Public servants urged to view service through citizen's eyes

Chun Sing: New mindset needed to transform public service


A new app was held up yesterday by Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing as it embodies a mindset that public servants need to adopt.

The Moments of Life (Families) app, launched last week, allows parents to perform various functions relating to their children.

These include birth registrations, applying to the Baby Bonus scheme, searching for pre-schools and viewing a child's immunisation records.

Mr Chan was encouraged by the innovation, saying it showed public servants putting themselves "in the shoes of the people we serve".

The app removes the hassle of going to different government agencies to fill in forms and providing the same information repeatedly.

It represents a fundamental shift in thinking, he noted, saying: "We are not organising our service according to ministry lines, according to our own organisations. It is about organising government service and delivery from the perspective of the people we serve."

This new mindset is part of a transformation Mr Chan said he hopes to see in the public service, in which more empathetic policies and programmes will be designed from the citizen's point of view.


Many people say that we have reached a certain level of growth, that going forward, it will be 2 to 3 per cent growth on average. That sounds rather depressing. If it's 2 to 3 per cent growth on average, what does it mean for the economy, what does it mean for opportunities for our people? But the truth of it is that even if the average is 2 to 3 per cent, it does not mean that every sector, every industry is 2 to 3 per cent.

What it means is that it's 2 to 3 per cent on average, but there is a plus 5 per cent for various sectors and there's a minus 5 per cent for other sectors. Our job is to make sure that we keep creating the conditions for the 2 to 3 per cent (and higher). Our job is to make sure that those sectors that are minus 5 continue to be helped to adjust to get out of the minus 5. That is our job in the civil service. If each of us continues to aspire in our respective sectors to work on the plus 5 per cent, then actually there is no reason to believe that we will be always 2 to 3 per cent. I say this with a heavy heart because we should not get into a mode whereby we think that the average is sufficient.


He warned: "If we keep doing things the same way, we will do injustice to ourselves and our country. If we are not careful, we will be left behind in the dustbin of history."

Mr Chan was addressing 900 people, including public servants and their family members, at the Public Sector Transformation Awards ceremony. Held at Resorts World Sentosa Convention Centre, the ceremony saw 400 awards being given to individuals and agencies to recognise excellence in such fields as service delivery, innovation and best practices. It is a highlight of the annual Public Service Week, which runs till Sunday.

In his 35-minute opening address, Mr Chan, who is also Trade and Industry Minister, thanked the officers several times for their efforts and service to the nation, saying there are many reasons to be proud of Singapore's public service.

But they cannot afford to rest on their laurels, he told them as he highlighted other changes the public service needs to make in its transformation journey.

Mr Chan outlined four skill sets public servants need to develop.

The first is digital skills to keep up with a digital age. Programmes to help upgrade their digital literacy will be announced, he said.

Second, they need to learn and apply design thinking, which is the practice of drawing up processes based on the end-users' experience.


Systems thinking is a third required skill, as the types of problems Singaporeans face are increasingly complex and have to be addressed at a systems level, he added.

The last skill set is collaboration with Singaporeans - gathering ideas from the whole nation to tackle Singapore's problems.

Repeating his video message to all public servants, which he delivered on Monday, Mr Chan said: "Collaboration starts from the basic premise that we have the humility to admit and accept that we can't do it alone, and we do not always have the best ideas within our agencies."

Rallying the officers as he ended his speech, he urged them not to be disheartened if people fail to show appreciation. "I know sometimes it may be discouraging, and it might feel like not many people appreciate what you have to go through. But I can tell you that many, if not most, Singaporeans are very proud of the public service that we have."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'Public servants urged to view service through citizen's eyes'. Print Edition | Subscribe