Singapore has overhauled its tendering process to allow individuals to code directly on government websites – without joining tenders as part of large contracts.

A new micropurchase platform, govBuy, allows government employees to post projects under S$5,000, where developers with the lowest bid will win the task. The winner of the bid will then submit code to the govBuy team, and those that fit the acceptance criteria before the deadline will be sent a cheque.

The model follows the United States digital team’s Micro-Purchase Marketplace, where federal agencies partner with the platform to set up auctions at US$3,500 or less. The team is soon looking into opening auctions for larger projects, where the starting price is $25,000 or less. Delivery period for vendors start when the winner is selected, and has a default period of five days.

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govBuy enables the team to outsource low priority technical issues and minor bug fixes to the public, so “teams can reduce technical debt and deliver a better product”, wrote Chai Sheng Hau, Technical Lead for Singapore’s Government Digital Services.

The platform also has the potential to spread the use of open source software in government agencies, and level the playing field to all parties – not just those with the resources to bid for large tenders, he states.

This is a shakeup of conventional government procurement, where it takes longer and requirements often change or evolve by the time procurement has happened; government agencies can now easily build and upgrade sites through agile means.

The platform can also help government identify talent in schools. “Students and junior technical talents will have more avenues to work on real-world problems and get practical experience”, he added, and “if the platform attracts a large number of students, we can use it to set up a talent pipeline with local schools”.

The team hopes that the initiative can nurture an interest in technology among the youths, and believes that govBuy makes “it easier to co-create with citizens and engage everyone in the tech community –  freelancers, students, small companies”, Chai continued.

govBuy’s team may consider opening the auctions to bidders overseas, but it will depend on payment regulations, he added.