GovTech hits the ground running
On the morning of 7 October 2016 at the Star Theatre at Star Vista, you would be forgiven for thinking it was a rock concert, with all the smartphones being waved in the air.
But no: it was the electrifying unveiling of the logo of the new Government Technology Agency (GovTech), with a little help from invited guests and GovTechies.
Every member of the audience with a connected phone was virtually represented as a jumpy dot on the giant screen, which kinetically came together to form the new dynamic visual identity.
These dots symbolise people, businesses, and public sector employees working together as one to transform the nation—and represent how GovTech has been working hand-in-hand with each of these groups to create digital services for Singapore.
It was an unconventional launch for a brand new Agency.
In his opening speech, Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim shared some of the new platforms, initiatives and digital services that GovTech has been testing or rolling out.
“The government has a big role to play, by setting the example and applying ICT and related engineering solutions to improve our quality of life, create opportunities for businesses, and drive productive and efficient government processes,” Dr Yaacob said.
“GovTech will be the agency that drives this mission by building up the government’s strength in harnessing ICT and related engineering.”
Making Lives of Citizens Better
The agency will play many roles, Dr Yaacob said, transforming the way our government delivers public services through the use of technologies such as data science and analytics and related engineering such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
One key digital initiative is Moments of Life, a platform that will anticipate when citizens will require certain government services based on significant events and stages of their lives.
GovTech will also work with other public agencies to develop digital services that are new, innovative and meaningful to citizens, said Dr Yaacob.
It is collaborating with the Ministry of Education on Parents Gateway, a digital platform which will allow parents to engage closely with schools, receive information on events and programmes, and perform transactions such as giving consent for school trips and making payment without the need of paper forms.
The concept of Parents Gateway, which aims to bring greater convenience to parents on school matters, will be tested out in five schools beginning November 2016.
Furthermore, as the agency overseeing the national digital identity SingPass, 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 banking industry.
This personal data platform removes the need for citizens to fill in government forms repeatedly when transacting with digital services of participating government agencies.
In this way, GovTech simplifies bank transactions for citizens by limiting the need to provide personal documents for verification. MyInfo’s proof-of-concept with the banking sector will take off in early 2017.
It was the role of the former Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) to deliver whole-of-government and national-level ICT projects — one which GovTech will continue, starting with projects such as the National Trade Platform.
A collaboration with Singapore Customs, it is a one-stop next-generation trade information management platform to support companies in the trade and logistics industry, as well as adjacent sectors such as trade finance.
Dr Yaacob noted that GovTech will actively partner with the ICT industry in areas that the private sector excels in.
The areas that GovTech will retain, on the other hand, are those that are core to the running of government systems and services, and related engineering capabilities which the government wants to develop as a strength.
These areas are also in line with GovTech’s drive to raise technical capability across the public sector in six areas: application development, cybersecurity, data science, geospatial technology, government ICT infrastructure and sensors and IoT.
For cybersecurity, GovTech will play a critical role in overseeing the public sector’s ICT infrastructure. putting in place policies for critical infrastructure and cybersecurity, developing standards in areas such as data and IoT — while continuing to conduct bulk tenders for the government’s ICT needs,
As for data science, GovTech’s Data Science team is collaborating with various government economic agencies on the Pulse of the Economy initiative, which will analyse high-frequency anonymised data such as electricity consumption, crowd density and EZ-link travel.
Insights from this type of data will allow the government to complement traditional economic indicators such as gross domestic product and employment rate with new measurements to monitor the economy—and more importantly, identify growth opportunities.
As an example, you can gauge the economic vitality of an industrial park based on the electricity consumption and the number of people travelling to that area.
Creating Platforms for ‘Smart Citizens’
Finally, GovTech will create platforms to enable citizen and industry co-creation of citizen-centric digital services.
The agency has revamped the government’s open data portal, data.gov.sg, to include a developers’ portal where developers and industry can tap on the application programming interfaces (APIs) in the site to create useful applications.
It has already led to some exciting new ideas from citizen coders.
“Earlier this year, Mr Lim Chee Aun, a software developer, used the transport APIs from data.gov.sg to create taxirouter.sg, a website showing available taxis and taxi stands,” Dr Yaacob said.
“I understand that he has plans to next produce an app for public transport. Even if you are not a developer, GovTech will like to invite you to co-create the next generation of digital government services.”
GovTech will also go one step further, encouraging capability building and talent development by expanding the Smart Nation Fellowship Programme, which was first launched in March this year.
The first two Smart Nation Fellows, Mr Chua U-Zyn and Mr Arun Kishore, were selected from nearly 300 applicants. They began their stints with GovTech’s Government Digital Services unit at the Hive earlier this year in July.
And on this note of collaboration and co-creation, GovTech was officially launched, marking a new chapter in public service delivery for Singapore.
Keep watching this space for the exciting new things that are developing at GovTech!
- Top Photo of Wefie moment during GovTech Launch courtesy of Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).