Singapore Government agencies won big at the recent GovInsider Innovation Awards 2016, held at the Innovation Labs World event on 27 September 2016.
Four public sector projects here won in their respective categories.
Other winners included agencies from Indonesia (two awards) and Papua New Guinea.
The Awards was launched to recognise public sector tech innovation across seven categories, covering the Asia Pacific region.
We feature two winning projects from Singapore in this story: The Work Pass Integrated System for Foreign Domestic Workers, and the Business Grants Portal.
Best UI and UX Design Award
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) won this category for its Work Pass Integrated System for Foreign Domestic Workers (WIND FDW).
This design award recognises the best use of design to improve a service and ensure that it is simple for a citizen to access and understand.
The FDW system, which allows FDW employers and agents to interact with MOM on all matters relating to FDW permits, scored well on the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) fronts.
Development first started in 2014 to replace an older system, with the aim being a nimbler system that could deliver a great online experience.
MOM used a human-centred design approach to simplify services such as online applications and renewing the permits of domestic helpers.
The project team (top photo) also employed Agile developmental methodology, in order to deliver the services faster to the public.
No easy task, but the team made it work.
Mr Chai Ming Yao, Deputy Director, Information Systems and Technology Department at MOM, said, “Implementing the first large-scale Singapore government agile project has been a challenging experience as we break new ground, but it has been very enriching with lots of un-learning and re-learning, and satisfying!”
The processes involved complex employment rules, so the team recognised that end users might have a ‘phobia’ of missing out on important steps or unwittingly break said rules.
Learning from the cluttered design of the previous system, the team deliberately gave the new system a ‘clean and minimalist’ look and hid the underlying complexity from the user interface.
The user is guided at every step of the transaction flow with only the relevant information they need, giving them the assurance that they are ‘doing it right’.
As with the other winning projects from Singapore, teamwork was the crucial element that made this labour of love a success.
Added Mr Chai, “The project would not have been successful without management’s understanding and support, the team’s perseverance and close teamwork, especially with MOM users.”
Best Adaptation Award
This award is given to a project that has successfully pivoted from its original plan when the approach was not working. The project would have used Agile project management, ‘to adapt and to discover how to better serve users and improve service delivery’.
Singapore’s Business Grants Portal (BGP) walked away with this Award.
The joint project by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), and GovTech (previously, IDA) was recognised for its use of Agile methodology.
The Portal is essentially a convenient single online destination to find and apply for all the available Government grants for businesses.
Agile actually describes various adaptive approaches to software development that allows the product to be built incrementally feature by feature, with active user involvement and constant updates.
Mr Lin Zhixun, Senior Assistant Director at MTI, explained, “Grant policies often change to meet evolving business needs, so developing the Portal using Agile made it easy to respond quickly, and to change directions when needed.”
User feedback allowed the team to change features during the development process.
For instance, a company profile module was added in the middle of development — so that businesses do not have to repeatedly provide the same information when applying for different grants.
Ms Lim Woan Shyuan, Senior Assistant Director at MTI, gave credit to Agile, saying: “We were able to try, test and tweak. Things like the Company Profile module were not part of the original plan, so it was great to have had the flexibility to reprioritise.”
The teamwork between the project members from different teams was a strong contributing factor.
“It’s been a great joy working with the team on our first end-to-end Agile delivery project for whole-of-government, and we’re honoured to be recognised, “ said Mr Steven Koh, Agile Coach and Assistant Director at GovTech’s Government Digital Services (GDS).
“We hope this inspires more government agencies to benefit from the flexibility and responsiveness of Agile software delivery.”
Mr Daniel Chan, Executive Manager, GDS Product Management, said: ““Developing the BGP was by no means an easy journey.”
He added that the team gained as much as the companies involved in testing the BGP, learning from the mistakes and improving with every iteration.
Mr Chan said: “In the process of overcoming the challenges, we also strengthened the bonds within the team. We are very proud of the product we delivered, and we have benefited much from this learning experience. We hope the BGP will help companies to grow their capabilities to become more productive and competitive.”
About the GovInsider Innovation Awards Judging
The Awards were judged by an international panel, comprising:
• Mr Siim Sikkut, Digital Policy Advisor, Estonian Prime Minister’s Office;
• Ms Karen Delafield, CIO, HM Treasury and Cabinet Office, United Kingdom;
• Ms Tuty Kusumawati, Head of Jakarta Regional Development Planning Board;
• Mr Stuart Smith, Chief of Service Innovation and Design, National University of Singapore, Institute of Systems Science;
• Mr Joshua Chambers, Editor, GovInsider.