All civil servants to use Facebook's Workplace

People preparing the stage ahead of an event to launch Workplace, Facebook's chat platform for businesses, in London on Oct 10. Workplace will replace the Public Service Division's in-house development called Cube. The decision to go with Workplace w
People preparing the stage ahead of an event to launch Workplace, Facebook's chat platform for businesses, in London on Oct 10. Workplace will replace the Public Service Division's in-house development called Cube. The decision to go with Workplace was made after considering its security, cost and ease of use.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

S'pore is first govt in the world to adopt social networking firm's chat platform for businesses

All public servants in Singapore will be using Workplace, Facebook's chat platform for businesses, to communicate with one another, marking yet another first for Singapore among governments in the world.

The professional edition of the popular Facebook social networking tool has been rolled out to 5,300 public officers in 15 public agencies including the Public Service Division (PSD), Ministry of Communications and Information, and Civil Service College.

It will allow them to communicate with one another on their mobile phones and tablets.

  • About the platform

  • Workplace by Facebook is an advertisement-free platform, separate from the more common personal Facebook accounts that the public uses.

    But they work in similar ways.

    For instance, users can post live videos, and store files, photos and videos.

    After a three-month trial period of Workplace, companies pay a monthly fee based only on who has used it for that month.

    Based on the pricing information on Facebook's website, costs for the service for around 143,000 user accounts are estimated at $154,000 a month.

    Other corporate users include Singapore's GovTech and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

The plan is to get all 143,000 public servants from all agencies on board by March, said Mr Peter Ong, head of the civil service.

"We must always be on the lookout for cutting-edge technological developments to help us innovate, and apply these in our public service," he said at the PS21 ExCEL (Excellence through Continuous Enterprise and Learning) Convention at ITE College Central yesterday.

As a security procedure, highly classified work matters will not be shared via Workplace.

Public servants also cannot use their personal Facebook accounts to log in, and have to log in using their work e-mail.

Moreover, public officers' mobile devices are not plugged to the intranet, where sensitive government matters reside.

Workplace will replace the Public Service Division's in-house development called Cube, launched in 2013. Cube did not take off, he said, citing factors such as unfamiliarity with the interface and slow loading.

The decision to go with Workplace was made after considering its security, cost and ease of use.

Based on pricing information on Facebook's website, monthly costs for 143,000 user accounts are estimated at $154,000 after a three- month free trial.

"We have seen agencies reduce the number of internal e-mails sent by posting major announcements on Workplace," said Mr Ong.

The use of Workplace follows the Government's move to delink all public servants' computers from Web surfing, first reported in June, to prevent leaks from work e-mail and shared documents amid heightened security threats.

Mr Aloysius Cheang, Asia-Pacific executive vice-president of global computing security association Cloud Security Alliance, said internal policies have to be enforced to ensure users do not post pictures that may contain classified information.

"Facebook, on the other hand, is obliged by its service level agreement to ensure that customer information is not leaked," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2016, with the headline 'All civil servants to use Facebook's Workplace'. Print Edition | Subscribe