10 smart public-sector ideas

If you have ever had to type your address into an online government document, you will know how frustratingly easy it is to get it wrong. But an opt-in feature called MyInfo now stores that personal data, so you never input it incorrectly again.

Frustrated by overflowing rubbish bins in your estate? There are now sensors to tell garbage collectors which are full.

Want to know what time your bus arrives? There is an app for that - MyTransport.sg.

These are just three of the ways in which the Government is being the flagbearer for Singapore's Smart Nation initiative.

Ministries and public-sector agencies are using technology to create services to make people's lives easier and make it more convenient to deal with the public sector.

Leading the charge is the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA). Software development was something it used to outsource. But two years ago, it built a central team of engineers, data scientists, coders and others to do this.

It has built an application platform for government mobile apps to plug into. This platform has been tested to ensure it works with all mobile devices and computers. This promotes reusability and time to market. Certain software components need to be developed only once and then re-used. Agencies save development time and costs because they do not need to do testing.

Next up, the IDA technical team is working with ICT vendors that have won tenders for agency projects. One collaboration involves building from scratch a National Trade Platform to replace the 20-years-plus Tradenet.

IDA's assistant chief executive Chan Cheow Hoe said in this way, both parties learn from each other, which lifts overall industry standards. "It also means the Government now knows the code and systems developed for each project, so that should anything happen, it can provide future support."

Here are 10 mobile apps and systems developed by the public sector:

MyResponder

Designed to help save lives. It alerts the Community First Responder Programme - a collaboration between the People's Association, Ministry of Health and Singapore Civil Defence Force - to send someone to perform CPR on a cardiac arrest victim while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

MyInfo

An opt-in feature where users need provide their personal data only once to the Government, instead of doing so for every e-transaction. This saves time, avoids mistakes and eventually removes the need for physical documents as verification. It is now available across 10 e-services, including applications for new flats, the Baby Bonus scheme and polytechnic admissions.

By 2018, most SingPass-authenticated e-services will be linked to this platform.

SGBioAtlas

A citizen-based app for people to share sightings of flora and fauna here. People send in their sightings, which are then mapped.

Litter-bin management system

There are two types of sensors installed in about 10,000 rubbish bins, the positioning sensors and fullness level sensors. Garbage collectors can know which bins need collection. This also allows the National Environment Agency to find out where bins are most needed and to monitor the work of waste collectors.

MyTransport.sg

A major mobile app from the Land Transport Authority (LTA). It comprises several apps that help users of public transport.

One is Bus ETA, which helps reduce waiting time at bus stops. Sensors embedded in 5,000 buses let the LTA monitor the travelling time of buses. Analysing the data, the LTA system can predict bus arrival times. Launched in April last year, Bus ETA tells the daily ridership of 3.75 million commuters' arrival times - with between 95 and 98 per cent accuracy.

Outpatient Pharmacy Automation System

Available at National University Hospital (NUH) and others, this cuts waiting time for prescriptions to be readied at hospitals and polyclinics. At NUH, for example, 95 per cent of prescriptions are filled within 15 minutes.

eMOS

An electronic meal-ordering system prevents wrong diet orders from being given to patients. Orders are taken on iPads. This enhances accuracy, efficiency and productivity. The system saves 40 man hours for nurses and, for kitchen staff, seven man hours in consolidating orders.

AG Boxes (aggregation gateway boxes)

These provide street-level connectivity to send data such as traffic numbers and air quality measurements, collected by cameras, sensors and other components, to government agencies for analysis.

They are located at places such as traffic junctions and bus stops. They also supply power to equipment such as surveillance cameras and weather sensors. Applications include security and crowd management.

SingStat app from Statistics Singapore

This lets people easily access national data such as gross domestic product figures, manufacturing indicators and population information on the go. More than 200 charts show the data in an easy-to-understand manner.

Open data

This has about 1,000 data sets that can be processed by computers. They can be used by anyone from schoolchildren to teachers or retirees to develop apps to benefit the community.

Grace Chng


Correction note: This story has been updated for clarity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 22, 2016, with the headline '10 smart public-sector ideas'. Print Edition | Subscribe