6 things you need to know about the Digital Government Blueprint
TL:DR: The Smart Nation Innovations Week Symposium 2018 kicked off with the launch of the Digital Government Blueprint by the Singapore government. The Blueprint outlines how the government aims to become digital to the core and serve its citizens with heart. 

We highlight six key points from the Blueprint that you need to know.

Take a moment to think about the times you’ve had to interact with the government. You may have been buying a house, welcoming a new child into your life or setting up your own business. 
At these critical moments, the interface between public agencies and the citizens they serve matters most.

To smoothen processes and improve efficiency, the Singapore government is going digital, announcing its Digital Government Blueprint at the start of the Smart Nation Innovations Week Symposium, which took place from 2-6 June 2018. 

The Blueprint serves to focus whole-of-government efforts to draw insights from data and build digital technologies that are interoperable and secure, fundamentally changing the way the government operates.

“Our Smart Nation journey has to improve daily life in our city and make it more convenient and secure; create exciting jobs and opportunities for everyone; and energise those who are able, creative and driven to pursue their dreams not only in Singapore, but also to serve the global community,” said Mr Teo Chee Hean, deputy prime minister of Singapore and coordinating minister for national security, at the opening ceremony of the symposium.

We feature six strategies you need to know about the Digital Government Blueprint.

1. Integrating services around your needs

Technology is not a silver bullet that magically solves all problems; it must be wielded appropriately for it to yield positive outcomes. Rather than pursue technology for its own sake, the Singapore government will consider the needs of citizens and businesses in the development of digital government services.

Citizens can expect a more anticipatory approach by the government. The Moments of Life (Families) app, developed to support parents with children below six years of age, is the first step in this initiative. By bundling streamlined services and information such as online birth registration and baby bonus eligibility in a single platform, new parents will be able to access everything they need via their mobile phones.

Likewise, businesses will be able to transact with the government in a hassle-free manner. LicenseOne, which was launched in 2016, is a government-wide portal for enterprise owners to apply for new licenses and renew existing ones online, in compliance with licensing and regulatory standards. The Business Grants Portal, on the other hand, is the go-to page for companies to tap on grants that support their business objectives.

2. Strengthening integration between policy, operations and technology

Digital technologies are just one leg of the tripod that strengthens and stabilises digital governance. The other two balancing factors are policy and operations. Integrating the three are key to achieving the ideals of a Smart Nation.

Under the Digital Government Blueprint, the government will deploy automation and artificial intelligence (AI), especially in operations that involve in rule-based and predictive tasks. A set of guidelines on the use of AI will be developed so as to better manage the associated risks. At the same time, the Internet of Things and the Smart Nation Sensor Platform will help create a city that is more responsive its denizens’ needs as well as assist in evidence-based policymaking. 

Chief digital strategy officers have been appointed to spearhead and execute digitalisation plans within ministries and public agencies. They will work closely with chief information officers who will provide the necessary technical advice.

3. Building common digital and data platforms

Being able to access a shared repository of data and self-service platform  across different digital platforms is important for seamless integration. Consequently, standards for data and data architecture will be a key focus of the Digital Government Blueprint. The Singapore Government Technology Stack (SGTS) is another critical enabler of common digital and data platforms, serving as the core infrastructure for all government agencies to develop digital services. E-citizen service MyInfo was the first application to be developed on the SGTS.

Importantly, digital platforms like MyInfo will be extended to businesses. For example, the MyInfo Developer & Partner portal was launched in November 2017 for private sector enterprises to integrate their services with the government-verified central database of citizens’ information. 

Despite the advantages of sharing data, safeguards must be put in place to ensure that only authorised parties can access sensitive information. The Public Sector Governance Act has therefore been formalised to ensure that data is shared in a responsible manner. 

4. Operating reliable, resilient and secure systems

Although going digital has its benefits for governance, all of it will be for naught if cybersecurity is overlooked. Given the increased sophistication of recent cyberattacks, building capability to protect databases, systems and services against cyber criminals is essential. 
The government is thus developing a cybersecurity strategy which entails enhanced monitoring of critical digital infrastructure to better detect and defend against cyberattacks. However, just as locks are useless if the homeowner forgets to close the gate, no amount of cybersecurity protocols will suffice if people are not trained to recognise and avoid malware threats.

To raise cybersecurity awareness, public officers will have to undertake a cybersecurity literacy curriculum during their induction programmes. Additionally, campaigns to educate public officers and the general public on good ‘hygiene’ in cyberspace will be carried out. 

5. Raising our digital capabilities to pursue innovation

While people may be a weak link in cybersecurity, they are also the key driving force behind digital government and Smart Nation initiatives. The government thus seeks to strengthen and grow the available pool of talent through a Centre of Excellence for information and communications technology and smart systems.

By building an in-house team of technical experts, government agencies will be able to move quickly and strategically to capture opportunities in the digital space. The government is also committed to training 20,000 public officers in data science over the next five years.

Furthermore, a Smart Nation Scholarship was launched in March 2018 to attract and groom the next generation of developers and leaders for the Government Technology Agency of Singapore, the Infocommunications Media Development Authority and the Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore. 

6. Co-creating with citizens and businesses, and facilitating adoption

Even with talent and an ecosystem of innovation, there is still a need for a consultative approach when creating digital solutions for citizens. The government will therefore engage frequently with citizens and businesses, weighing their feedback and insights to iterate digital government applications and services. Encouraging this diversity of ideas early on is more likely to result in a solution that is better adopted when it is rolled out.

Moreover, incorporating multiple views and different perspectives will allow the final digital product or platform will be more inclusive. To make sure that government digital services are user-friendly, accessible and beneficial to different segments of society, the government will publish a set of digital standards and design principles for developers by end-2018.