Singapore GovTech woos developers to boost digital economy

By Nurfilzah Rohaidi

The Senior Director of the National Digital Identity programme recently spoke about how GovTech is supporting the transformation of businesses, big and small.

Image: CIO Academy Asia

Singapore’s GovTech Agency wants to win over developers to build up the digital economy and improve public services, the Senior Director of Singapore’s digital identity platform has said.

“Now, it is more and more important for us to focus on the developers,” Kwok Quek Sin said at the recent ConnectGov Leaders Summit in Edinburgh. “If we want businesses to be able to integrate to us, we have to be developer-friendly,” Kwok explained.

Helping businesses transform

Kwok likened the Government Technology Agency to a “B2B2C company”, meaning “we support businesses in engaging customers,” he said. This reflects how the role of government is changing.

For example, the National Digital Identity programme allows private companies to use their systems and code with an Application Programming Interface (API). The taxi and delivery app Grab, for instance, is trialling using NDI to verify its customers, said Kwok. Banks are also able to use Singapore’s digital identity platform to verify credit card applications.

GovTech has also begun hosting its own developer conferences called ‘STACK’. These events pull in tech companies and developers to share their insights with GovTech.

More engineering clout in government

GovTech is trying to move away from outsourcing programmes to the big tech companies, Kwok shared: “In the past, Singapore government outsourced a lot of technology projects to our industry partners, to the extent that we lost our technical capabilities within the government sector,” he said. Part of the answer to this was to build the Hive, GovTech’s engineer team HQ with a culture of agile development.

Successful digital transformation demands “key operating shifts”, he said, to shake up the way things are normally done in government. According to Kwok, the first shift is “from project management to a product management mindset”.

What does this look like in practice? The project should not end when a service is launched, Kwok asserted; product managers need to “continuously interact with the citizens and businesses to do user research”, he said.

“Remember, we are not in pursuit of technology excellence,” Kwok concluded. “We are in the pursuit of outcomes that benefit the citizens and businesses.”

The ConnectGov Leaders Summit was held on 8-10 July 2019 and organised by CIO Academy Asia. GovInsider was media partner of the summit.