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In the future to come, well beyond its 51th birthday this year, Singapore is looking beyond just tall apartment towers. Over the past decade, the nation had been steadily marching towards the idea of a country where digital technology stretches the capabilities of businesses, homes, industries, and public services yet one step further. For this, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is looking at the cloud – at a new SmartNation.
The authority is talking about virtual mailboxes for citizens to receive secure government correspondence (OneInbox), virtual assistants with self-learning capabilities (Ask Jasmine) for public inquiries, even virtual rehabilitation and consultation services, either one-on-one or multi-user, from hospitals targeting stroke and orthopedic patients.
That may be just the beginning; we are at the stage where we have cloud technology sound enough to permit entire offices to exist virtually. Locally, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) was one of the first to hop on board the SmartNation with their new FinTech Office set up in May. It was envisioned as a one-stop repository for financial technology (fintech) companies to access regulatory information, explore government assistance options, and trial new innovations in a miniature fintech ‘sandbox’. ‘Manning’ this office are staff from MAS, SPRING Singapore, IDA, and other private and government organizations – all under one virtual roof (or cloud).
But even the cloud has to be founded on proper groundwork. As mobile as it is, the cloud on which SmartNation is built still exists only on computers, server farms, drives, cables, and other very physical infrastructure somewhere, overseas or local.
The IDA had already kicked up Wireless@SG speeds from 2 Mbps to 5 Mpbs. It will double the number of hotspots by 2018. Because uninterrupted access to services is critical for businesses moving their operations to the cloud, the IDA has made sure that cloud clients can now get real-time performance and reliability data about cloud service providers via the Cloud Service Provider Registry.
These investments come at the right time. The heavy use of cloud technology by the new SmartNation will increase the utilization of existing cloud services and as-a-service providers. In reacting to these needs, IDA capital investment is only part of the equation that balances increasing demand on one side and adequate, reliable supply on the other.
Fortunately, where IDA sees a challenge, the private sector sees a business opportunity in the making. A SmartNation will expand the market for cloud services vendors that have the capacity to seize this opportunity. For example, just recently in 2015, cloud services provider Acclivis Technologies struck a deal to buy over the Singapore internet service provider (ISP) assets of Pacnet Internet for S$2.3 million. Acclivis Technologies (Thailand), simultaneously, purchased Pacnet Internet’s assets in Thailand for US$2.1 million. More SmartNation citizens using cloud-based services – and the rising internet of things – will require the bandwidth to deliver these services virtually. The company that already has enough reserve capacity will capture a larger slice of pie as a first mover, compared to the stragglers.
As the country continues to develop the ideas and assets that move cloud technology forward, and fuel new virtual solutions in the background, one cannot even begin to imagine how Singapore would run by SG100. The responsibility of meeting this national vision rests, in part, upon the shoulders of cloud services providers smart enough to meet the needs of a booming SmartNation.