Public officers should pick up pace of innovation, says Teo Chee Hean

Ms Toh Hui Tin received the PS21 Distinguished Star Manager Award on Friday (May 19), one of the honours given out at the annual Excellence in Public Service Awards.
Ms Toh Hui Tin received the PS21 Distinguished Star Manager Award on Friday (May 19), one of the honours given out at the annual Excellence in Public Service Awards.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

SINGAPORE - It has not been easy for People's Association deputy constituency director Toh Hui Tin to champion the use of home monitoring kits under the Bukit Timah Eldercare Project.

The kits, which include motion detectors, are subsidised, and are meant for the homes of elderly people who live alone.

Once installed, it will trigger an alert when there has been prolonged inactivity, so caregivers can check if anything untoward has happened.

"(But) many seniors think it's a scam as it's brand-new," said Ms Toh, 37, who visits residents multiple times.

"It takes a lot of visits to gain their trust. We also speak to their next-of-kin and tell them about how the project can give them peace of mind that their relatives are safe."

So far, about a dozen seniors have installed the kits since the project began in end-2015.

For her hard work in driving innovation, Ms Toh received the PS21 Distinguished Star Manager Award on Friday (May 19), one of the honours given out at the annual Excellence in Public Service Awards.

At the ceremony, a total of 279 awards were given to public officers and agencies for good service and innovation, and to members of the public for being good customers.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, speaking at the event, urged public servants to pick up the pace of innovation.

Singapore is transforming its economy amid global uncertainty, and the public sector needs to adapt too, said the minister in charge of the civil service.

He listed three ways they could do so: by focusing on citizens' needs, working with each other in a coordinated way, and using more technology.

Mr Teo gave the example of how SingHealth patients can use the Health Buddy app to register their appointments remotely and get a queue number so they can show up just in time at the clinic. This saves them up to 30 minutes of waiting.

This creative solution shows how public servants can understand citizens' needs and design a programme to fulfil them, he said.

Mr Teo also urged agencies to work more closely together.

For example, the public service centre in the Our Tampines Hub, which opened last November, lets people complete multiple transactions involving different agencies all at one place, instead of visiting branch offices of different agencies.

The use of technology can also help public servants in their work, Mr Teo said.

"Middle managers can build a culture of innovation within their teams and inspire and empower officers to do their best," he added.