I love Singapore.
It's modern, clean, safe and efficient. It has a subway system that's more like a Disney ride than pubic transit. Cabs are plentiful, clean and cheap. It has the best airport in the world. Shopping choices rival any other city on the planet. There's no income tax. Architecture is bold and sexy. The street food is to die for (and 100% safe). I had some amazing fish head curry (it's just like it sounds) at a place called Apollo Banana, a restaurant I always, always visit when I'm here.
There are museums, malls, all manner of restaurants bars. Even prostitution is legal
Health care is world class. Even if you have to pay for something (as my wife did on a previous visit), access to a doctor--even for a foreigner--was fast and cheap. An office visit late on a weekend cost S$35 (about $28 CAD) including the cost of the prescription for her respiratory infection. From registering at reception to discharge, the process took less than 30 minutes.
All this is the result of a can-do attitude that seems to permiate everything in this island state.
Yes, it's an autocracy. The cost of housing is astronomical with $2,000/sq foot being quite common. Punishment for drug and sex offences is swift and harsh. There are fines for things like not flushing a public toilet (not that this is a bad thing). And the story about chewing gum being illegal is a myth. (Well, almost. I haven't checked on this visit, but the last time I was here, the only place you could get gum was at a pharmacy. But not being a big gum-chewer, I'm not really bothered by this. And I like the fact that the sidewalks aren't covered with those black splotches.)
And yes, the country has a reputation of being all business and no fun. That's why the government has been so open to staging the Digital Matters and Music Matters conferences for the second year in a row.
The first two days are branded as Digital Matters. Facebook, YouTube and Google are here. There's plenty of talk about social media, online content creation, monetization of digital content, new media advertising, licensing issues. As I type this, a dude from Zynga--the company responsible for Farmville, Cityville, Draw Something and all those games that clutter your Facebook timeline with random invitations to play--is about to speak about social gaming.
Nokia is showing off their Lumina 900 Windows 7 phone (pretty cool, I must admit). There's a fully immersive F1 driving simulator that anyone can try (it's AWESOME). YouTube is offering free workshops.
Music Matters starts tomorrow. Actually, it begins after the pool party tonight (something I fear cannot end well, given how music conference people tend to imbibe.) There's a large contingent of Canadian artists playing the showcases, including the guys from USS. I'll be hanging with them.
Canadian super-producer Bob Ezerin is here. So is Bob Leftsetz. Troy Carter, Lady Gaga's manager, will be speaking.
Check in over the next couple of days for updates on what I see and who I meet.