Singapore makes moves to spur public sector innovation, build smart nation

Singapore makes moves to spur public sector innovation, build smart nation

The Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) has signed of a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) with the National University of Singapore (NUS) to boost skills and innovation in the public sector. GovTech and NUS will collaborate in the areas of technological innovation, specifically manpower and capability development for the benefit of public sector agencies. This follows a separate announcement to co-ordinate government efforts to build a smart nation.

The two parties (GovTech and NUS) will use their respective resources and expertise to enhance the technological capabilities and competencies of public officers and NUS students in the following ways:

  1. Knowledge sharing to co-create solutions – GovTech will share its experience and insight on technological innovation gained from public sector projects. NUS will also share insight from their own projects.
  2. Deepen data science capabilities – NUS will provide data science training to at least 2,000 public officers annually under this MOI. This looks to improve public officers’ knowledge and understanding of data science to address challenges faced by the public sector. NUS will also help to provide technology expertise and access to professional services required for such training sessions. In addition, GovTech and NUS will identify a data science project to collaborate on.
  3. Co-creation of solutions – GovTech and NUS will co-create innovative solutions to challenges faced by the public sector, particularly in cyber security, artificial intelligence, and data science. NUS will also work with GovTech to develop methods and processes to strengthen cyber security for public agencies.
  4.  Training of students – GovTech and NUS will explore various collaboration modes (e.g. internships, final year projects, challenges and hackathons) to develop NUS students and equip them with the right skills to succeed in the future workforce.

These initiatives aim to complement the recent Committee on the Future Economy recommendations for public officers to pick up skills and innovative thinking methods in order to achieve a well-coordinated, technology-enabled and future-ready public service.

Ms Jacqueline Poh, chief executive, GovTech, said, “Increased adoption of data science in the public sector will transform the way that the Government delivers services to the public. We are glad to partner NUS, which will help us put this tool into the hands of 10,000 public officers over the next five years, and educate them to use it effectively. This will help us improve and quicken our efforts in building Singapore into a Smart Nation. We look forward to working with more parties to make this happen.”

Professor Tan Eng Chye, deputy president (Academic Affairs) and provost, National University of Singapore, said, “NUS is pleased that our strong expertise in cyber security, artificial intelligence and data science will help to accelerate the realisation of Singapore’s Smart Nation vision. Our exciting collaboration with GovTech will train the country’s public officers in the meaningful interpretation and use of big data, and enable a broad and deep exchange of ideas and talent. This new partnership will deepen the technological capabilities of public sector agencies, and be the springboard for co-created innovative solutions to pressing issues of national concern.”

Part of a plan to build a ‘Smart Nation’

This follows a previous announcement by GovTech on the formation of the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) in the Prime Minister’s office, responsible for the following:

  1. Apply digital and smart technologies to improve citizens’ lives in key domains, in partnership with other government agencies, industry, and the public. One such key domain is urban mobility. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has been using data analytics to better manage our bus fleets, reduce crowdedness and improve timeliness. It has also been experimenting with self-driving vehicle technologies. The SNDGG will work with LTA to further exploit existing and emerging technologies to improve public transport, enhance urban logistics and reduce congestion so as to enhance the commuter experience;
  2. Develop the digital enablers and platforms for Smart Nation, to grow economic value and catalyse innovation by companies and citizens. The SNDGG will build on the ongoing work by GovTech to enhance data sharing through, and partner the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to promote e-payments. The SNDGG will also drive the development of a national digital identity framework to facilitate digital transactions, and a national sensor communication backbone (the Smart Nation platform) to support agencies’ use of internet of things (IoT) applications to fulfil their missions.
  3. Drive digital transformation for the public service, to strengthen Government ICT infrastructure and improve public service delivery. The SNDGG will build up digital capabilities within government, including in areas such as data science and IoT, to continue delivering excellent public services to our citizens.

The SNDGG will be overseen by a ministerial committee chaired by deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean. Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, minister for communications and information will be deputy chairman and minister-in-charge of cybersecurity and the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA). The other members of the ministerial committee are Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative; minister Ong Ye Kung, who has been appointed to champion public service innovation; and minister of state Dr Janil Puthucheary, who will be the minister-in-charge of GovTech and who will also coordinate GovTech’s strategy with IMDA’s industry development efforts.

[Photo credit: National University of Singapore]

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