Is becoming a Smart Nation a smart move?

By Jasmine Hoe

GRAPHIC: AMY ONG

Being a modern cosmopolitan city, Singapore is a model for other countries in South East Asia. Thriving on constant improvement and innovation, it is no wonder that we are trying to push our technological boundaries as part of a nationwide move towards a “smart city”. Following in our nation’s footsteps, NTU has been making a conscious effort to progress forward technologically in recent years.

As an NTU student, I feel proud that my school is pioneering new initiatives that can help Singapore to advance as a nation. Last year, we made headlines when the university piloted a project introducing driverless buses on campus. The first of its kind in Singapore, NTU collaborated with the Land Transport Authority to incorporate the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Intelligent Cameras into campus buses to capture surrounding information for the bus navigation system.

While these new technological ventures can help to raise NTU’s reputation as a research university, what does it actually mean for the average student like you and me?

As NTU students, we are privileged enough to be in a school that places emphasis on being technologically forward-looking. Recently, our university partnered with Telepod, a Singapore based company that produces scooters, to set up a scooter sharing system in campus.

Students only need to download the mobile application to ride these scooters. This is perfect for students who are seeking travelling alternatives besides riding the bus, and is just one example of how NTU is introducing new schemes to help improve a student’s experience.

Nonetheless, there are also instances when we face difficulties using technology in NTU. There may be times when we encounter problems logging into our student accounts on NTULearn. We may also be greeted with an unresponsive screen on occasion, when we log into the Students Automated Registration System (STARS) to bid for our modules. Even though it is heartening to see that our university is embracing technology, it can be a highly stressful affair when our entire schedule for the semester lies in the hands of an unpredictable machine.  

It is during such situations that I realise that technology could actually be more of a burden than a convenience.

Besides Singapore’s intention to move towards a Smart Nation, the issue of cyber-security has also been raised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during his National Day Rally Speech.

This is even more pertinent in light of the malware attack on NTU’s information technology (IT) systems in April this year. Even though no information was lost, the fact that hackers were able to gain unauthorised access to personal information of both students and staff shows that our IT systems need to be better equipped to deal with such attacks. The university needs to ensure that that they continually update their systems so as to keep it cyber-secure.

These situations serve to remind us of how murky the waters can be. To benefit from being a Smart Nation, we must first be smart about the challenges that lie ahead, and take precautions whenever we can.