GovTech launched to lead digital transformation in public sector

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said GovTech will drive change in the public sector. ST PHOTO: IRENE THAM
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said GovTech will drive change in the public sector. ST PHOTO: IRENE THAM
Prototype of a smart walking stick that automatically sends an alert to the caretaker of its elderly user should the stick fall and remain on the ground for a few minutes. ST PHOTO: IRENE THAM

SINGAPORE - A new agency with 1,800 data scientists, technologists and engineers launched on Friday (Oct 7) to pave the way for the Singapore Government to better serve its citizens.

The new Government Technology Agency (GovTech) was created to lend engineering support to smart nation projects and refresh old e-government services.
GovTech has lined up several new projects - including a digital vault of citizens' personal data for the auto-filling of banking forms and an autonomous wheelchair prototype - to drive digital transformation in the public sector.

"Singapore must remain forward-looking and embrace technological change to realise our vision of becoming a smart nation," said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at Friday's launch.

While the role of the newly-formed Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), launched last Friday (Sept 30), is to lead Singapore into the digital future working mainly with the private sector, Dr Yaacob said GovTech will drive change in the public sector.

IMDA comes from the official merger of the Infocomm Development Authority and the Media Development Authority to explore new economic opportunities.

GovTech with its 1,800 people-strong workforce will help the Government walk the talk with its use of technology to improve citizens' quality of life and drive efficiency in its processes. It will focus on six key areas: application development, data science, government infrastructure, geospatial technology, cybersecurity and smart sensors.

Prototype of an autonomous wheelchair for use in the hospitals. There are currently no trials yet. ST PHOTO: IRENE THAM

In data science, GovTech has been working on a dashboard called Pulse of the Economy where day-to-day data such as electricity consumption and public transport peak hour exits are compared. Such comparisons provide non-traditional economic indicators to supplement traditional ones like gross domestic product (GDP).

For instance, if the electricity consumption and number of public transport peak hour exits at a particular industrial park both decrease over the same period of time, it is probably an indication that business activities have slowed down. The Government can then step in promptly and provide the necessary aid to struggling businesses.

GovTech is also working with the Ministry of Finance and the Monetary Authority of Singapore to reduce tedious form filling for banking customers who are applying for a loan or opening an account.

The plan is to extend MyInfo, a government-backed digital vault of citizens' personal data launched in May, to the banking industry sometime next year (2017) in the form of a proof-of-concept.

Instead of filling up and printing physical documents, banking customers can give consent for their income tax statements and public housing ownership data to be pulled digitally from MyInfo, which has 100,000 sign-ups so far.

In this regard, said Dr Yaacob, GovTech's work has impact beyond the public sector.

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