Smart Nation

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Official description

If you read the IDA website and description of Smart Nation initiative, you see that "Smart" does many things. Smart will improve the lives of citizens, create more opportunities, and build stronger communities. Smart Nation gets things done.


  • Smart Nation is built upon big data. What is scary is how it has been glorified, almost deified. They're telling us that smart will improve the future! it can be used to predict the future. But does it really? But it has everything to do with the human beings who have collected the data and are doing things with it.
  • Apparently we were ignorant, but now we are smart! But is smart just making us lose the ability to understand that we are ignorant about many things...
  • Why is there general apathy towards discussing data privacy regulations?
  • Big data analytics is almost the opposite of imagining, dreaming, and scenario planning. Data is virtually over-glorified and deified as the solution to everything. Big Data plays into our human desire to have 'understood' everything and to exercise control over it. The result is that data ends up wielding power over decision making processes in the private and public sector here.
  • To what extent does data dictate the future? Would one be able to question big data, if you feel something intuitively is wrong, but the data says otherwise?
  • Will the rhetoric of "Smart Nation" reduce people's ability to understand that the average Singaporean citizen may still be quite ignorant and have a long way to go about understanding many basic issues such as information privacy, data surveillance, and data protection?
  • I thought I'd add some of my general thoughts on "Smart Nation" so far: If I had to describe my greatest concern, it would be whether the rhetoric of "Smart Nation" and "Smart"-ness reduces people's ability to recognise that the average Singaporean citizen may still be 'ignorant' in terms of understanding more about data - eg: information privacy, data/cyber surveillance, and data protection. In a way, big data analytics is almost the opposite of imagining, dreaming, and discussing/scenario planning/workshopping as we might do here over the weekend. I see the role of the artist/designer as someone who speculates on the possibilities or narrativises them, and tries to bridge the gaps in our understanding of the city. But for the most part, people look to numbers and data for the answers, for future solutions to many problems. At the same time many people in Singapore don't always know what (or how much) data is being collected and how it is being used; and this data will wield considerable power over decision making processes in the private and public sector here.
  • Whilst the government has said it will only use its powers in a lawful (and benevolent) manner, I think there is need for better transparency and more open-ness from the government on data surveillance, and how the data is used. But it seems Singaporeans are generally apathetic and there is little public dialogue on this at the moment, although it is crucial for us to have these conversations for the future. How do we design prototypes or installations which would have an end result of making people think/discuss more about issues of data privacy?