How crowdsourcing can build a smarter nation

Building smart cities and smart nations is a big priority for governments across the world. With increasing resource scarcity, better technological infrastructure and changing mindsets, there's an urgent demand for smarter cities. So what happens when you add a human component to the growing internet and hi-tech infrastructure in cities?

Singapore’s quest to become a smart nation has begun and will soon materialise right before our eyes. As we enter the era of collaboration, Singapore is uniquely poised with an able population and a political will. One of the most efficient cities in the world, Singapore has long been an innovation leader in Asia-Pacific and now increasingly on a global scale. Singaporeans are ready for the next wave in technology and policies that will make their lives easier, ease pressure off resources that will transform the country to an even more formidable force in the world.

Smart cities are not about hi-tech installation and futuristic infrastructure. In fact the beginnings of a smarter, connected nature are quite the opposite - it starts with simple collaboration, harnessing natural synergies and getting citizens on board.

Singapore’s quest to become a smart nation cannot ignore crowds and collaborative thinking and doing. What happens when technology and human intelligence meet? Let’s take a look…

Crowds meet mobility

Ride-sharing apps like Tripda and Uber are an important alternative for the high cost of car ownership and congestion problems. Moovit, a crowdsourcing app available in 500 cities worldwide promises "the fastest, least crowded public transportation routes in real-time" is available in Singapore helping commuters find the fastest transit and walking routes. 

For car owners, Waze has been a virtual traffic assistant for drivers by providing crowdsourced traffic data and reports via smartphone GPS from their fellow 'Wazers', ranging from road accidents to potholes, gas prices to speed traps. Human participation can contribute to Singapore’s smart future using crowdsourced transportation initiatives.

Knowledge sharing and community collaboration

Crowdsourcing is becoming inescapable among associations, universities, and corporations as it nurtures their entrepreneurial spirit and also empowers them to innovate and co-create to solve consumers’ and community issues. 

For example, Crowdicity, a cloud-based social idea manager known as an innovation platform is being harnessed within the public sector. The cross-platform system is the essence of crowdsourcing, enabling stakeholders to pose challenges and seek answers from the crowd, fostering feedback, promoting discussions, and inspiring ideas.

Smart cities are not about hi-tech installation and futuristic infrastructure.

Crowds and government

Participatory government is key to building a smart city. An inclusive government aids open communication, transparency with agencies that adapt to citizen needs rather than constraining them with red tape. While Singapore works on open governance, it can seek citizen support to improve services. Citizens proactively participate in reports like downed trees, potholes and other problems using their smartphones - imagine how crowdsourcing can turn Singapore into a smarter nation if the public will become part of this phenomenon. Apps like SeeClickFix even filter which agencies maintain pieces of infrastructure (roads, sewers, and streetlights) based on the location of the reporter. Agencies on the other hand can use these platforms as a CRM and workflow management tool.

Open data and the Internet of Things

Smart data presents infinite opportunity to better understand how citizens interact with cities and services, assisting policy makers with real-time feedback on policy implementation and changes, be it energy or education.

Virtual Singapore is a Google Earth-like map being built as a knowledge sharing and community collaboration by 2017. Hover your mouse on a building and the system displays a wealth of data on that particular spot, including energy consumption, composition, and even the number of parking spaces in real-time. Think of big data and Internet of Things packed in this 3D-platform, which is part of Singapore’s 'Smart Nation' initiative model to be available for researchers, innovators, and users in public and private sectors.

Get smarter than the rest

Singapore is not only a good candidate for these smart ideas - a ready and advanced nation that has a critical mass of users that can test application on a real, replicable scale. Singapore was miles ahead of many cities before crowdsourcing arrived on the scene. 

With the help of technology tools and resources at our disposal, its ambition to become the world’s first Smart Nation can be an epitome of innovation for the rest of the world in the 21st century. And I believe crowdsourcing - the empowered crowd and technologies - will be a catalyst of change, not just in Singapore but globally, in our immediate futures.

Social innovation powered by crowds will be a special focus at Crowdsourcing Week Global 2015, April 20th - 24th in Singapore.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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