Forum: Basic diligence with details remains key for digitalisation

Thirty years ago, the information technology (IT) publication I was editing - IT Singapore - featured the success stories of Singapore businesses using information technology solutions to raise efficiency and productivity.

They achieved that by avoiding or minimising human errors caused by manual data entry, among other things.

Concepts such as compatibility between hardware, between hardware and software, and between software, inter-operability between systems and applications, as well as application programming interface, were already being promoted in the 1980s.

Last week, I was surprised when the food that I ordered online from a restaurant was set to be delivered to the wrong residence due to an incorrect street address keyed in manually by its employee.

Fortunately for the delivery rider, I saw him searching around the neighbourhood and asked if he was delivering my order. I showed him my online order bearing my home address on my phone and he showed me the order with the wrong address on his.

Last month, food was delivered to my address by mistake.

These incidents may belie a serious problem undermining our national digitalisation efforts.

I shudder to think how many such errors are made each day in other industries. Each time an error occurs, the pay-per-task front-line worker may suffer financially.

What has happened to the inter-operability and compatibility of IT systems and solutions touted more than 30 years ago in Singapore?

Even if application programming interface is still a real issue in getting IT systems to "talk" to one another, what about good old-fashioned diligence when doing manual data entry and checking details when executing instructions?

Singapore has progressed by leaps and bounds in its application of IT since the 1980s.

The IT 2000 Masterplan, the Intelligent Nation 2015 Masterplan and the Services and Digital Economy Technology Roadmap of 2018 have been charting the way forward for Singapore to become a smart nation.

Basic diligence remains crucial when we are working with details. This requires discipline when executing orders and other instructions in the real world, with and without IT applications, in business or in daily life.

Joachim Sim Khim Huang

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