Singapore : 50 Years into the Future

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With the world moving faster than ever, urbanization has become a part and parcel of our lives. The United Nation projects that in the coming decades, hundreds of millions of urban dwellers will swarm into cities, especially within Asia and Africa. Accommodating this many urban dwellers efficiently and equitably may be an arduous task, and brings additional concerns of detrimental of technology over-use, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity arising from rapid urbanization. From an optimistic perspective, the growing numbers could contribute to economic prosperity. However, official attitudes towards rapid urbanization remain broadly negative.

 

Among all these debates, Singapore stands at the pinnacle of success as a glaring example of urban life and futuristic development. A small country with minimal natural resources, the city-state of Singapore was a charming pocket of urban chaos and scruffiness even in the 1960s. But, today it has developed into a city of towering high-rises and immaculate cleanliness. Singapore’s ascension to one of the strongest economies in the world over a span of five decades is nothing short of remarkable. By embracing globalization, free market capitalism, education, pragmatic policies and, as a whole, a long-term comprehensive planning of the city of the future, the country has been able to overcome its geographic disadvantages and become a leader in global commerce.
But what exactly is it like to live in Singapore? How does a 4-hour flight from Dhaka take you 50 years ahead to the future? We explore, one by one, how the city has pushed its limited resources beyond its limits and turned it into something grandiose.

Modern Housing
Tasked with the responsibility of creating sustainable and manageable housing spaces for 5.7 million people, Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB) has already provided living solutions to many. But now they want to step up a gear and search for complex, hi-tech solutions for a better environment. Dr. Cheong Koon Hean, Chief Executive Officer of HDB, emphasizes on design decisions that incorporate large openings for increased ventilation.
Singapore has also reclaimed parts of the sea to increase its land mass. The ever-famous Marina Bay is one of the most successful engineering projects of our time. It attracts businesses and Michelin star restaurants to strike official deals amidst the grandeur of the city, and tourists to behold in awe, the progressive emotion the city has to offer.
Over the years, experts in Singapore looked for alternative ways to expand its land. With precise engineering and architectural technology, the city is opting for expansion over and under the ground. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) of Singapore wanted to build a business district that would not only serve official purposes, but also serve as a multipurpose precinct where activities would be carried out 24/7. This meant infrastructural development was required round the clock for the Marina Bay Model to work. The plan outlines undergrounds to be used for transportation infrastructures, electrical tunnels, pedestrians, and commercial spaces with precise designs for the next 50 years.

 

 

 

Transportation of the Future
An even futuristic idea hailing from the city is the use of drones to travel. Professor Jason Pomeroy from Pomeroy Studio believes that cities of the world will soon run out of spaces to expand. They will then take on vertical expansion. The mode of transportation in such cases will be by air. The Government of Singapore has already started testing the prospect of advanced drone programs for the future. Drones are already being used for cargo delivery. These drones are built with multiple aerospace grade navigation systems so that if one of the drones malfunctions, the others can reach the destination properly.

Vertical Farming
While the whole world ponders upon food scarcity, Singapore has come up with innovative, self-sustaining solutions. ‘Sustenir’, a controlled agricultural farm in Singapore, simulates outdoor environments inside concrete buildings. Plants grown inside this closed artificial ecosystem receive neither sunlight, nor soil. Instead, scientists control the humidity, temperature, carbon-dioxide saturation etc. and produce different kinds of plants that vary in tastes. It is predicted that this type of farming is the future, and that the idea will be replicated in all developed cities.
But these advancements will be futile in the long run if people are unable to live a life long and healthy enough to enjoy the amenities the city has to offer. One of the most major health concerns the city has been increasingly dealing with is diabetes. An ageing demographic further exacerbates the problem. The city, however, has brought science to its aid. Dr. Lee Mun Wai, a bioengineer, is conducting research to create food that provides exact nutritional values adjusted for individuals. The process will include a smartwatch to monitor health issues and a 3D printer that prints out the nutrient requirements for the person in a jelly-like substance. Such innovative solutions can provide a longer life to the citizens, gradually increasing their standard of living.

 

Accommodating this many urban dwellers efficiently and equitably may be an arduous task, and brings additional concerns of detrimental effects of technology over-use, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity arising from rapid urbanization.

 

Water Desalination
As global temperatures spike, fresh water has become increasingly scarce. Up until now, Singapore depended on rainwater to cater to their needs. But a modern city needs an even modern solution. A desalination plant named ‘Tuas’ uses reverse osmosis to turn sea water into potable water. But this too comes with challenges as it uses a lot of energy. Thus, a company named Evoqua came up with electrodialysis to use electricity to remove salt from the sea water. The plant has a capacity of desalinating 3,800 cubic meters of water per day, with hopes of increasing the capacity to 100,000 cubic meters per day.

Blockchain Technology in Finance
To smoothen the development trajectory, a well-functioning financial market is a must. Without the provision of bank loans and transaction facilities, investors might deem a site unprofitable. For Singapore, the financial sector alone makes up 12% of GDP. To make the process faster and well protected from hackers, Singapore has started using a blockchain technology named Project Ubin. Blockchain technology is fast, save, and convenient for overseas transaction. Traditionally, banks keep their transaction records on their own centralized ledger, but Ubin keeps them in a blockchain making identical copies of the record and distributes them through a network of computers around the world. If in any case a copy does not match with others, it is rejected. For a hacker to break into the system, they would need to simultaneously attack all the computers in the blockchain network, which is virtually impossible.

Medical and Technological Advancement
Singapore has estabilished itself as a global medical hub, housing innovative technologies, well-trained doctors, and top-tier hospitals. For example, an automatic, low-latency, high-precision needle targeting mechanism allows for safer and faster microsurgery procedures. During crises like the South-Asian haze, Singapore’s medical and technological capabilities allowed them to quickly design plasma masks for children and adults. Advanced technology is being used in monitoring and making life better for everyone, from newborn babies to the elderly. A startup named ‘TransferFi’ has come up with a technology that transfers electric power wirelessly through radiofrequency. Such innovation can revolutionize industries reliant on electrical devices. This will also benefit electronic devices used in hospitals, alongside facilitating other industries.

Preparing the Next Generation for the Future
To make children better prepared for a highly digital workspace and well-adjusted to the modern world, Singapore has incorporated technology education in school curricula. The lessons are not merely education – they are interactive, playful, and communicative. Through trial and error, the kids are developing communication, language, and analytical skills. But digital literacy does not stop here. The benefits of digitization will only be realized when the citizens are well-adapted to it. The Info-Communications Media Development Authority is tasked with the responsibility of making the process easier for older people as well.

Singapore really is a city of the future. Not only have they achieved commendable economic growth over the last few decades, but they have also reached new heights of success in multiple industries. Their digital adaptability, and spirit of growth is still going strong. The rapid urbanization that we are currently facing in Bangladesh can be tackled and used to our benefit if we take Singapore as an inspiration. The process can be complex, but proper planning with frequent monitoring and evaluation can make it happen.

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