Will GovTech turn Singapore into a Smart Nation?

Singapore has launched their Government Technology Agency in an effort to spearhead its digital revolution. Can GovTech help Singapore fulfill its hope of becoming a Smart Nation? How comprehensive is GovTech and what are its objectives?

By Rasa Sarwari

Many Singaporeans may be thrilled to hear that their government has established a new board to handle its digital and data policies. The Government Technology Agency or GovTech, will focus on improving Singapore’s citizen-centric services, through partnerships with numerous public institutions, industries and citizens, in order to reinvent the delivery of public services. GovTech seeks to improve the delivery process through the utilization of the latest technologies, including analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science.

Leading Singapore’s digital revolution

Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Singapore’s Minster of Communications and Information, has said GovTech “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”.

During GovTech’s launch, Dr. Ibrahim stressed that the new agency would align itself with The Ministry of Finance, in order to collaborate on the management of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, so they may extend the use of the consent-based personal data platform, MyInfo, to the financial sector.

The platform can store information such as someone’s name, NRIC number, income statements, employment records, recorded address, owned properties and a myriad of other personal details.

MyInfo’s comprehensive database of user information would speed up the ability of Singaporeans to conduct transactions with Banks and other institutions, as it would eliminate the need of personal documents for confirmation. Subsequently, MyInfo could also be used for other transactions as well, such as buying a home, or applying to a job.

Moreover, not only citizens benefit from GovTech’s initiatives to restructure public-private transactions, businesses will benefit too. CorpPass was implemented in September by GovTech, so that all businesses and corporations would have a single account for online transactions with government institutions, instead of needing various login IDs.

GovTech has also created the National Trade Platform, in cooperation with Singapore Customs, which allows companies in logistics, export and other financial sectors, to have access to a wide-ranging database of valuable trade information.

Fulfilling Singapore’s vision of a Smart Nation

Singapore’s new tech agency will also play an integral role in fulfilling Singapore’s dream of creating a Smart Nation. GovTech is currently developing The Smart Nation Platform (SNP) and is applying features such as video and data analytics capabilities, as well as an information sharing gateway.

Those features will allow public institutions to obtain valuable data analytics and information, in order to aid in the effective management of Singapore, through better public service delivery, astute urban planning and proficient utility management.

Accordingly, GovTech will also be responsible for Singapore’s public information communication technology (ICT) sector, assuring that effective policies are set in place to maintain cyber-security and deter cyber-attacks, as to safeguard Singapore’s vision of a Smart Nation.

GovTech is determined on increasing the public sectors technical capacities too, through reinforcing and developing domestic technical knowledge and capabilities in certain areas including data science, government ICT infrastructure, geospatial technology and application development.

Subsequently, GovTech’s data science division has already started collaborating with public monetary bodies on its “Pulse of the Economy” project.  The Pulse of the Economy initiative will utilize high-frequency big data to create innovative indicators for better urban and monetary planning.

GovTech also seeks to create a pool of local talent, thus they’ve expanded the Smart Nation Fellowship Programme. The Fellowship programme aims to empower Singapore’s youth, and have them take a digital and IT driven approach to solving Singapore’s issues, through placements at various divisions, ranging from digital services to cyber-security.

The Future of GovTech

GovTech’s Chief Executive Jacqueline Poh has stressed that “technology is playing a disruptive role in many sectors and [the] government must tap … [into] 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. 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.”

The Singaporean government’s hope in fulfilling its vision of a Smart Nation lies with GovTech. However, securing Singapore’s vision is no small task, as GovTech must effectively collaborate with a myriad of public and private sectors, in order to create new platforms to ease the transaction processes between citizens, businesses and government agencies.

Despite the odds, GovTech is proving capable in leading Singapore’s digital revolution, through its successful implementation of MyInfo, Pulse of the Economy, National Trade Platform and other online platforms.