The country is a small city-state with a land area of just 721 square kilometres. As such, to accommodate an entire spectrum of activities needed to support it takes a pragmatic, long-term and sustainable planning approach, facilitated with data to help planners make robust decisions. The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) plays a part in developing Singapore as a vibrant and sustainable future city, and its staff play a key role in its mission to make this a great city to live, work, and play. Helping to shape the future of Singapore are scholars, Chan Sing Eu, a Senior Systems Analyst, and Shantal Cheong, an Urban Planner.
Building Lifelong Skills
As a child, Sing Eu was fascinated by how computers could be used to design programmes for better efficiency and problem-solving. Combine that with an interest to understand how data and technology could be harnessed to plan cities, and it’s easy to understand why he decided to apply for the URA undergraduate scholarship.
It turned out to be a good decision for Sing Eu, who benefitted greatly from the URA undergraduate scholarship programme. He was assigned a mentor who gave him sound advice not to focus solely on what was considered state-of-the art at the time, as technologies evolve at a rapid pace. Instead, he was advised to pursue what he enjoys and gain skills that would withstand the winds of change. “Following this advice, I participated actively in various school activities and committees, gaining know-how in areas such as managing teams and event organisation,” he shares, adding that an eight-week attachment in URA gave him a good perspective on the diverse IT job scopes available to him.
URA Undergraduate Scholarship (Overseas)
Bachelor of Arts in Economics – New York University
Master of Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences – Columbia University, USA
In Shantal’s case, personal interest and the desire to be exposed to challenging and fulfilling work motivated her to apply for the scholarship. “I was interested to be involved in the long-term planning of Singapore, and I wanted a career where I could reach out and directly impact the lives of Singaporeans”, she shared. Her scholarship stint opened doors for her to gain valuable overseas experience, as well as develop a skillset in Geographic Information System (GIS) and data analytics. These are skills that she uses actively in her current role.
Shantal is now a team leader involved in the use of data and geospatial analytics, as well as futures and complexity studies in URA’s Strategic Planning department. She plays a role in URA’s efforts towards using data analytics to drive land use planning and policy recommendations. “With data and geospatial analytics, we can study things like the usage patterns and catchment of various amenities, to better match the land use demand and supply.”
One of the tools URA’s planners use is a digital planning platform that helps planners more easily overlay and analyse different datasets together, as well as create future scenarios to evaluate their outcomes.
Chan Sing Eu
URA Undergraduate Scholarship (Local) Senior Systems Analyst
Bachelor of Engineering (Computer Engineering) – National University of Singapore
Master of Technology (Software Engineering) – National University of Singapore
Helping to design such software tools is part of Sing Eu’s job as a Senior Systems Analyst. “By making technology easier and more efficient for planners to use, we enable them to unleash the potential value of data, so they understand the city better and are better able to make data-driven decisions in an efficient manner,” he explains about his role.
The Shape of Singapore’s Future
In their roles, Shantal and Sing Eu both have a hand in shaping Singapore and bringing URA one step closer to its vision of creating a vibrant and sustainable future city. On his part, Sing Eu takes pride in the fact that he helps to empower URA’s planners. By providing the systems needed to simplify and present data in a way that is insightful to planners, he enables them to come up with planning decisions and policies that are relevant to the needs of Singaporeans.
For Shantal, developing a sustainable Singapore means carefully balancing trade-offs between various constraints and the nation’s aspirations. She explained, “By using data and considering the ways in which global and local trends may pan out, the land use planning scenarios that my team and I put together help to safeguard the possibilities for many future generations to come.”
To those who want to play a part in developing Singapore, Shantal concluded, “Approach everything with an open mind, find out what excites you, then actively pursue those things.” Sing Eu echoed similar words of wisdom, “Always have a learner mindset and be ever ready to embrace changes. Don’t just stick to what you already know.”