The smart nation: Singapore’s citizen-centric drive


GovTech or the Government Technology Agency, a newly formed part of the Singapore Government, is set to transform public service delivery with a citizen-centric approach to digital services and products.

The new statutory board will spearhead the Government’s digital and data strategy.

In order to improve the public sector GovTech will partner public agencies, industry and citizens to transform public service delivery through the use of technologies such as data science and analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, announced some of the initiatives that would drive GovTech in its citizen-centric direction at the agency’s launch last Friday.

Citizen-centric initiatives

One of the most significant initiatives Ibrahim established was that GovTech and the Ministry of Finance will partner the Monetary Authority of Singapore over the next year to explore extending the use of consent-based personal data platform MyInfo to the financial sector.

MyInfo, allows detail fields to be automatically filled with data – such as name, NRIC number, registered address and property owned – pulled from various government agencies such as the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, and the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

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The aim is to simplify and speed up citizens’ interactions with banks by eliminating the provision of personal documents for verification. In theory, however, it could extend beyond banking, to buying a car or applying for a job, for example.

Another initiative announced was called Parents Getaway. The digital platform will, according to Ibrahim, bring greater convenience to parents on school matters such as fee payments and signing of consent forms.

The Ministry of Education and GovTech will be testing out the Parents Gateway concept at five schools beginning November 2016.
It is not just citizens that will benefit from the formation of GovTech. According to the agency it has the capability to streamline government-business transactions. It is well placed to do so.

CorpPass is the name of the initiative, and it was launched last month as a new single corporate digital identity for businesses and other entities – such as non-profit organisations and associations – to transact with Government agencies online without the need to handle multiple login IDs.

Effectively, it appears that the formation of this agency will increase convenience for Singapore’s citizens by speeding up time-consuming day-to-day routines.

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Jacqueline Poh, chief executive, GovTech, said: “Technology is playing a disruptive role in many sectors and Government must tap on it in new ways to deliver better value to citizens.”

“The formation of GovTech marks a new chapter in the way we use technology to improve the wide range of services and touchpoints that the public sector has with our citizens and businesses.”

However, in order to effectively implement these strategies a vast amount of data will have to be tracked and stored. The idea of ‘Big Brother’.

Privacy and security might become an issue, so strict regulations should be put in place with the top level data encryption, so that personal data is not taken advantage of or exposed.

Having said this, the pursuit of a smart nation does require an increased state of connectivity and data sharing. Data is the lifeblood of a smart city. One can’t live without the other.

The question that should be asked is: is realising the smart nation vision worth the potential exploitation of privacy?

Singapore’s smart nation vision

GovTech will have an important role in the building of smart nation infrastructure, platforms and applications by deploying information communications technology (ICT) and related engineering such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

The smart nation platform (SNP) is being developed to help public agencies with their sensor deployment needs, the sharing of data collected and data analytics to support needs like urban planning and incident response.

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The SNP is envisioned to help public agencies in the efficient running of the city, including the provision of public services such as smart mobility and smart utility management.

“GovTech will build on the strong foundation established by the Government Chief Information Office to support the building of a smart nation. Key to our mission will be collaborating closely with citizens, industry and various public sector agencies, to create the next generation of innovative and meaningful digital experiences,” said Poh.

The formation of GovTech, follows the formation of IMDA last month. It is an exciting time for Singapore, because these two agencies – working closely with government – will be able to effectively negotiate the regulatory minefield to develop new, citizen-centric, initiatives that connect the smart city-state like nowhere else on earth.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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