Tiny Singapore exports Smart City model to giants China and India
Despite its small size and population (4.7 million), Singapore plays a key role in the development of the two Asian giants of China (1.4 billion people) and India (1.3 billion people). Perhaps this should not be so surprising, since by being essentially a sovereign city-state and an international trade center that loves innovations and multinationals and draws clients from all over the world, Singapore has established itself as one of the models in the world for how a Smart City should be.
Singapore, probably aided by the fact that 75% of its population is of Chinese origin, has signed several key agreements with China for the testing and further development of Smart Cities, including projects such as the business park in Suzhou and the high-tech eco-island of Nanjing, which are then used as blueprints for reproduction in other cities, such as the eco-city of Tianjin and the City of Knowledge in Guangzhou. Similar agreements were signed between Singapore and India, as the latter has turned toward Singapore’s know-how for completing the high-priority plan of creating 100 Smart Cities by 2020.
Singapore defines itself as a real life laboratory of the city of tomorrow, applying cutting-edge experiments such as the development of autonomous vehicles, a sophisticated traffic control system which adapts to variables such as time, day, neighborhood and amount of traffic, and –perhaps most importantly- collecting data on a massive scale in order to plan changes on security, mass transit or the location of child-care centers.
However, a potential weakness is that Singapore’s Smart City model is closer to the ‘datapolis’ concept than to the ‘participolis’ concept. That is, it prioritizes the collection and processing of data more than the effective participation of citizens. According to Anthony Townsend, a researcher from the University of New York, such a model of a perfectly controlled and efficient utopia of a very safe and smart city can work in a place like Singapore, but it would probably never work in New York or Sao Paulo, where expectations in terms of conception and of what make the vitality of a community, are completely different. Nevertheless, this does not prevent Singapore from innovating and exporting its own model to clients all over the world.
The original article can be found in Le Monde.