SingPass Mobile team, HDB and RSAF engineers receive public sector awards

The SingPass team won a Service Delivery Excellence Award for their efforts in modernising the 17-year-old platform.
The SingPass team won a Service Delivery Excellence Award for their efforts in modernising the 17-year-old platform.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - In developing the SingPass Mobile app, the development team was guided by one important principle: Nobody gets left behind as Singapore strives towards its vision of being a smart nation.

This can be seen in the way the app incorporates screen reader and voice command functions, like Siri in Apple's iOS devices, so users with low vision can easily benefit from its functions, said Mr Chew Kia Hwee, a user experience (UX) designer at the Government Technology Agency (GovTech).

Also, those without smartphones can still access SingPass with a one-time password (OTP) sent to them by SMS, he added.

By the end of the year, users will also be able to receive OTPs on behalf of their family members, especially the elderly, who do not have mobile phones.

Designing accessible technology

"Our method is called 'designing for the 100 per cent'. That is our aspiration, and we want to move towards designing to allow modes of access for different types of users who might have a range of abilities," said Mr Chew.

The app, launched in 2018, relies on biometric verification such as fingerprint scanners on smartphones.

It is now a key part of the SingPass national authentication and digital identity system which allows users to verify their identities online and transact not only with various government agencies and services but also private sector entities like banks and healthcare institutions.

Previously, users would have to remember a password to access SingPass, which led to GovTech receiving over 150,000 password reset requests a month.

For their efforts in modernising the 17-year-old SingPass platform, the team won a Service Delivery Excellence Award on Wednesday (Oct 21) at the annual Public Sector Transformation (PST) Awards.

Eighty awards were given out this year across 12 categories to various public officers and agencies.

The Housing Board (HDB) won the Transformative Agency of the Year Award for digitalising its services and platforms, among other things.

Almost all HDB transactions now online

More than 200 e-services are available around the clock on the HDB website and mobile app today.

The HDB said on Wednesday that more than 53 million transactions were completed online in 2019, accounting for about 99 per cent of all its transactions.

A chatbot on the HDB website answers about 30,000 inquiries a month, including about 7,000 related to buying and selling flats.

HDB chief executive Cheong Koon Hean said: "As a result of our service transformation efforts, physical counter transactions have dropped from 2.6 million in 2011 to just over 600,000 in 2019, making up just 1 per cent of all the transactions in HDB.

"With almost all our services having gone online, our customer service staff can focus on providing more personalised assistance in areas where the human touch remains essential, such as financial counselling for flat owners in financial difficulty."

A world-class idea

Another award winner was a team led by Military Expert 3 (ME3) Ng Yong Yong, a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) engineer.

ME3 Ng's team won the Dare To Do Award for proposing a more efficient way to fix defects in the wing position lights on the F-15SG fighter jet. The award recognises public officers or teams who identify opportunities to do things better, take risks and persevere.

Previously, the standard procedure for fixing such defects was to replace the entire lighting assembly, which required a few days of downtime.

ME3 Ng and his team came up with the idea of replacing just the faulty lighting module instead and worked with American technical experts from Boeing, which manufactures the plane.

There was no precedent for replacing individual components within a larger assembly, ME3 Ng said.

"To convince the airworthiness authorities, my team sourced through engineering standards for similar procedures across relevant industrial practices to justify our proposed procedures," he said.

"We also conducted our own research and trials to prove to the relevant authorities that our method would meet aviation standards."

The improved process resulted in cost savings of about 99 per cent and reduced the amount of time required to fix the defect from 48 man-hours to just three.

The team's efforts even benefited F-15 users overseas, as the new method has now become part of Boeing's official technical manual.

Vision for public sector transformation

Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing congratulated the award winners in a video message shown during the virtual ceremony.

Mr Chan, who is also the Trade and Industry Minister, said he had a two-part vision for public sector transformation.

"The first part is that we can keep this little red dot of ours going, growing and glowing, so that we will distinguish ourselves as a people and as a country amidst all the uncertainties and competition," he said.

"The second part of my vision is that we can build a system... where every member of our society can find meaningful work and find it fulfilling to contribute to our continued survival and success."