6 technologies that changed Singapore in the past decade

In less than two days, a decade comes to an end — and what a monumental shift it has been in the sphere of technology since 2010. 

What used to be toys of a select group of people (typically Sim Lim Square-loving dudes), gadgets today are everywhere, a ubiquitous fact of life that permeates in every aspect of our daily lives. Everyone, no matter the gender or age or nationality, has formed such a deep connection with tech that it’d be hard-pressed to find someone without a smartphone or a social media presence these days. 

If you’re old enough to remember, the noughties were when tech got a little… eccentric. Social media startups rose and fell spectacularly, phones got really wacky, blogging became a thing (ugh), and Microsoft launched one of the worst products of all time, the Windows Vista. 

When the 2010s arrived, things really went into overdrive. It’s a decade defined by portability, Internet connectivity, services (rather than products), algorithms, automated tasks and artificial intelligence. It’s why primary school kids will have to undergo coding classes starting next year — computer programming will be an essential language of the future. 

But that’s something to worry about for the next decade. For now, let’s look back at the tech that has impacted the lives of Singaporeans (for better or worse) over the past 10 years. Can’t wait for the next 10. 

Ride-hailing services

PHOTO: Reuters

Ah yes, the service that we simultaneously love to use and complain about. But honestly, when the likes of Uber and Grab (which used to known as GrabTaxi) arrived on our shores, it was a boon to all of us who were sick of the local cab industry — one rife with reluctant taxi drivers who ignore our desperate street-side hails, decline to send us to our destinations due to “changing shifts”, or just flat-out refuse to accept anything other than cash as payment. Why wouldn’t ride-hailing services rise as rapid as it did here? The apps were intuitive, cars could be tracked on the map, the trips were cashless.

A lot has changed since the early 2010s, though. Uber, a behemoth in the international ride-sharing space, was toppled by Grab in an acquisition that turned the Singapore-based company into a regional kingpin. Indonesia’s Gojek dipped its toes in the local market in late 2018, but so far has yet to come close to the level of prominence that Grab already has.

Meanwhile, aspiring contenders like Jugnoo, Ryde, Kardi, Tada, and many others have failed to make any discernible mark, with some firms packing it up as quickly as it launched. Whether you like it or not, we’ll just have to make do with Grab for reliable ride-hailing services for now. 

Food delivery apps


Foodpanda has been operating in Singapore since 2012, but it was only a couple years later until the appearance of UberEats and Deliveroo that food delivery apps really took off here. We were no longer confined to just ordering McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut or Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza (eww), and the entire culinary world suddenly opened up with an army of delivery riders ready to send food and drinks straight to your doorstep. Delivering food became a whole new career path for anyone with the means to transport the packages. 

And it's not just restaurant food options, too — even hawker favourites would get the delivery service treatment via the likes of WhyQ and a couple of other (now-shuttered) startups. 

Personal Mobility Devices

PHOTO: The Straits Times

Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention the gizmo that got an entire story arc in Singapore. At the height of its craze, nearly everyone and their grandparents were into electric scooters, electric bikes, hoverboards, and other fancy machines that eliminated the need for walking. It seemed that we were all really living in the future, what with whole families whizzing to and fro on the streets.  

Then came the troubles. Houses were razed to soot when the batteries of inferior devices started catching fire. The young and the elderly were injured, hospitalised, and even killed after errant users carelessly sped around on wheels, going way faster than anyone should be on pavements. When enforcement efforts failed to reduce the calamities, the authorities resorted to an overnight ban hammer — a decision that resulted in the wrath of food delivery riders who rely on e-scooters to get jobs done quickly.

The new decade will herald a strict crackdown on the defiant stragglers who refuse to abide, but eventually, PMDs will fade away from the streets of Singapore. 

Bike-sharing services

PHOTO: The Straits Times

For a brief shining moment, it seemed like a good idea to have bicycles freely available for anyone to use for a rather cheap rental fee. You didn’t need to find a specific spot to park ‘em, even — just pop the stand, lock it, and go. Plus, there’s the whole eco-friendly angle to the whole thing since it’d encourage folks to cycle instead of increasing carbon emissions. 

The experiment turned out to be a disaster, mainly because Singaporeans are just not as gracious a society as initially believed. The likes of Ofo, oBike and Mobike didn’t have any problems supplying the mountainous amount of bicycles into the market, but what they did face was the issue of actually cleaning up the mess they inadvertently created.

With little oversight on where to park them, thousands of strewn bicycles littered streets, roads, and even drains. Users were frustrated that the cheap bikes were exactly that, and frequently broke down. The government tried to intervene with proper rules and regulations, but it proved too late as bike-sharing companies decided to pack up and leave instead of adhering to the law. The streets are cleared up today, but I’m sure most of us would remember the time when the great yellow bike-ocalypse ravaged the country. 

Online shopping

PHOTO: Pixabay

Remember when everyone used to doubt buying stuff online? Yeah, totally different sentiments these days. Today e-commerce has become so prominent that it has started wiping out brick-and-mortar retailers over the last decade. I mean just look at how lifeless Orchard Road is these days. 

Everything that we once needed to visit actual stores for can now be bought on Aliexpress, Lazada, Shoppee, Amazon, Hipvan, and the thousands of other international online storefronts. It’s come to the point that events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Singles Day hold more clout among shoppers than the Great Singapore Sale. Then there’s livestream shopping too — the modern take on home shopping with popular Internet personalities selling products 'live' online. Heck, folks these days can even buy fresh fish on Facebook Live.

Smartphone accessories


Snuff your remarks about today’s generation being obsessed with smartphones, boomers, they’re here to stay. The glut of choices today — from expensive flagships to mid-range workhorses — means that everyone can have an Internet-connected computer that they can fit in their pocket. 

With the easy availability of smartphones comes the need for peripherals revolving around the devices. And so arriveth the advent of shops across the country filled with accessories, an entire industry involving USB cables, adapters, wireless chargers, portable chargers, Bluetooth speakers, wireless headphones, selfie sticks, and other doodahs that can connect to your smartphone.

You know the type of shop. The one with blinking lights, booming techno, and racks upon racks of smartphone cases — the type of store that has even invaded our pasar malams. A pair of imitation AirPods alongside a serving of Ramly burger? Sure, why not. That’s the age we’re living in right now, and it’s about to get weirder with 5G in the next decade