characters available

Scroll Down For More Interesting Stuff

Member Services
Self-SupportMembers Login
Sponsored Advertisement

Search On TR Emeritus
Sponsored Advertisement

Most Recent Comments
  • Shop Online: My friend’s daughter will search online for brand name dresses and then visit its retail outlet to...
  • Is foreigners spending n where: Is foreigners spending n where ? Which area are they spending ? Is there survey or...
  • Not our good boys pray no....: The devil doesn’t come to you with a red face and horns, he comes to you...
  • @ Searching for a hero: Guatama says : Sometimes you cant wait for someone else to save you. You have to be the hero...
  • NotMyProblem: justanothercitizen: Donnie is a 100s of million $ rich USA citizen, not a HKer. Don’t see him buying...
  • NotMyProblem: I'm Halimah als o jiak liao bee : Just who the fiack are the SPF working...
  • FTs are not buying too: The many FTs brought in from third world don’t do much shopping too bcos many are not...
  • Softbank boss says: “People usually compare the computer to the head of the human being. I would say that...
  • Survey recently: I have never see or heard that we have a police commissioner ? Is he around ? If anything say about...
  • Flabbergasted: Why the f..ker nas p..dek dally no need permit to meet his sarong party boys and girls at botanic...
  • NotMyProblem: TRE Techie: “I suggest enforcement to use spike strip. It will be more fun.” No lar, issue 0.38...
  • SG back to 3rd world under 4G: At first, pap wants to ignore the invitation by HP2. (“WHAT? Ask the ruling party to...
  • Asd: Ha ha… good leh…
  • NotMyProblem: “I was not surprised that the PAP did not send any representative or indicate any interest in...
  • N.Jungne: All Donation must go through PAP for distribution, understand?
Visitors Statistic
Latest Statistic