Singapore Is On Its Way To Becoming An Iconic Smart City

Often slated for its extreme Disneyfication, see Examining Rem Koolhaas’ prologue to Singapore Songlines, Singapore is determined to become the flagship sustainable city, with is green water systems and urban parks and massive investment in green infrastructure and renewable energy , but despite the high level of government backing and initiatives – all is not as good as it could be…From Co.EXIST  WRITTEN BY: 

You might think of it more for its stringent penal code, but the Asian city is fast becoming one of the most forward thinking in the region.

This past week I had the pleasure of being invited to Singapore to present my research on smart, innovative cities. Tropical greenspaces throughout the city are juxtaposed with remnants of its past through an authentic China Town, Little India and others–all of which mixes with a modern, robust, waterside financial district, as well as upscale, North-American-style malls and entertainment districts. That’s a lot for a small island with about 5 million inhabitants.

For those of us interested in smart city evolution, Singapore is a fascinating place to explore. I was lucky enough to have Andreas Birnik, the former director of smart cities for Ericsson and current adjunct professor of sustainability at the National University of Singapore, as a guide.

Nearly 90% of the Singaporean population owns their own home or apartment. The underlying principal here is that social housing will only succeed when the tenants have an incentive, and an equity in their buildings and homes. This may be one of the reasons, along with very punitive criminal laws, that Singapore has such an incredibly low crime rate.

While Singapore has one of the highest home ownership rates in the world, the politicians are doing their best to keep vehicle ownership rates (and subsequently traffic and new road infrastructure) as low as possible. Singapore has an auction system just to obtain the rights to purchase a car. Depending on the type of vehicle, auctions this past year have run between $50,000 and $75,000. On top of that, the government imposes massive taxes (100% or more) on the purchase of vehicles.

On top of all this, Singapore has implemented electronic road pricing (ERP)–a set of automated tolls throughout the city which vary depending on the hour in an attempt to incentivize off-peak travel over peak time.

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