Celebrating communities in Singapore

By Chan Loy Lye


During one of the medals ceremony at the SEA Games held in the spanking new swimming arena at the sports hub, the Singapore anthem streaming through the loud speakers suddenly went mute. Spontaneously, the crowd filled in with a rancorous version of Majullah Singapore. The anthem is sung in Malay, even though English is the official language. Such an anomaly is rooted in Singapore’s history of reluctant independence 50 years ago. Ideological and ethnic differences resulted in the split with Malaysia, her adopted homeland. Through dogged determination Singapore flourished by building multi-racial communities and nurturing its citizens to thrive in the global economy.

On 9th August Singapore celebrates its Golden Jubilee with a myriad of community led events. Branded “SG50” the year-long affair is anchored by grass roots organization with participation from both the business and public sectors.

Lego produced a brick-set of iconic landmarks. Singapore Airlines opened its doors to her famed training academy. A generous grant (called the celebration fund) is given to a slew of social projects, which are well publicized on the internet. In a sense this acts as spring board of new ideas with the community as a testbed. eg wheels@ubin is a community project to bring 100 wheelchair-users on a tour of Pulau Ubin. This island off Singapore (popular for its old world charm) is practically inaccessible to persons with disabilities. To access the island’s trails, they were ferried across the strait by a refurbished landing craft.

Innovative ideas from a new generation of technopreneurs are the nation’s hope to power the next lap of growth. “Smart Nation” is the government’s theme to foster collaboration between industry and institutions to create an eco–system of research, development and test market of products for the integrated economy. eg Internet medical devices used in homes for the elderly sick. This plays to the strength of a small, yet culturally diverse country with superlative infrastructure and state commitment.

The Singapore growth story embodies the development of the internet. With close to 80% broadband and smartphone penetration, the island state ranks among the highest in Asia. The number of dotSG domains including the Chinese and Tamil language versions, quadrupled over a 13 year period to its current 170,000. The recent roll-out of several hundred new top level domains overseen by ICANN featured domains in Chinese, Thai and Japanese scripts. To support its use, linguistic experts, domain name operators and community representatives are encouraged to collaborate to develop software applications. The ICANN Asia Pacific Hub was established in Singapore to facilitate the region’s participation in bridging these culture and language gaps. Any breakthrough would bring enormous benefits to the 1.4 billion internet users in Asia.

To anticipate how SG75 ( marking 75 years of independence ) would be celebrated, a poignant quote from founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew may offer us some clues, “Singapore has existed for 180 years since its modern founding by Stamford Raffles, but… before 1965 it was just an outpost.

The future is full of promise as it is fraught with uncertainty. The new divide in the world will be between those with the knowledge and those without. We must learn and be part of the knowledge-based world”. Lee Kuan Yew would surely embrace the internet as an epitome of the Singapore growth story.