Open Government Products crowdsources solutions to public challenges with first-ever citizen hackathon

By Yeo Zong Hao

From revolutionising recycling practices to empowering elderly job seekers, Open Government Products’ (OGP) first ever citizen hackathon tapped on citizen-led initiatives to solve public challenges. GovInsider speaks to Li Hongyi, Director of OGP, to learn more.

Teams present their solutions at the Build for Good 2023 Finale. Image: Open Government Products

“Do not underestimate how your prototype can go to market and benefit communities, vulnerable families and Singaporeans in the future. We are here to make your dreams come alive”, said Low Yen Ling, Singapore’s Minister of State for Trade and Industry, at the Build for Good finale last Saturday, 1 July. 


This was the first citizen hackathon organised by Open Government Products (OGP), an experimental tech team housed within Singapore’s Government Technology Agency. Participating teams built solutions to tackle various problems in Singapore and the winners will receive sponsorships for further product development. 


“The hope was that if you get the most motivated, most capable people to come together, come up with ideas, figure out how to get solutions built, you are going to get something good out of it,” said Li Hongyi, Director of OGP in an interview with GovInsider. 


With over 600 applicants for the hackathon, builders were selected based on several criteria. These included their motivations to join and their commitment level.  


This year’s Build for Good saw builders developing innovative solutions that address pressing public good issues. OGP collaborated with partners such as the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office and Amazon Web Services to bring the hackathon to fruition. The idea was to empower builders, rather than to gatekeep, Li told GovInsider. 


“Most importantly, we are helping them to find government agencies who are keen to work together. Helping to build that connection is one of the best ways that we are going to support them,” said Li.


A Google Maps for recycling bins 


According to NEA statistics, Singapore's domestic recycling rate stood at 12 per cent in 2022, the lowest level in over a decade. At this rate, Pulau Semakau will run out of space by 2025. One team is racing to make sure that Singapore does not get trashed. 


Team Renesan developed a web app that allows users to scan the barcode of various items to show how they can be recycled and where the nearest recycling bins are located. By complementing man and machine, the team strives to make recycling easier in Singapore. 


The team explains that the app can help users sort recyclables and prevent contamination problems. For example, the app is able to differentiate between a paper lid and a plastic cup in a cup noodle and instructs users on how to prepare the waste for recycling. 


In the future, the team plans to use object detection and AI to identify items without barcodes as well. They will also implement a crowdsourcing solution where users can take photos of waste items not listed in the app. This may potentially help them to build a reliable data set of all the possible recyclables in Singapore.


Leveraging AI for easy documentation 


How do we ensure that school counsellors have sufficient resources to enhance their quality of care? The answer: an app which can help gather comprehensive case notes in a fraction of the time.


According to user interviews done by Team NoteFlow, school counsellors are often overwhelmed with busy schedules, including counselling sessions, meetings, and administrative tasks. This makes it challenging to dedicate sufficient attention to documenting case notes which can affect their quality of care.


Without detailed case notes, counsellors cannot set goals, monitor progress, and establish effective treatments for students. 


NoteFlow aims to help busy school counsellors write comprehensive case notes quicker using a combination of real-time transcription, efficient note synthesis, and responsive querying. By leveraging AI, the platform streamlines the documentation process.


Apart from documenting case notes, NoteFlow can perform any task related to natural language. For example, counsellors can ask the AI assistant for help in conceptualising more complex cases or to suggest interventions.


Currently, NoteFlow is built on Google Cloud but the team intends to migrate to the  Government Commercial Cloud and to use secure large language models that can safeguard student information. 


Bringing resumes back for the elderly 


Rapid digital transformation during Covid-19 has accelerated job automation, but it also made securing employment harder for older workers who struggle with digital tools. 


For one, job portals that are hard to navigate and the lack of resume-creation skills deter seniors from finding relevant jobs. Team Ahma Power seeks to address this problem.


The solution? An AI-powered chatbot, Dovejob, empowers seniors with instant resume creation.


The chatbot will gather information from the seniors through voice conversation and automatically generates a resume ready to be dropped off with potential employers. 


To enhance inclusivity and accessibility, the app will provide multi-language support that includes dialects. Seniors will also be able to use the speech recognition and text-to-speech feature which is helpful for those with poor eyesight. 


Looking forward, the team hopes to expand their project to support more vulnerable groups such as the visually impaired. They are also exploring collaborations with partners such as Workforce Singapore and implementing their solution in government services like the MyCareersFuture job portal. 


OGP currently runs a yearly hackathon, Hack for Public Good, for members of its team.