Singapore on track with Smart Nation push: Yaacob

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim taking part in a game that involves navigating electronic balls with a tablet at Tech Saturday (Upsized!) yesterday. The two-day carnival focuses on products and services helping Singapore's digital economy transformation.
Dr Yaacob Ibrahim taking part in a game that involves navigating electronic balls with a tablet at Tech Saturday (Upsized!) yesterday. The two-day carnival focuses on products and services helping Singapore's digital economy transformation.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

Govt agencies dealing with tech planning will come under PM's Office from tomorrow

Accessing free public Wi-Fi will now be much easier for the 180,000 tablet and laptop users who use Wireless@SG. They can now log in automatically after a set-up process, instead of tangling with usernames and passwords each time.

The move was announced by Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, who yesterday also acknowledged that Singapore's push to become a smart nation "might be a bit later than other countries".

But, he added: "I think we have got our act together".

He was responding to media queries on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's comments on Singapore's Smart Nation initiative's progress since its launch in 2014.

PM Lee had lamented at a dialogue in February: "I think, personally, that for all our pushing, we really are not moving as fast as we ought to."

Analysts have said that factors that have hampered Singapore's progress include a patchwork of different agencies with ownership issues, and parts of society that are still ill at ease with technology.

Yesterday, Dr Yaacob noted that moves are being made to consolidate the digital efforts of different government entities.

For example, from tomorrow, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) - a statutory board under Dr Yaacob's ministry - will come under the Prime Minister's Office, along with the Smart Nation Programme Office and technology planning teams from various agencies.

The minister also said it was important for everyone in society "to feel comfortable with the digital revolution - from Internet banking to using apps".

And it is more important for everyone to also experience government services, he said.

"And that's why GovTech, when they join the group on May 1, will be rolling out more government services so that, at the end of the day, the digital experience is more pervasive," he added.

For now, users of non-SIM devices can download a revamped Wireless@SG app for seamless connection to hot spots after the first set-up, or can opt for a one-time password to be sent to their mobile phone if they log in through a browser. The move builds on the automatic login already available on devices that use SIM cards, such as smartphones.

Broadband service provider MyRepublic will also come on board as the fifth operator offering the Wireless@SG service, after M1, Singtel, StarHub and Y5Zone.

The developments were announced at Tech Saturday (Upsized!), a two-day fair that showcases local products, services and learning opportunities.

Dr Yaacob's afternoon there included checking out a retractable, rain-detecting clothes rack meant to help the elderly and people with physical disabilities with laundry, as well as a 3D-printed superhero mascot created by students from the Pathlight School for young people with autism.

He pointed to these projects as proof that the digital revolution can, and should, include vulnerable segments of society.

"Technology doesn't have to be complicated - as long as it can help people's lives, right?"

Organised by the Infocomm Media Development Authority, the carnival, held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, ends today at 7pm.

VIDEO

Dr Yaacob Ibrahim tries out the seamless Wireless@SG registration and login process. http://str.sg/42xm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore on track with Smart Nation push: Yaacob'. Print Edition | Subscribe