The Singapore Government has become the first civil service in the world to adopt Facebook Workplace, the professional version of the social network.

“We launched Workplace in October, and as part of phase one, 15 agencies and more than 5,300 public officers are now digitally connected in real time,” Peter Ong, Head of the Civil Service, announced this morning at the PS21 ExCEL Convention.

The entire public service of about 143,000 officers will be using Workplace by March 2017, he said.

The government previously used its own custom-built social network called Cube, which was launched in 2013. “The team found that Cube did not quite take off as expected – it was not a failure, but neither was it a force to reckon with,” Ong said.

It could not be used on smartphones, and the unfamiliar interface and slow loading times limited its adoption. “There was feedback that the lack of a mobile app prevented easy access and limited its use,” he said.

The Public Service Division used these “valuable data points to look at alternative ways to engage public officers”, he added.

Workplace can be accessed on smartphones and tablets, without connecting to the government intranet. Initial results since its launch in October show better adoption by public officers. 82% of officers who have activated their accounts are now “active weekly users”. This is “more than the average weekly visitorship on Cube in its first month of launch”, which was 61%, he said.

“We have seen agencies reduce the number of internal emails sent by posting their major announcements on Workplace,” he added. There has been an “explosion of activities” in the first month with cross-government communities of practice built, and better engagement between senior management and staff, he said.

One of the first ideas piloted on Workplace is to build a marketplace to share specialist skills within the public service. “Public officers with certain professional skills could share these skills among agencies that needed help for a specified task and within a certain time period,” Ong said.

“We have begun a pilot for this idea, called #ShareYourSkills, which is being hosted in Workplace, and the pilot will run for six months,” he added.

These could be skills that officers are trained in, “but don’t get to use much during the course of your work”, he said, like graphic recording, translation or coding.

“Charges for Workplace will only apply from next year,” the Public Service Division told GovInsider in a statement.

Image by Public Service Division (Singapore)