BLUE­PRINT FOR QATAR TO FOL­LOW?

While Qatar is still a tiny shadow when com­pared with the on-the-thresh­old of Smart Na­tion Sin­ga­pore, it has some new ini­tia­tives up its sleeve to make the coun­try ac­ces­si­ble to for­eign in­vestors.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - BY SINDHU NAIR

While Qatar is still a tiny shadow when com­pared with the on-the-thresh­old of Smart Na­tion Sin­ga­pore, it has some new ini­tia­tives up its sleeve to make the coun­try ac­ces­si­ble to for­eign in­vestors.

When I vis­ited Sin­ga­pore in 2009, I re­mem­ber be­ing dis­tinctly im­pressed by the coun­try. Last month, when I was in­vited again by the In­fo­comm Devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity of Sin­ga­pore (IDA), I won­dered how much the coun­try could pos­si­bly im­prove from its al­ready ef­fi­cient state. Less than three work­ing days to process my visa for the visit and later af­ter a week in Sin­ga­pore, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a coun­try with seam­less con­nec­tiv­ity, not just on the in­ter­net but also in its trans­port net­works, a ca­pa­ble work­force and pas­sion­ate na­tion­als, I knew that com­pe­tence can be taken to an en­tirely new level achieved only by col­lab­o­ra­tive gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions who have taken on the role of gov­ern­ing very pas­sion­ately.

But the smart life that I ex­pe­ri­enced was just the begin­ning of more in­no­va­tions for Sin­ga­pore. While cities strug­gled to ace the Smart City dis­tinc­tion, Sin­ga­pore takes a step ahead to be­come the world's first Smart Na­tion. Will Qatar fol­low the best prac­tices of this ul­tra-de­vel­oped coun­try?

Soon Sin­ga­pore will ex­pe­ri­ence the next-gen in­no­va­tions in smart liv­ing: mo­torists stuck in jams will find traf­fic light tim­ings ad­justed au­to­mat­i­cally to ease the grid­lock, hi-tech cam­eras that can help of­fi­cers is­sue tick­ets for il­le­gal park­ing faster; smart queue mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem that taps ad­vanced video sens­ing to de­ter­mine in real-time the length and flow of a queue at taxi stands to cal­cu­late wait­ing times to get a taxi and many more such new ex­pe­ri­ences that will make liv­ing in Sin­ga­pore a dream of seam­less has­sle-free ex­is­tence.

The Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion of Sin­ga­pore, Dr Yaa­coub Ibrahim, an­nounced dur­ing the open­ing of the In­fo­comm Me­dia Busi­ness Ex­change 2014 that the coun­try is gear­ing up to be the world's first Smart Na­tion, build­ing on the achieve­ments of the in­tel­li­gent Na­tion 2015 (iN2015) mas­ter plan.

Dr Yaa­coub Ibrahim says: “We be­lieve that a Smart Na­tion can be­come a re­al­ity if we suc­cess­fully com­bine pol­icy, peo­ple and tech­nol­ogy in a con­certed fashion. A key com­po­nent in our Smart Na­tion vi­sion is the Smart Na­tion Plat­form or SNP. As part of the SNP, we will fur­ther our ca­pa­bil­i­ties in per­va­sive con­nec­tiv­ity, by build­ing new in­fra­struc­ture and com­mon tech­ni­cal ar­chi­tec­ture to sup­port an in­no­va­tive ecosys­tem across Sin­ga­pore.”

This in­cludes de­vel­op­ing the SNP and ini­tia­tives that boost soft in­fra­struc­ture, such as cre­at­ing stan­dards for In­ter­net of Things at home and build­ing of tal­ent in new ar­eas like Games Science. Fif­teen smart so­lu­tions will also be tested at the Jurong Lake District (JLD), giv­ing a glimpse of what a Smart Na­tion could look like.

ICT is al­ready a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor and a key growth en­abler, con­tribut­ing to 7% of the GDP with $100 bil­lion (QR364 bil­lion) in rev­enue. It also em­ploys around 6% of the work­force, with com­puter hard­ware be­ing the largest con­trib­u­tor of its GDP.

Talk­ing to the Mid­dle Eastern and Chi­nese me­dia, Steve Leonard, IDA's ex­ec­u­tive Deputy Chair­man says Sin­ga­pore started its e-strat­egy way back, in 1980 as the na­tional com­put­er­i­sa­tion plan with its man­date to com­put­erise the civil ser­vices de­part­ment which later, in 1992 be­came a plan to turn Sin­ga­pore into an in­tel­li­gent is­land and from 2006 plans were drafted for the iN2015 pro­gramme.

The next step for the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to Leonard, is to make use of the big data that is avail­able.

“By trans­form­ing data into in­sights, Sin­ga­pore has a vi­sion to im­prove peo­ple's lives through the use of data an­a­lyt­ics,” he says. “IDA plans to de­liver more data-driven de­ci­sion mak­ing to con­trib­ute to the data poli­cies.”

A key piece of this puz­zle is the col­lec­tion and anal­y­sis of data that is touted to gen­er­ate rel­e­vant in­sights and al­low cit­i­zens to make more ap­pro­pri­ate de­ci­sions. It will also fa­cil­i­tate bet­ter pol­icy plan­ning and cit­i­zen-cen­tric ser­vices, and in­for­ma­tion gleaned from the data sen­sors will pro­vide bet­ter in­sights to al­low lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions to im­prove their busi­ness op­er­a­tions. For ex­am­ple, the Land Trans­port Au­thor­ity will use shared data from fixed sen­sors, cen­tral float­ing ve­hi­cle data, GPS probes and traf­fic cam­eras, to al­low pas­sen­gers to ar­rive at their per­fect jour­ney each day by tak­ing into ac­count the data col­lected at the taxi coun­ters, the tim­ings of the MRT and any traf­fic snarls that might slow traf­fic on the busy Sin­ga­pore roads.

The whole process is so de­signed that it be­comes a sus­tain­able ecosys­tem that will

“We be­lieve that a Smart Na­tion can be­come a re­al­ity if we suc­cess­fully com­bine pol­icy, peo­ple and tech­nol­ogy in a con­certed fashion. ” DR YAA­COUB IBRAHIM Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion Sin­ga­pore

“All the cross-en­gage­ments be­tween the two coun­tries are be­ing looked into by the Prime Min­is­ter and we iden­tify projects that need to be im­ple­mented. Af­ter that quite a few agree­ments were signed and we have been us­ing their knowl­edge in im­ple­ment­ing cer­tain spe­cific pro­grammes.” HASSAN JAS­SIM AL SAYED As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary Gen­eral - Govern­ment ICT Pro­grammes ic­tQatar

gen­er­ate value. While the data is be­ing ex­am­ined by re­search an­a­lysts and sci­en­tists, mo­bile and app de­vel­op­ers can use this data to make apps that make sense of the data to find so­lu­tions. This cre­ates new jobs, builds new op­por­tu­ni­ties and in­sti­gates in­no­va­tion to en­hance na­tional com­pet­i­tive­ness while some sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery can even im­prove lives.

Pilot tri­als at the res­i­den­tial-busi­ness es­tate JLD will serve as a cru­cial test-bed for the coun­try's Smart Na­tion tech­nolo­gies and ser­vices. These will see the roll-out of more than 1,000 data sen­sors in the area, lo­cated in the western part of Sin­ga­pore, which will cap­ture in­for­ma­tion – in­clud­ing video im­ages – to be used in ap­pli­ca­tions around ur­ban mo­bil­ity, sus­tain­abil­ity, and im­prov­ing lives. Its res­i­dents will be able to use phone ap­pli­ca­tions that can help them find shel­tered walk­ways. These are just some of the 15 in­no­va­tions to be tried out in the area.

JLD is a “live test-bed/ liv­ing lab,” where

con­nec­tiv­ity in­fra­struc­ture and sen­sors will be de­ployed to pilot a wide va­ri­ety of so­lu­tions, fo­cus­ing on three main ar­eas – ur­ban mo­bil­ity; sus­tain­abil­ity; and im­prov­ing sens­ing and sit­u­a­tional aware­ness. IDA and part­ner agen­cies are cur­rently work­ing with more than 20 com­pa­nies and start-ups to pro­gres­sively de­ploy and trial in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy from Q3 2014.

The tri­als will in­volve mul­ti­ple govern­ment agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Hous­ing Devel­op­ment Board (HDB), Ur­ban Re­de­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity, Na­tional En­vi­ron­ment Agency, and Land Trans­port Au­thor­ity, as well as com­pa­nies and star­tups.

The Qatar-an­gle

A Qatari del­e­ga­tion was also in Sin­ga­pore to un­der­stand the Smart Na­tion strate­gies. Hassan Jas­sim Al Sayed, As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary Gen­eral – Govern­ment ICT Pro­grammes, who led the team, spoke about how Qatar could use these plans.

“Qatar is work­ing on its in­fra­struc­ture for the World Cup 2022. This is the right time for Qatar to look into how tech­nol­ogy can be used to en­hance its ac­tiv­i­ties, from the plan­ning in roads to the man­age­ment of re­sources and even waste man­age­ment,” he says.

ic­tQatar col­lab­o­rates with the Min­istry of Mu­nic­i­pal­ity and with de­vel­op­ers like Lu­sail City to look into how Qatar can im­ple­ment sim­i­lar Smart City ini­tia­tives.

“We have signed a MoU with the Sin­ga­pore govern­ment to ex­change ex­pe­ri­ences and share knowl­edge in dif­fer­ent do­mains and one of the do­mains is ICT. This is be­ing re­viewed on a yearly ba­sis,” he says. “All the cross-en­gage­ments be­tween the two coun­tries are be­ing looked into by the Prime Min­is­ter and we are iden­ti­fy­ing projects that need to be im­ple­mented. Quite a few agree­ments have been signed and we have been us­ing their knowl­edge in im­ple­ment­ing cer­tain spe­cific pro­grammes.”

IDA In­ter­na­tional, a wholly-owned sub­sidiary of IDA Sin­ga­pore, serves as the ex­e­cu­tion arm for pub­lic ser­vice in­fo­comm part­ner­ships with for­eign govern­ment by help­ing for­eign govern­ment coun­ter­parts bet­ter un­der­stand and ben­e­fit from Sin­ga­pore's ex­pe­ri­ence and to im­ple­ment their ICT pro­gramme.

One new pro­gramme de­vel­oped by ic­tQatar is the Qatar Cus­tomer Clear­ance Sin­gle Win­dow (QCCSW) which is called Al Nadeeb, that pro­vides the re­quired in­for­ma­tion and ap­pli­ca­tion plat­form to man­age the in­ter­na­tional move­ment of goods and ser­vices to and from the state of Qatar and the clear­ance of in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers.

Al Sayed says: “This in­cludes the dec­la­ra­tion and ex­am­i­na­tion of goods, the ver­i­fi­ca­tion of per­mits and li­cences re­quired for im­port and ex­port, the pay­ment of du­ties, fees and taxes and the track­ing of the where­abouts of the cargo.”

Another pro­gramme, that fol­lows the Sin­ga­pore busi­ness regis­tra­tion and li­cens­ing ser­vice on­line, which has en­abled Sin­ga­pore to at­tain "eas­i­est to do busi­ness with" sta­tus, is be­ing repli­cated in Qatar. “This will re­duce the pro­ce­dures to start busi­nesses in Qatar is in the first phase of de­sign and is likely to be an­nounced for de­ploy­ment in the next six months. This is also the re­sult of shar­ing of a Sin­ga­porean ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Al Sayed.

“The Min­istry of Busi­ness and Trade has be­gun work on this por­tal. Peo­ple will find this por­tal to be very use­ful when set­ting up busi­ness. This is also meant to in­crease for­eign part­ner­ship in the coun­try,” says Al Sayed.

As part of the visit, Qatar is also meet­ing its coun­ter­part in Sin­ga­pore, IDA, to dis­cuss the next stage of ICT devel­op­ment. “Qatar is also de­vel­op­ing a new strat­egy to com­bine IT, tele­com and me­dia into one en­tity, to un­der­stand the trends in these do­mains. This work is in progress,” says Al Sayed.

Three strate­gies of ic­tQatar were also launched at the QITCOM, one on e-govern­ment 2022, the sec­ond on in­ter­net se­cu­rity and the third on as­sis­tive tech­nol­ogy. The next area that is be­ing looked into is the strat­egy for postal sec­tor.

“By trans­form­ing data into in­sights, Sin­ga­pore has a vi­sion to im­prove peo­ple's lives through the use of data an­a­lyt­ics. IDA plans to de­liver more datadriven de­ci­sion mak­ing to con­trib­ute to the data poli­cies.” STEVE LEONARD Ex­ec­u­tive Deputy Chair­man IDA Sin­ga­pore

Ac­cord­ing to Al Sayed, the next step for Qatar's ICT strat­egy, is to have a strong in­fra­struc­ture, ad­vance ed­u­ca­tion, health and over­all qual­ity of life through tech­nol­ogy and fi­nally to in­crease the ICT con­tri­bu­tion to Qatar's GDP.

Qatar al­ready has a good in­tra-govern­ment net­work con­nect­ing more than 35 dif­fer­ent agen­cies of the govern­ment.

“This in­tra-govern­ment net­work started in 2009 and we are now in the next phase where we are in­creas­ing the col­lab­o­ra­tion across more agen­cies,” he says.

Al Sayed agrees that the ICT con­tri­bu­tion to the coun­try's GDP is low but GDP con­tri­bu­tion from this sec­tor has in­creased to QR7.5 bil­lion in 2013 from QR5.5 bil­lion in 2010, and should be the next seg­ment to be worked on.

“We are look­ing into de­vel­op­ing the ICT mar­ket in Qatar. Mar­ket devel­op­ment, sup­port­ing start-ups, pro­vid­ing in­cu­ba­tion cen­tres to give the tech en­trepreneurs knowhow and also help them through fi­nan­cial aid and to even­tu­ally come out with a prod­uct that is com­mer­cially vi­able is al­ready in the ICT agenda,” he says.

“While the in­cu­ba­tion cen­tres had a few chal­lenges in the ini­tial stages, as it was also a learn­ing process for ict-Qatar, we have now met most of the chal­lenges,” says Al Sayed.

“Sin­ga­pore and Qatar have a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties: small coun­tries, high GDP,” says Al Sayed. “Qatar is on the path to be­ing a knowl­edge-based econ­omy and is look­ing at di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of Qatar's in­come. We have to start from where they have ended,” he adds.

IDA lab is where ideas are gen­er­ated.

The live-test­ing lab: Jurong Park District pilot tri­als on show at the IMBx 2014 ex­hi­bi­tion

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