How to build an inclusive smart city?

Citizens need to have access to a secure, trusted cloud in order to realise their full potential.


Erick Stephens
Erick Stephens, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Asia Pacific

While the four megatrends – mobility, social, cloud and big data – provide Asian cities with great opportunities to deliver more efficient and innovative government services, there are pockets of the population that do not have access to these technologies.

“You can’t have social network without cloud, or mobile without cloud. The combination is explosive,” says Erick Stephens, Chief Technology Officer, APAC, Microsoft. “If you look at some of the statistics, almost 50 per cent of mobility, consumers in the cloud, big data, social network users are from this region. Asia is the most vibrant region to witness the combustion of Mobility and Cloud!”

Today’s world is information-centric – digital information is now being created and shared more easily than ever before. If data can now be seen as a form of currency, how do you ensure that all the residents in a city are able to make full use of it?

“Cloud has become the platform that glues everything together. So what happens if we have a problem with the cloud?” asks Stephens. “We need to think about that for a brighter future. All citizens should have access to these technology megatrends; we don’t want to leave them behind.”

Developing countries that don’t have resources to build data centres and all the associated infrastructure are now able to deploy citizen services using the cloud. Taxpayers want their governments to be efficient, and they expect that their information is going to be kept secure. On both counts, Stephens believes that cloud enables governments to balance opportunities and risks.

“If you invest in the right technologies it’s a no-brainer,” he continues. “It’s agile, elastic and transformational. But trust is a very critical word. How do you manage security risks, data loss, privacy and downtime?”

Stephens underlines that citizens require access to what he terms the ‘trustworthy cloud’ – a secure platform that protects data, privacy and services are delivered reliably.

“How do you build a trustworthy cloud? By following the law – complying with standards and regulations, by being transparent. I want to be as transparent as possible, with my service level agreements so governments know what to expect from me. It’s only then that I’m responsible.”

An interesting feature of Singapore’s approach to cloud computing is that all cloud service providers need to comply with the Multi-Tier Cloud Security Standard, Stephens believes.

“This is a crucial ingredient that we need to provide to citizens and governments so that they can trust in government. This is a tremendous source of competitive advantage. If Singapore is currently ranked the second most competitive country today, I’m sure policies like this, harmonized with other international standards, will add to the country’s competitiveness.”

This story was first published on FutureGov on Feb 13, 2015.


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