Taking up the challenge to improve status quo

Mr Soh Leng Wan, who helped lead efforts to rejuvenate Orchard Road, is among the administrative officers promoted this year.
Mr Soh Leng Wan, who helped lead efforts to rejuvenate Orchard Road, is among the administrative officers promoted this year.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

When residents report neighbourhood issues such as problems with infrastructure or cleanliness in the future, there may not be a need for staff of the Municipal Services Office (MSO) to determine manually the agency these would fall under.

Instead, the MSO is working to develop an automated system that analyses complaints - along with their locations - and indicates the government agency that should be involved.

But the human touch is still needed even as the unit uses technology and data analytics to resolve concerns more efficiently, MSO senior director for policy and planning Yip Hon Weng, 41, told The Straits Times. "If a case is being passed around but no one is taking it up, we will get alerts to remind the agencies to look at it," he said.

Mr Yip, who has been with the MSO since it was set up in 2014 to improve cooperation between agencies on municipal matters, was one of 69 officers from different ministries promoted or assuming new appointments at the annual Administrative Service dinner and promotion ceremony yesterday.

With around four years now of feedback data, the MSO is looking to map trends, in order to develop a system that can, for instance, flag unusual spikes in complaints, said Mr Yip.

It has also made headway in other areas, such as in introducing protocols to prevent certain types of problems from recurring. For example, there are protocols that help to avoid delays in the development and maintenance of infrastructure like covered linkways, he added.

Another administrative officer promoted, Mr Soh Leng Wan, 40, helped lead efforts to rejuvenate the Orchard Road shopping belt.

About efforts to bring shoppers back to the area, Mr Soh, senior director of the industry division in the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), said: "During the end-of-year season last year, there were many pop-up stores.

"That was partly because both agencies (MTI and Ministry of National Development) worked together to see if we could get private stakeholders, beyond existing mall owners, to introduce new concepts along the street and enliven it."

There was higher shopping traffic last year than in previous years, Mr Soh added. But there is no resting on one's laurels.

"The receptiveness of stakeholders has also been positive, but the question is, how do we make this more sustainable?" he said.

"We want (Orchard Road) to go beyond a retail shopping street; it has to have a lifestyle element as well... We do think that lifestyle needs will be what drives consumers next."

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2018, with the headline 'Taking up the challenge to improve status quo'. Print Edition | Subscribe