Service is the bedrock of a strong public sector. In Singapore, citizens expect such amenities to be transparent, accessible and responsive. As the Republic strives to create a government that is digital at its core, it is looking at projects to help modernize and digitize the public sector.
Working alongside agencies, businesses and its citizens, the Singapore government will be investing approximately S$2.6 billion towards information and communications technology projects up till March this year. Additionally, with plans to allow complete online access to government services underway, citizens would be able to complete up to 95% of their transactions digitally with the government by 2023. All these efforts aim to provide public services in an intuitive and hassle-free manner so that they can be consumed round-the-clock through any device.
The foundation of a successful digital government
“If data is the fuel, then data services is the engine powering every organization’s digital journey,” said Rajnish Arora, Vice President for Enterprise Computing at IDC Asia/Pacific. “Governments across the region are transforming into Digital Native Enterprises, which are enabling them to engage and deliver a much more personalized experience to future citizens.” This signifies the need for public sector agencies to have a digitally-confident workforce that is backed by a digital workplace, alongside an array of digital tools. Here are three distinct ways that they can achieve that.
Firstly, public sector agencies should leverage cloud solutions to ensure ongoing access to systems and records. By offering scalability, as well as better integration and interoperability across e-government systems, cloud enables agencies to provide seamless customer experiences across its services.
The Singapore government uses a mix of commercially available public cloud offerings and a private government cloud called Central G-Cloud. Approximately 380 government websites with unclassified data are currently hosted on a public cloud. Since the cloud allows for an automatic scaling of resources, government agencies can roll out and manage their websites faster on a subscription basis. The Central G-Cloud, on the other hand, hosts sensitive apps and provides common services – such as gateway access to SingPass and ePayment services– for agencies to utilize. In doing so, apps and computing resources can be standardized and shared on a whole-of-government level.
Secondly, public sector agencies should deploy self-service digital tools (e.g. chatbots) to deliver good customer experiences while reducing the number of resources for customer service operations. In Singapore, citizens can chat with an AI-powered virtual assistant “Ask Jamie” on any of the public sector websites to get answers related to their service offerings. This round-the-clock assistant provides fast responses, answers cross-agency queries, and eliminates the need for citizens to know which agency is responsible for each specific query. If it is unable to provide an answer that is satisfactory to the customer, the query can easily be directed to a customer service officer.
Lastly, a digital government should be powered by data-driven strategies. One tool that enables insight-driven decisions is an open data platform, which allows access to data from various sources. By providing publicly available and reusable data that has been anonymized, the private sector and citizens will be able to develop apps that can help improve service delivery offerings within industries such as transport, healthcare and education. For instance, the Land Transport Authority made over 100 data sets available and accessible to the public. In doing so, there are now over 40 mobile apps and services that provide convenience to commuters such as Bus Uncle and SG Bus, which predict bus arrivals, or route planning app and portal gothere.sg.
To enhance their ability to make insight-driven decisions, public sector agencies should also leverage data management tools that not only unify data regardless of format but also enable data to move seamlessly across different systems. NetApp’s Data Fabric, for example, simplifies data management by delivering consistent and integrated services for data visibility and insights, data access and control, and data protection and security across on-premises and cloud environments.
Having effective data management tools will benefit citizens too, as exemplified by Singapore’s digital vault, MyInfo. With the service, residents only need to provide their personal data once. Thereafter, they can get those details automatically filled in online forms for government services, which reduces the time taken for form-filling and document verification. For MyInfo to offer such convenience, it needs to be supported by tools that centralize data from various systems, allowing any application to quickly access the data they need from the central repository.
A step in the right direction
Ultimately, there is a strong approval rating towards the Singapore government’s current digital initiatives and services. According to a survey conducted by the Singapore National Digital Office and GovTech, 72% of the 1,500 respondents said that they were very satisfied with the current government digital services. However, for more to get onboard, the government should ensure that its IT infrastructure is robust and is able to deliver relevant and meaningful data and insights to their stakeholders on both internal and external fronts.
According to an IDC study, data-driven organizations experience six times greater improvement in operational efficiency, and twice as much customer satisfaction as compared to their peers. Known as Data Thrivers, these organizations use data to provide great services, promptly resolve issues, as well as improve customer touchpoints.
As digital disruption affects all industries, government bodies need to become Data Thrivers as well. Ultimately, through a holistic data management strategy and by adopting the right digital tools, they will be able to make insight-driven decisions that will enhance the delivery of public services and enrich their engagement with citizens.
This article was first published on Questex, 31 January 2019. Information is correct at the time of publication.