The COVID-19 pandemic has made Singapore's Smart Nation initiative even more crucial, said Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.
Speaking at a virtual engagement session with the 15 recipients of this year's Smart Nation Scholarship, Balakrishnan added, "Our jobs, lifestyles, social habits, business transactions have all been drastically disrupted. And technology and innovation have become even more essential for us to cope and adapt to this new normal."
He noted how Singapore was possibly the first in the world to roll out a digital contact tracing app to reduce the time it takes to isolate and quarantine individuals who have come into close contact with a COVID-19 patient.
"Launched in March, the TraceTogether App, which uses Bluetooth signals to log nearby users, was developed in just two months by GovTech engineers."
With digital inclusion being a key priority in the Smart Nation plans, the govrenment also developed the TraceTogether Token to extend the protection provided by digital contact tracing to as many people in Singapore as possible. These include those without smartphones, and would otherwise be at risk of being digitally excluded.
"These solutions show how technology can be a force for good in real life, in trying times, illuminating the quickest and safest path out of a pandemic while mitigating its negative impact."
The minister explained that while the pandemic will recede at some point, the world that emerges from this crisis will be a very different and more difficult one. "The next five to ten years will determine our trajectory as a generation, and for decades beyond that."
One of the key long-term initiatives is the Smart Nation Scholarship, now in its third year, which aims to to develop and nurture technology talents and leaders within the public service.
Recipients will join one of the three Smart Nation agencies after they complete their studies – Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), Government Technology Agency (GovTech) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). They will undergo technical training under the agencies’ respective talent programmes, and take on key roles in national projects that will shape Singapore’s Smart Nation journey.