How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
I am a GovTech staff based at the National Environment Agency (NEA), where I help lead NEA’s digitalisation efforts as its Chief Information Officer. With me is a team of GovTech officers comprising Project Managers, Business Analysts, Technical Services Consultants, Solution Architects and Security Consultants.
Here at NEA, my team and I conceptualise digitalisation strategies for NEA, and propose and implement digital initiatives that leverage technologies such as sensors, analytics, mobile technologies, AI, optimisation algorithms, and more. These initiatives help fulfil NEA’s digitalisation ambitions to “Sense Smarter,” “Run Leaner,” and “Serve Better.”
We also utilise agile methodologies, microservices, enterprise architecture and design thinking in our development strategies. These digital initiatives help NEA to harness data, operate more efficiently and serve our citizens better.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?
In 2019, we saw the realisation of our digitalisation plans for NEA, coupled with strong support from our stakeholders in the agency. My team and I have been working hard on several exciting digital initiatives.
These include a mobile eDigital Shop Front which encompasses all of NEA’s eServices to citizens; a Business Intelligence System that uses analytics to provide an integrated dashboard of information from various operational and financial systems; and an expansion of our Integrated Environment System with the onboarding of new sensors.
We also worked with NEA’s operational departments to roll out an Integrated Field Operations System, an enterprise mobility solution for NEA’s 1,200 field officers. With this system, NEA field officers can use iPads for their operational work, such as inspection, surveillance, enforcement and citizen engagement, while on the go.
What is the best thing you have experienced in your career?
I have been in the IT industry for more than two decades and have implemented various digitalisation initiatives for seven different government agencies. It is extremely rewarding when we get to see how the ICT initiatives we implemented have made the lives of citizens better. It gives us pride and satisfaction when we tell our friends or family members that the government apps they are using are actually developed by us!
It is also a wonderful feeling when our stakeholders from government agencies express their appreciation that we have helped them digitalise their business. We all have a part to play in building and maintaining a successful digital government.
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?
The digitalisation initiatives we implement require increasingly complex integration across multiple systems. In addition, we may at any given time use technologies that are at different levels of maturity. There is also the need to leverage various platforms managed by different teams in different government agencies and industry partners. A big part of the challenge today is working with multiple, cross-collaborative teams to deliver complex, large-scale systems.
It is important to instil a common sense of purpose and mission within individual members of different teams. We need to improve our skill sets in communication, and demonstrate empathy, respect and positivity when working and interacting together.
As ICT leaders, we need to hone our skills in improving cross-team dynamics, leverage strengths of different team members, and inspire our colleagues to work towards a common mission. These are essential when it comes to pushing out future digitalisation initiatives.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020? What are your priorities for 2020? What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?
My team and I are interested in building smarter systems, and empowering people with technology. Some of the technologies we would like to dive into are AI, machine learning and smart wearables. We also want to better leverage analytics to work through the large volumes of data that NEA harnesses, and data from other agencies. This will enable NEA’s operations to be data-driven, while being predictive and preventive in nature.
What has been a fond memory from the past year?
My fondest memories would definitely be celebrating my team’s hard work and successful project completions. We had team lunches, durian parties, and Christmas dinners to celebrate, and it was nice to see teammates put aside differences for the day to enjoy the camaraderie.
On a personal front, I have started volunteering as a counsellor in a nursing home and at an association for domestic workers. This experience has allowed me to become a more well-rounded person. I have learned about the importance of valuing people, and have seen how little acts can truly make a difference in another person’s life.