Early tech push eases Covid-19 impact

Digital services such as Moments of Life and the GoBusiness portal are helping the community adapt to a new way of life

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When the Government announced the mandatory shift to full home-based learning for schools and institutes of higher learning on April 8, students and teachers had to adapt swiftly to new methods of learning with technology.

Mr Morier Adam, 19, a second-year biomedical science student at Republic Polytechnic (RP), went from attending classroom discussions and seminars to online lessons at home via Learning Environment Online, or LEO 2.0 - a learning management system that brings together the teaching and self-directed learning technologies used by the institute.

The custom-built system will soon be enhanced with cloud-hosted capabilities.

Introduced by the polytechnic in 2017, LEO 2.0 lets students access online learning content, such as videos, quizzes and discussion forums, collaborate with classmates, and submit assignments with their laptops and mobile devices.

Mr Adam is among 13,000 students and lecturers at RP who can use the online portal to keep up with the school curriculum.

Republic Polytechnic student Morier Adam, 19, went from attending classroom discussions and interactive seminars to online lessons at home via LEO 2.0 - a learning management system for self-directed learning that will soon be further enhanced with cloud-hosted capabilities. PHOTO: REPUBLIC POLYTECHNIC

The 19-year-old admits that full home-based learning has taken some getting used to. "It's so much easier to hold discussions in person, compared to doing it online where only one person can talk at a time. Conversations don't happen as fast and so collaborating is definitely challenging."

He stressed, however, that the shift to home-based learning has otherwise been seamless with the help of LEO 2.0, which he started using when he entered the polytechnic.

"LEO 2.0 was already implemented before Covid-19 and has been very helpful during this pandemic. It made it easy for us to adapt to digital learning," he said.

Smart Nation push in a pandemic

Such nimble responses to the Covid-19 crisis have underscored the importance of Singapore's Smart Nation vision, which focuses on harnessing technology to improve lives and livelihoods while staying ahead as a global city.

At a time when lifestyle habits are drastically altered and economic activity disrupted, technology and innovation have helped citizens and businesses adjust to new norms.

When Madam Crystal Chew, 29, gave birth to her first child in February, she was worried about the amount of paperwork and travelling she would have to do to register her daughter's birth at the hospital and Immigration and Checkpoints Authority building.

Her fears were eased when staff at Thomson Medical Centre told her about Moments of Life (MOL), a one-stop mobile platform that provides a suite of government services to support citizens' needs at various milestones.

Key features of the mobile application, which was developed for young parents and the elderly, include electronic application for birth registration, online access to your child's immunisation records and access to information on government schemes and benefits.

Families can also use MOL to register their children in pre-schools in an upcoming pilot trial with NTUC First Campus.

Through the app, Madam Chew was able to register her newborn's birth in the comfort of her home just a few days after being discharged from the hospital. "I liked that I did not have to rush to do the registration during my stay in the hospital."

She added that the app interface made it easy to use.

With MOL, the amount of time spent on personal application processes can be whittled down significantly.

At the Committee of Supply (COS) debate this year, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative, said the app reduces a parent's waiting time during the birth registration process from an hour to a mere 15 minutes.

He added that the MOL app, developed by the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), will be enhanced later this year to provide more Singaporeans with access to simpler government services.

According to GovTech, these services will include those related to job hunting, tax management and travel information of Singaporeans living here and abroad.

Since its launch in 2018, the app has been downloaded by more than 150,000 users and used to register six in 10 newborns at government and private hospitals.

Back in business

Aside from improving the lives of citizens, the Government's Smart Nation initiative also supports businesses in Singapore.

Last October, the Government launched the GoBusiness portal to help business owners with one of the most challenging aspects of starting operations - applying for licences.

Developed by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, GovTech and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the portal streamlines regulatory requirements and digitalises transactions between the Government and businesses, fostering a pro-enterprise environment.

At the COS debate, Dr Balakrishnan cited the "extremely onerous process" that food and beverage (F&B) businesses undergo to apply for the right licences. Such enterprises have as many as 14 different licences to apply for and over 800 form fields to fill out.

To ease complex application processes, GoBusiness offers a "Guided Journey" feature for F&B businesses that provides a four-step process to help identify the licences they need and which agency to approach to get their business up and running.

As of January, over 460 F&B establishments were able to secure their licences quickly and easily through the portal. GovTech added that the portal helps businesses to cut their time spent on license applications by an average of 10 to 14 days.

To support businesses in Singapore's post-circuit breaker reopening, the Government rolled out an additional platform called Covid GoBusiness.

The platform provides businesses with useful information such as the list of permitted services allowed to resume operations, applications for exemptions, safe management measures and guidelines, and a list of government support schemes that businesses can apply for during this period.

Mr Daniel Chan, deputy director of GoBusiness at GovTech, explained that the portal plays a crucial role in guiding companies as they navigate business life amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

GoBusiness caters mostly to F&B businesses but will be expanded to include more industry sectors. GovTech will also enhance the platform to provide more assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises and launch an e-advisor to recommend appropriate government grants and support for business needs.

This article is part of a series by GovTech on the re-engineering of the Government's operating system to provide faster and better public services.

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