Singapore Tech Hub

How Singapore Is Fueling A 'Smart Nation'

Singapore is on a mission to build up a Smart Nation by utilizing innovation and technology to create opportunities and strengthen communities. The country’s technology ecosystem is setting the foundation for good governance, infrastructure and increased capabilities, which makes it no surprise Singapore has gained attention for its tech initiatives.

In this week’s edition of PYMNTS’ Weekly Tech Center Roundup, we dive deep into all that Singapore has to offer to get a true sense of how the second smallest country in Asia is making big waves across the global tech landscape.

Before we jump into the post, here are a few quick facts about Singapore and its tech scene:

  • Singapore has an estimated population of over 5 million.
  • Singapore’s GDP was roughly $407 billion in 2015.
  • As of 2014, the mobile phone penetration rate in Singapore was 148 percent.
  • Roughly 7,000 multinational corporations have made Singapore a home base for their headquarters, making it the fifth ranked country in the world for company headquarter density.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, the government allocated $16 billion to help accelerate Singapore’s research, innovation and enterprise landscape.
  • Startups are estimated to employ nearly 300,000 on the island nation.
  • The amount of investment poured into Singapore-based startups has made up approximately 19 percent of VC funding in Asia, beating out Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
  • The country’s ecosystem was ranked 10th in the 2015 Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking, making it one of the top startup centers in the world.

Singapore is poised to become the world’s first country to make the notion of a “Smart Nation” an actual reality. The country’s initiative is well-known for its desire to harness both technology and information to make Singapore a better place to live.

“A Smart Nation means people and businesses are empowered through increased access to data, more participatory through the contribution of innovative ideas and solutions, and a more anticipatory government that utilizes technology to better serve citizens’ needs,” the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) explained.

But outside of a drive to take the smarty city concept to a nationwide level, Singapore has also gained recognition for its advancement in innovation-driven entrepreneurship and becoming a startup capital of the world.

With an estimated population of just 5.47 million, an unemployment rate of 3 percent and an adult literacy rate of about 96.54 percent, Singapore stands as a nation with a lot to offer a growing and evolving tech ecosystem.

A Knack For Mobile

In a region where mobile phone penetration grew from 92.7 percent in 2014 to nearly 148 percent just 10 years later in 2014, it’s no surprise that the mobile market is a significant piece of Singapore’s tech landscape.

Earlier this year, PYMNTS reported that Singapore’s mobile payments landscape has become a prime target for players looking to capitalize on the mobile penetration and adoption throughout the country. With its well-developed contactless ecosystem and a contactless transaction limit of up to $72, it makes sense that Apple, Google and Samsung have all recently made their mobile payments methods available to the people of Singapore.

Just this week, Google announced Android Pay’s official launch in Singapore and that the mobile wallet will be available on all Android devices that are NFC-enabled and running on KitKat 4.4 or higher. Google’s move to make Android Pay available follows Apple and Samsung Pay’s similar moves into the country, which is seen as a fairly wealthy country due to its GDP per capita putting it at the top 10th percentile in the world. So Singapore citizens not only have access to contactless payments — and places to use them — but they also have money to spend.

The Role Of Startups

In the “Singapore Startup Ecosystem 2015,” Steve Leonard, the IDA’s executive deputy chairman, explained the important role startups play in Singapore’s ongoing evolution:

Part of our plan is to actively engage the global tech community in our smart nation vision and encourage collaboration with leading tech ecosystems across the world. Young, innovative tech entrepreneurs and startups can help tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing growing cities and nations today, brought about by the inevitable trends of aging population and urban density.”

According to the report, the number of startups in the city-state doubled from 24,000 to 42,000 between the years 2005 and 2013. As of last year, there were more than 300,000 people on the island employed by startup companies and data from the “Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report” showed that one in five people in Singapore who responded to the survey plan to start their own business within the next three years.

A Singapore-based startup offering bitcoin exchange and cryptocurrency services secured another major round of funding this week. Quoine announced that it raised $16 million in a Series B round, following its recent $2 million Series A round in December 2014. The company noted that the funding round is not yet closed, so there could be up to $4 million more raised in the near future.

According to reports, Quoine is the largest bitcoin exchange that operates in a major bitcoin market and has $50 million bitcoins transacted over its exchange per day. Its co-founder Kariya Kayamori said in an interview that there is currently $50 trillion of foreign-exchange trading in Japan a year and eventually he believes cryptocurrencies will account for 10 percent of those transactions.

Innovation On The Rise

As Singapore continues its initiatives to create a smarter and more connected ecosystem, it’s also focused on grooming and preparing the next generation of its citizens to be well-versed in the technology landscape.

The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and telecommunication company Singtel announced this week that they are partnering to provide training to up and coming cybersecurity talents. Through a work study program, SIT students will receive training and education across a variety of areas pertaining to Information Security and Software Engineering. The goal is that this training will aid students as they move forward in cyber-related career paths, such as cybersecurity R&D, cyber analysis and forensics, cyber architects, and even product development and management.

“The economy is in great need for trained cybersecurity professionals,” Bill Chang, Country Chief Officer and CEO of Group Enterprise at Singtel, told Enterprise Innovation. The initiative is aimed at helping to address the country’s short supply of trained software engineers and the growing global trend of increased cyber threats, he noted.

Singapore’s DBS bank is looking to impact the future of banking by creating a more FinTech-like workforce through the adoption of cloud-based productivity technology. The bank said its early adoption of the cloud, as opposed to other financial sector players, is to empower its employees with the right tools to be more responsive and nimble when it comes to customer needs. The rising threat FinTech poses to the traditional banking industry was also a driver of DBS’ decision to bring more advanced productivity technology into the workplace.

"In the last few years, we have made good headway in creating a 'FinTech-like' workforce that is focused on making the customer experience simpler and more seamless. Inculcating a digital mindset in our people aside, it is also important to give them work tools that break down silos, enhance collaboration, foster greater efficiency and facilitate working on the go. By leading the industry in adopting cloud technologies, our people can in turn deliver more customer value," David Gledhill, DBS Head of Technology and Operations, told



The September 2020 Leveraging The Digital Banking Shift Study, PYMNTS examines consumers’ growing use of online and mobile tools to open and manage accounts as well as the factors that are paramount in building and maintaining trust in the current economic environment. The report is based on a survey of nearly 2,200 account-holding U.S. consumers.

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