SPEECH BY DR YAACOB IBRAHIM, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS & INFORMATION, AT THE LAUNCH OF THE GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY AGENCY ON 7 OCTOBER 2016 AT 10.20AM AT THE STAR THEATRE, STAR VISTA
Mr Ng Chee Khern, Chairman/GovTech
Ms Jacqueline Poh, CE/GovTech
Ladies and gentlemen
It is my pleasure to join you today to launch the Government Technology Agency, or GovTech, which will transform the way the Government uses ICT and related engineering to improve the lives of our citizens. GovTech’s launch follows the launch of the Info-communications Media Development Authority or IMDA last week, as our response to the convergence of the infocomm and media sectors.
2 To thrive in today’s digital age, Singapore must remain forward-looking and embrace technological change, in order to realise our vision of becoming a Smart Nation. I had spoken last week about how the IMDA will help to bring Singapore into a digital future. The Government has a big role to play too, 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.
3 GovTech will be the agency that drives this mission, by building up the Government’s strength in harnessing ICT and related engineering. In doing so, GovTech will play many roles.
Transforming the way the Government delivers public services
4 First, GovTech will transform the way our Government delivers public services. One key digital government initiative that GovTech is working on is “Moments of Life”, a platform that will anticipate when citizens will require certain government services, based on the events and stages of their lives that they are in. GovTech will also work with other agencies to develop digital services that are new, innovative, and meaningful to our citizens. For example, GovTech and the Ministry of Education (MOE) are collaborating on a digital service initiative called the “Parents Gateway”. The Parents Gateway will allow parents to engage more 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 for paper forms. GovTech and MOE will jointly try out this concept in five schools later this year.
5 GovTech will also make use of industry best practices, and will embrace concepts from other disciplines such as design thinking and behavioural science. I am glad to share with you that GovTech will collaborate with the DesignSingapore Council, in the development of digital services. In the future, you and I can look forward to government digital services that are citizen-centric, anticipatory, and secure.
Safeguarding the security and resiliency of government ICT systems
6 Second, GovTech will be a guardian of the security and resiliency of government ICT systems, in order to preserve the high level of trust that the public has in our Government. To do so, GovTech will strengthen the governance of public sector ICT systems through stronger technical policies and rules. Setting and raising ICT standards across the board is increasingly important, as the interconnectedness of our government networks mean that the security of the entire system depends on its weakest link.
7 GovTech will also have a central role in ensuring government ICT security. As an architect and designer of many central ICT systems used by the whole-of-government, GovTech will internalise security upstream in the development process. GovTech will also proactively review the Government’s cyber threat landscape. Its monitoring centres will maintain comprehensive round-the-clock visibility of intrusions to the government networks, and swiftly detect and respond to cyber-attacks. This will enable the Government to protect sensitive citizen and national data, and fulfil its promise of delivering digital services that are world-class and reliable.
8 This role in government cybersecurity puts GovTech in good stead to support Singapore’s Smart Nation vision. GovTech will work with partners to install the secure and resilient public sector infrastructure needed for a Smart Nation. For example, GovTech will work with the Energy Market Authority to tap on their Advanced Metering Infrastructure to provide near-real-time and useful information to allow consumers to track and manage their utility consumption on their personal smart mobile devices. Later, I will also touch on how GovTech will create platforms that promote a vibrant ecosystem of what we call “Smart Citizens”, to co-create solutions with industry, using open data and Application Programming Interfaces.
Delivering whole-of-government and national-level ICT projects
9 Third, GovTech will continue IDA’s role of delivering whole-of-government and national-level ICT projects. Two recent projects are the National Trade Platform, a one-stop trade information management platform, which streamlines processes for our businesses, and CorpPass, which provides businesses with a secure means of authentication when conducting transactions with the Government.
10 This does not mean that GovTech will take on all whole-of-government ICT projects. GovTech will actively partner with the ICT industry in areas that the private sector excels in. The areas that GovTech will retain are those that are core to the running of government systems and services, and engineering capabilities which the Government wants to develop as a strength.
Building up engineering capabilities in the Government
11 In order to deliver the three objectives that I have just shared, GovTech will build up a strong and sustainable talent pool of ICT capabilities, as part of the Government’s broader drive to build up engineering capabilities. GovTech will develop capabilities in impactful ICT areas that expand the toolkit that the Government can use. One such area is data science. The data science team at HIVE has been working on a dashboard called “Pulse of the Economy”, which takes in high-frequency anonymised data such as electricity consumption, crowd density and EZ-Link travel. It will allow the Government to complement traditional economic indicators such as GDP and employment rate with new measurements to monitor the economy and more importantly, identify growth opportunities. For example, the electricity consumed in, and number of people travelling to, an industrial park can provide an indicator of the economic activity happening there. In another project, the Housing & Development Board (HDB) and GovTech’s data scientists analysed over ninety thousand HDB e-mails. The text analysis revealed a cluster of feedback associated with key collection appointments. The findings have helped spark a change from pre-specified key collection appointments to an online booking system for all flat buyers to book their preferred time slot for keys collection. This will bring about an even better service experience for home buyers and help HDB optimise its frontline resources.
12 Other than data science, GovTech will build up ICT capability centres in government ICT infrastructure, software development, and sensors and the Internet of Things. It will also collaborate with the Cyber Security Agency and the Singapore Land Authority on capability centres in cybersecurity and geospatial technology respectively.
GovTech will use ICT in ways that involve you
13 While I have shared many of GovTech’s projects with other government agencies, GovTech’s work goes beyond the Government. GovTech will also work with our citizens, our businesses, and the community at large.
14 In the realm of digital services, GovTech will partner with the industry to provide better services for our citizens. GovTech, the Ministry of Finance and the Monetary Authority of Singapore are working on a Proof-of-Concept to extend MyInfo to the banking industry. MyInfo is a personal data platform that removes the need for citizens to fill in government forms repeatedly when transacting with the digital services of different participating government agencies. We hope to similarly simplify bank transactions for citizens, by eliminating the need to provide personal documents for verification.
15 GovTech will also encourage co-creation between citizens and businesses by promoting an open data culture within the Government, and developing Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, to facilitate such sharing with the community. 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. I understand that he has plans to next produce a mobile app for public transport.
16 Even if you are not a developer like Chee Aun, GovTech would like to invite you to co-create the next generation of digital government services. At GovTech’s Digital Experience Lab, focus groups are organised to provide input on the user interface of government websites and apps.
17 GovTech will also play its part to bring all Singaporeans along this digital journey, especially the less tech-savvy. Since 2005, IDA and the Ministry of Finance have built up an island-wide network of 26 Citizen Connect Centres, or CCCs, to help those who do not have computers or an Internet connection, and who need guided help to use Government e-services. GovTech and MOF will work together to enhance our CCCs to make it even easier for users by progressively upgrading the equipment and redesigning the user interfaces. Coined CCC+s, the first ones will be at the Toa Payoh Central and Chong Pang Community Centres, and Our Tampines Hub.
18 GovTech is a continuation of the Government’s proactive and progressive approach towards leveraging technology and evolving with the times. IDA has taken Singapore to the top of the World Economic Forum’s Global IT Report and Waseda’s e-Gov Report for two years running, and we have consistently ranked near the top of United Nations’ eGov Development Index. As a dedicated organisation in ICT and related engineering, GovTech will be able to delve even more deeply into advanced ICT technologies and keep up with ICT trends and applications. GovTech will be well-placed to devote a singular focus to transforming ICT services, systems, and standards across Government.
19 At the beginning of my speech I described today as a significant occasion. I believe that GovTech will touch our lives in many ways across our various capacities, whether as an individual, employee, Government employee, business owner, family member, volunteer, or ICT geek or even politicians. We can look forward to higher quality government digital services, a safe ICT infrastructure and systems, ICT solutions that enhance your working environment, co-creation initiatives involving citizens and businesses, and a Smart Nation enabled by ICT.
20 Thank you.