How millions of citizen reports help HDB improve its services

Singapore housing board’s CEO discusses value of analytics and potential for gamification.

Singapore’s housing agency is analysing complaints from citizens to tweak its services for new housing owners. “We are looking into using text mining analytics now in our work,” said Dr Cheong Koon Hean, CEO of the Housing and Development Board yesterday. HDB is working with the new GovTech agency to “derive insights from, say, emails we receive”, she said. The agency receives “millions” of enquiries and complaints from residents through counters, calls, emails, letters and fax. The agency is analysing complaints for patterns and trends using text mining techniques. “We can pick up key issues that people are concerned with” and get “insights into what the residents want or are unhappy about”, she said. For instance, HDB found that young house owners “want to collect the key to their [new] flat very quickly”, Dr Cheong said. “Based on this data, we are going to move away from pre-specified appointment dates for key collections,” she added. Instead, new owners will be able to choose when they want to collect their keys. Another area of interest to HDB is gamification. These can “help to nurture and nudge communities along behaviours that are considerate [towards others]”, she said. For example, residents could be persuaded to bag their rubbish properly to prevent choking in the rubbish chute. “We find people dropping in huge stuff into the pneumatic waste system and it jams, so maybe we want to encourage people not to do that,” she said. An app could be used to reward residents with points if no chokes are found in the chute at the end of the month. It could be expanded to a team challenge, she added: “If everybody in the block does the right thing, maybe we should give a discount or some special vouchers”, she said.