The Guardian: Singapore, the model of a low carbon, ICT-driven economy

The Guardian UK recently reported that Singapore is seen as a leader in the green information communications technology (ICT) economy. The article is in full below.

The Guardian: Singapore, the model of a low carbon, ICT-driven economy 

On 31 March, the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore and other government agencies hosted a green data centre forum. The event attracted information communications technology (ICT) professionals from around the world, with topics including data centre energy efficiency and modernisation, and, most groundbreaking, discussions about the development of required standards for green data centres.

This forum at the Singapore Management University epitomises Singapore’s emergence as a leader in the green ICT economy. Once a sleepy backwater, the tiny nation declared independence 50 years ago, and is now a global financial, industrial, and technological hub. While Singapore’s government has emphasised the need for clean and green cities since it declared independence, sustainability initiatives within both the private and public sectors have ramped up in the last five years. Singapore’s success can be credited to its curious hybrid approach of free-market economics with rigorous long-term central planning by the government.

According to Eugene Tay, editor of Singapore’s Green Business Times, Singapore’s political leaders have responded to the growing global concern over climate change with a three-pronged programme that emphasises the environment, water, and clean energy. Linked to this focus is the government’s recent interest in green ICT. Collaboration between government agencies, industry associations, ICT companies, and service providers could result in a new global green data centre standard that will rank with ISO 26000 for corporate social responsibility, the Global Reporting Initiative for sustainability reporting, LEED for green building, and the Forest Stewardship Council’s ratings for paper and packaging.

Government agencies such as Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) have partnered with Hewlett Packard to design a new set of energy efficiency benchmarks. This development has its origins in Singapore’s emergence as an ICT economic tiger in the past 20 years because of a highly skilled workforce, business-friendly climate, seamless logistics, and central location. Companies, including HP and IBM, have flocked to the 710-square kilometre (242-square miles) city-state to have their products manufactured and data stored there. Those same companies confronted an issue, however, that no tax credit or business-friendly law could solve: Singapore’s year-round tropical climate, which causes energy bills to soar. Still, with Singapore’s reliance on imported fuel, the collaboration between HP and Singapore’s government could result in a new standard for data centre efficiency.

In addition to the green data centre standards initiative, Singapore’s government is pushing for increased energy efficiency measures from both manufacturing facilities and business offices throughout the country. One programme trains energy managers to implement energy efficiency measures throughout their respective companies. With the ongoing concern over increased energy prices, Singaporean leaders hope that a green, ICT-driven economy can foster an environment of even more innovation and, of course, investment.

Finally, Singapore’s investment in the water technology area has made the densely populated country of 5 million a global “hydrohub,” explained Tay. The need to achieve water self-sufficiency at an effective cost drives further experimentation and innovation by Singaporean engineers. The country has one desalination plant, with another larger one slated to open in 2013. With Singapore’s water agreement with neighbouring Malaysia set to expire in 50 years, engineers and nanotechnology experts are in a race to guarantee the country’s water security. In turn, that talent will contribute to Singapore’s growing reputation as a global centre that combines both energy and technological innovation.

The debate over climate issues often volleys between the argument between increased government regulation versus self-regulation by business. Singapore’s work on its energy efficiency and sustainability initiatives is a lesson on how the government and private sector can be partners, not opponents – meanwhile attracting talent from around the world for both its clean tech and ICT sectors, leaving other countries green with envy.

Image taken from Thomas Hawk

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  • About Green Drinks Singapore

    Founded in November 2007, Green Drinks Singapore is one of more than 800 cities with a Green Drinks presence.

  • We are a non-profit environmental movement that connects academia, green businesses, activists, community and government, for knowledge sharing and collaboration opportunities. We do this by organising informal talks every last Thursday of the month, over drinks! Once in a while, we hold discussions, documentary screenings and workshops to further engage the public and participants.
  • Started in 1989 in London, the Green Drinks movement is a self-organising network that is meant to be simple and unstructured. The global site can be found at www.greendrinks.org.
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