Daphne Koh, Chief Information Officer, National Council of Social Service, Singapore

By Sean Nolan

Women in GovTech Special Report 2021.

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

I am the Chief Information Officer based at the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) from  GovTech’s Services Group. At NCSS, I lead an IT team of staff seconded from GovTech and I work with business units to achieve digitalisation goals using technology and data.

NCSS’ mission is to (1) provide leadership and direction in enhancing the capabilities and  capacity of our members, (2) advocate for social service needs and strengthening strategic  partnerships to create an effective social service ecosystem. We are in the midst of our business  transformation, with digitalisation playing a key role.

Within NCSS, we are rolling out a number of digitalisation projects to build up our internal capabilities by transforming the way we work, transforming our workforce and transforming our workplace to be a forward looking “One NCSS”, leading change to achieve the sector’s vision where every person is empowered to live with dignity in a caring and inclusive society.

At NCSS, we use data analytics to gather sharper insights on donors, leverage on cloud infrastructure to increase resiliency and scalability and use Singapore Government Technology Stack (SG Tech Stack) to support modern application development.

These digital initiatives will transform NCSS and our social service agencies to improve productivity, address manpower challenges and raise more funds to deliver better social services to the citizens.

What was the most impactful project you worked on this year? 

One interesting project we started this year was the Navigator, a one-stop directory for  members of the public to access information on services offered by Social Service Agencies  (SSAs). It leverages on the Support Go Where (SGW) portal that was created to facilitate self help for those affected by Covid. The usage analytics will potentially provide insights into the  demand of different social services to enable better service planning.

What is one unexpected learning from 2021? 

In 2021, I volunteered my time to mentor at The Girls in Tech Summer Mentorship Programme organised by Women@GovTech Employee Resource Group. The mentorship programme aims to prepare young women who are interested in joining the tech industry/public sector.

When I met  my mentee, we instantly connected as we shared the same passion on social good for citizens and we had a common goal to grow professionally. I constantly think of ways that I can contribute to her success and it made me a better listener.

I have also gained insight into how the young generation feel about the technology industry and what they find interesting. Through this experience, I learned that mentoring young women to join the tech industry is rewarding, as it helped my own personal development in becoming a better person.

What’s your favourite memory from the past year? 

My favourite memory is how my team managed to deliver our best despite a busy schedule,  tight timelines and managing day to day operations. We found time to celebrate small wins, give words of encouragement to each other and connect on a personal level.

What’s a tool or technique you’re excited to explore in 2022? 

Most of my team members including myself are Scrum Master certified and I am keen to move onto more agile and product management approach of development for NCSS. Being Scrum Master certified, we are capable of making positive changes to improve the quality of product  delivery and relationships between business units and the development team.

 What are your priorities for 2022? 

The journey of being a Digital Government is a continuing process and digitalisation is still our  priority for 2022. There remains work to be done to improve our core business functions to  deliver social services digitally so as to support the Public Service Transformation objectives.

To guide our approaches, initiatives and programmes to achieve the vision of becoming a  forward-looking One NCSS that is digital capable, agile and data driven, NCSS came up with a Digitalisation Plan to transform ourselves into a “Digital Government” Agency by 2023.

2022 marks our second year and we have made good progress with many digital initiatives in  various stages of development. One such initiative is a seamless grant experience on the Whole of-Government one-stop integrated (“OurSG Grants Portal”) for our SSAs with the new  Community Capability Trust (CCT) ready for grant applications in 2022.

CCT is a long-term source of funding support for social service agencies set up by MSF and NCSS to better drive capability and capacity-building within the social service sector. Another initiative is the modernisation of  our agency management system to help strengthen partnerships with NCSS’ member SSAs.

With respect to the larger ecosystem of social service delivery, we are looking at an integrated  donation system to identify better matches between givers and receivers and improve the overall efficiency of giving in the space. And lastly, for members of the public, we will be launching the Navigator to help them access services in a more timely manner.

Who are the mentors and heroes that inspire you? 

I have had a few mentors over the years and they have helped me in different phases of my  professional work. At the moment, instead of learning from someone who is older and has more  work experience than I do, I am putting myself through self-initiated reverse mentoring i.e.  learning from someone who is younger and less experienced but brings in new perspectives to  our work.

In my previous role, we had 2 User Experience Designers (UXD) who worked with me for 2 years on several discovery workshops and service journey mapping. We would still  regularly exchange skills, knowledge, trends and best practices. They helped me to be more in touch with what is going on with new ways of doing things at the working level. The fear of revealing my lack of knowledge does not worry me, being out of touch does!

What gets you up in the morning? 

What gets me up in the morning is the notion that I am helping to make a difference in the social service sector through digital transformation initiatives and purposeful innovation.