How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.

I oversee the Government Data Office (GDO) in the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office. GDO was set up in October 2018 to enable the secure sharing and usage of data across Government and beyond, so that we can better harness the power of data to improve policies and services to citizens. GDO sets out the strategies to achieve this, as well as the policies and rules that govern how data is managed in the Government. It also drives and oversees the development of the infrastructure required to ensure that data flows readily across the Government, in a safe and secure manner.

What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2019?

Two initiatives:

(1) We implemented the first phase of the Government Data Architecture, which allows de-identified Government data to flow easily across agencies for policy analysis purposes. This was implemented on 1 Oct 2019 and is intended to significantly improve the way that public agencies use and share data – both in terms of quality of data and in the speed of access to data.

(2) We also worked on the Public Sector Data Security Review, driven by a Committee chaired by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean. The Committee made a suite of recommendations to strengthen data security in the Government, which will set us up well as we begin to share and use data more widely for the benefit of citizens.

If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2019, what would it be?

Engagement and change management are key – actively engage people to understand their perspectives and seek their inputs; don’t be afraid to make changes as long as they improve the product/solutions; give people time to absorb and understand the changes and facilitate the process as far as possible, but stand firm when you need to.

What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2020?

Privacy preservation techniques and how we can use data more extensively without affecting individuals’ privacy.

What are your priorities for 2020?

(1) Expanding the scope of data sharing/usage, for example, through public-private data collaborations, to enhance how we serve citizens.
(2) Implement the next phase of the Government Data Architecture and the recommendations from the Public Sector Data Security Review Committee.

What is one challenge you would like to take on in 2020?

Finding new ways to collaborate with non-Government entities (whether researchers, non-profit organisations or commercial entities) to use data better. I think that there is significant value in bringing data from the public and private sectors together – deeper insights that will create more possibilities in how we can serve citizens, whether through better services or more targeted policies. However, we will need to work through the attendant governance and privacy issues to make sure the data and individuals’ confidentiality continued to be well-protected; this is somewhat unchartered territory and not an easy undertaking but certainly worthwhile.

What has been your fondest memory from the past year?

Setting up and growing the Government Data Office. We were established in Oct 2018 with a small team of five, and within a year we have almost tripled and we are still growing. This is a reflection of the important work that lies ahead of us. The team has settled into its role, and the team members have bonded well in the past year. I hope each and every one of us will continue to grow and develop in the new year.