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Why It Matters

Registering voters electronically: A culture of innovation

Singaporeans who have voted during elections here will be familiar with this sight: After arriving at a polling station, election officials will take their identity card, then flip through a printed register to find their name and strike it out.

But the days of this time-consuming duty may be numbered, as the Elections Department (ELD) said last Friday that it will test out registering voters electronically on Polling Day at a future election.

Its proposed system scans the barcode on a voter's identity card. The benefits are obvious: Because registration is faster, voters spend less time waiting their turn. The ELD will also need fewer officials for registration, freeing people up for other tasks.

But sheer convenience aside, this nifty use of technology illustrates the public service's drive to find better and more efficient ways to implement policies and serve Singaporeans.

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Speaking at two separate events last week, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is Minister-in-charge of the Civil Service, urged public servants to pick up the pace of innovation.

Technical innovation, though, is just one part of the equation. What is more important is for the public service to evolve to meet the needs of a better-educated populace with higher aspirations.

This means, for instance, that public officers should consider the citizen's perspective when designing government processes, so as to build more public support, Mr Teo had said.

 

A pervasive culture of innovation is also becoming all the more vital as the country moves into the next lap of nation building and deals with more complex challenges brought on by technological change and an ageing population.

Since the early days, Singapore has always learnt from other countries and adapted their best practices in innovative ways. But in today's fast-changing world, the innovation will have to come earlier: in anticipating changes and devising our own solutions.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2017, with the headline 'A culture of innovation'. Print Edition | Subscribe