Smart Nation push to see $2.8b worth of tenders this year

Visitors at the Festival of Tech trying to strike up a conversation with a mini Merlion through mobile texting on Oct 10, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore's infocommunications technology infrastructure is poised to be ramped up like never before, as the country's Smart Nation drive gathers pace.

In all, a record $2.82 billion worth of technology tenders will be called this year, with infrastructure alone accounting for close to two-thirds of the total budget. This proportion was last seen in 2007 when the Government installed standard computer systems across all its agencies.

There will be a bulk tender for network and cabling, new computers for civil servants, and IT security services. Another tender will help extend Wi-Fi coverage in all 367 government schools to every classroom, from just assembly areas and canteens now.

The projects will be rolled out over three to five years, said Infocomm Development Authority managing director Jacqueline Poh at a briefing with the infocommunications industry yesterday.

"Investment in infrastructure is necessary so that innovative citizen-centric services can be built and enhanced on a strong foundation," she said.

For instance, the Government's data storage and hosting capacity will increase by at least 25 per cent, which is needed as more data will be gathered by the agencies to better anticipate citizens' needs.

Also, all civil servants will receive new desktops and laptops over the next three to five years.

National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said there will also be a big push for manpower development following this huge infrastructure outlay.

"There will be a structural shift in the types of jobs needed to fuel this new economy, with openings in the areas of data analysis, cyber security and software development."

Over the past two years, the Government has spent more than what was budgeted. In 2014, for instance, $1.2 billion was budgeted but $1.95 billion was spent.

Last year, $2.2 billion was set aside but contracts worth $2.69 billion were awarded. They included Smart Nation infrastructure such as Aggregation Gateway boxes to supply power to surveillance cameras and traffic sensors deployed islandwide.

Mr Aloysius Cheang, Asia-Pacific executive vice-president of global computing security association Cloud Security Alliance, said the spending is just the tip of the iceberg. "We are not even in the thick of the Smart Nation action, which is mostly about data collection and analysis and ensuring data privacy and security."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline Smart Nation push to see $2.8b worth of tenders this year. Subscribe