Jean Tan, Software Engineer, Open Government Products, Singapore
By Medha Basu
Women in GovTech Special Report 2020.
How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
As a software engineer at Open Government Products, a team which builds technology for public good, I’ve had the opportunity to roll out multiple products that are widely used across the Singapore Government.
A large chunk of my work involves designing the product’s architecture to meet the needs of users while accounting for systematic constraints, writing the code to realise our vision, and helping the junior engineers in my team to level up together as well.
My main product now, Postman.gov.sg, enables public officers to easily communicate with citizens through email, SMS, and Telegram messages. I’ve also contributed extensively to Form.gov.sg, a digital form builder tool which has transformed the way that officers collect data. Citizens can now transact with the government much more efficiently online without paper forms and manual data entry. As of 2020, 71 million form responses have been recorded on Form.gov.sg, across 57000 forms.
My team and I introduced Go.gov.sg to the nation back in 2019. This URL shortener tool can be used by any public officer to share legitimate links with citizens, and reduce the risk of phishing. Built in under a month during an internal hackathon, links on Go.gov.sg have since been clicked on nearly 100 million times.
In the first year of my tenure with GovTech, I also brought two other tools to fruition -- JARVIS helped the police to solve cases much more quickly, while MC.gov.sg brought together multiple healthcare institutions to deliver digital copies of medical certificates.
What was the most impactful project you worked on this year?
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, my team and I at Open Government Products rapidly empowered the Singapore government to quell her residents' fear, uncertainty and doubt about the virus by disseminating real and verified news expediently. In three days, we launched Postman.gov.sg, reaching out to more than a million residents twice a day. Since then, Postman.gov.sg has sent nearly 800 million messages, constantly providing residents with reliable information.
What is one unexpected learning from 2020?
I’ve found that with a like-minded team in pursuit of the same goal, we can achieve much more than anyone else expects. None of us had expected to scale up Postman.gov.sg this quickly and successfully, but with dogged determination, I think we managed to produce some excellent work.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2021?
I’ve been reading the book A More Beautiful Question, by Warren Berger. With the sheer amount of information available now at anyone’s fingertips, the value of answers has been going down, while the value of questions has been going up. This concept resonated with me, and in 2021 and beyond, I will be actively applying the three step framework “Why, What-If, How” to ask better questions and challenge assumptions, in order to create solutions that improve people’s lives.
What are your priorities for 2021?
Continue building sensible solutions to problems that plague the efficiency of our government; advance the social impact of existing products; and keep myself abreast of changing technologies.
What advice would you give to women looking to start a career in GovTech?
Whatever you want to do, whether it is to start a new career, or to save the world, give it a go! You won’t know, till you try.
Write a message for your future self.
To my future self, I hope you are proud of both your accomplishments and your failures, because you know you are doing your best all the time.