Parliament: New $5 million fund for cross-agency projects to improve productivity

Foreign workers cutting grass in Bishan. A sensor that measures the height of grass in real-time will in future allow NParks officers to monitor their contractors' work remotely and reduce the need for physical inspections.
Foreign workers cutting grass in Bishan. A sensor that measures the height of grass in real-time will in future allow NParks officers to monitor their contractors' work remotely and reduce the need for physical inspections.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Imagine a sensor that measures the height of grass in real-time, allowing a grasscutter to know if he has met the standards for a particular plot of land.

It may soon come to fruition: a prototype has been created by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech). If implemented, NParks officers can monitor their contractors' work remotely, reducing the need for physical inspections.

More of such collaborative innovations is what the Municipal Services Office (MSO), set up in 2014 to improve inter-government agency cooperation in municipal issues, wants.

To that end, up to $5 million a year will be set aside to support inter-agency projects. Agencies can tap on the fund from May onwards.

Minister for Community, Culture and Youth Grace Fu, who oversees the MSO, said on Tuesday (March 7) that it is one of the steps the office is taking to enable the 11 agencies and 16 town councils it works with to be more productive.

"This is particularly critical in view of the tightening labour market and technological disruptions," she said. "Municipal service delivery will need to adapt and take advantage of new technologies to be better and more efficient."

As for the sensor, which has undergone a successful trial, Ms Fu said the MSO is working with Spring Singapore to find firms to commercialise it.

She also gave updates on the MSO's OneService app, through which residents can report municipal issues and problems. By the end of last year, it had a total of 83,000 registered users reporting some 85,000 cases - an increase of over 70 per cent in users, and 190 per cent in cases received compared to the start of that year.

By streamlining processes - such as by appointing the Land Transport Authority as the first responder for feedback on connectivity-related infrastructure - the office has also cut down the time taken to close cases involving multiple agencies: from 21 days in October 2014, to 12 days by the end of last year.

The accuracy of routing feedback to the right agency also improved slightly: from about 85 per cent in 2014, to 88 per cent by the end of last year.

Looking ahead, Ms Fu said the office will "go beyond merely responding quickly to feedback" and anticipate problems ahead of time by studying data.

One example is how the office used data analytics to identify a strong correlation between the presence of stray dogs and construction sites.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority now works with the Housing Board (HDB) to trap stray dogs before and after infrastructure works and ensure proper food waste disposal at canteens in construction sites, as well as with animal welfare groups to rehome suitable dogs.

"Ultimately, MSO's work is not merely about improving agency coordination," she said. "What we hope to achieve is in fact a deeper, cultural transformation: to change how agencies work and how they collaborate with one another."