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Table 1 The e-transformation journey of Singapore

From: A role for the state in the digital age

Among the most distinguishing features of Singapore e-transformation journey are openness of the economy, openness to global knowledge, committed political and public service leadership, cumulative institutional learning, public-private collaboration, investment in a competitive information infrastructure, early attention to ICT literacy and user learning capability, clear cyber policies, and dynamic governance based on results orientation and accountability. Singapore excelled in disciplined application of ICT and is currently striving to excel in innovation. Despite of leapfrogging to the frontiers of international best practices, Singapore continues to learn from its shortfalls and adapt its ongoing plans accordingly.
Singapore adopted a holistic approach to developing and using ICT for its economic transformation. For example, ICT applications in the public sector have been planned and evolved, supported by complementary developments in information infrastructure, IT literacy and capability development, ICT industry sector, and ICT governance and institutions. E-government programs have been also based on a common foundation of shared infrastructure and services and deepened by sector-specific ICT-enabled transformations through e-logistics, e-business, e-education, and e-health. Similarly, Singapore’s ICT industry development was based on a comprehensive program that included ICT education, ICT diffusion to SMEs, parks and incubators for ICT ecosystems, risk capital finance and incentives for early adopters of ICT, and partnership with business associations and multinationals, among others.
The Singaporean Government worked on successive ICT plans since 1980, in partnership with the private sector. Each plan built on lessons learned from previous implementation, while adopting the latest best practices and technologies. Intelligent Nation 2015, or iN2015, is Singapore’s current strategy to prepare the nation for the future. The plan outlines its vision to turn the country into “An Intelligent Nation, a Global City, Powered by Infocomm.” Innovation, integration and internationalization are the basic thrusts. With inspiring visions of smart and knowledge-driven economy, Singapore built its capacity to innovate and create new business models and services and to integrate resources and capabilities across public and private institutions.
Singapore’s experience offers important lessons. Political leadership and long-term commitment to e-transformation is one. Industry collaboration is another—getting the private sector to do more. Government created the opportunities and provided conducive working partnerships. It worked with industry on innovation, such as the Government Technology Experiments And Trials Program. Through constant dialog and experimentation, new ICT solutions were developed and adapted for innovative use. After two decades of nurturing the ICT industry, the industry has evolved as an important engine of growth. Government gradually shifted from planner and implementer, to a strategist and facilitator, creating conducive environment for ICT to thrive, grow, and diffuse. Other critical success factors are balancing investment in hard and soft infrastructure such as awareness and broad-based e-literacy, willingness to innovate to secure a first mover position, and investing early on in shared networks and data hubs.
Most critical to continued innovation and e-transformation has been the development of a governance system that can remain relevant and effective by smartly responding to emerging needs in a changing environment. This governance system includes:
• Having committed political and public service leaders with vision and high aspirations for the Singapore to set the tone for ICT strategies and institutions.
• Creating a learning environment, where people are consciously learning and seeking to apply new ideas and explore different ways of doing their work better.
• Creating innovative processes and agile structures by embedding change management practices, integrating change capabilities into management processes, and introducing process redesign, supported by effective participation and feedback mechanisms.
  1. Source: “The e-Transformation Journey of Singapore” By Jeannie Chua, Chapter 2 in National Strategies to Harness Information Technology, by Nagy Hanna and Peter Knight (editors), 2012, Springer
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