The Singaporean government yesterday launched Government Technology Agency (GovTech), a government body specifically aimed to carry out digital transformation and make government services more user-friendly.

With a team of 1,800 data scientists, technologists and engineers, the agency has been established to provide engineering support to smart nation projects and refresh old e-government services.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim in the event announced some of the citizen-friendly initiatives including GovTech and association of Ministry of Finance with Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to explore the applications of consent-based platform MyInfo in the finance sector. It intents to extend the service to banking industry next year in the form of a proof-of-concept to reduce tedious form filling for banking customers who are taking a loan or opening an account. Bank customers using the platform gives 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.

Yaacob said,

Singapore must remain forward-looking and embrace technological change to realize our vision of becoming a smart nation.

GovTech will focus on six key areas – application development, data science, government infrastructure, geospatial technology, cyber security and smart sensors.The GovTech is formed following the official merger of the Infocomm Development Authority and the Media Development Authority. It will focus primarily in the public sector while the merged entity – the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) will work mainly in the digital front with the private sector.

GovTech has been working on a dashboard called Pulse of the Economy, where high-frequency data – such as electricity consumption and the number of exits from buses and train stations during peak hours – are compared. For example, day-to-day data such as electricity consumption and public transport peak hour exits are compared which provide non-traditional economic indicators to supplement traditional ones like gross domestic product (GDP). GovTech is also planning to bring out an autonomous wheelchair prototype sometime next year.

Another initiative is the Parents Gateway, to facilitate the ease of fee payments and signing of consent forms for parents. The Ministry of Education and GovTech will be testing out the platform at five undisclosed schools starting from next month, it added.

Businesses, too, will benefit from the new agency’s move to streamline transactions with the Government. For instance, GovTech will work with Singapore Customs to build the National Trade Platform – a one-stop, next-generation trade information management platform to support companies in the trade and logistics industry, as well as adjacent sectors. NTP will replace the current TradeNet and TradeXchange systems, and can potentially bring about up to S$600 million worth of man-hour savings annually for businesses, GovTech said.

GovTech said,

Currently, traditional indicators such as GDP and employment are used to monitor how well the economy is doing. With Pulse of the Economy, we can merge frequently updated and granular data to develop new economic indicators to help Government agencies better monitor the economy and identify opportunities for job growth.

GovTech said the portal aims to go beyond being a repository in order to make the Government data more relevant and understandable to the public and developers. As of September 2016, there are more than 600 datasets from 70 public agencies on the portal. This, as well as the developers’ portal launched in April to make it easier to access up-to-date Government data, are meant to help foster a culture of co-creation, the agency said.


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