Singapore’s digital government to prioritise industry collaborations, sustainable procurement, says Kok Ping Soon, Chief Executive of GovTech
By Yogesh Hirdaramani
5 key takeaways from Singapore’s Smart Nation and Digital Government’s Industry Briefing on what the next bound of digital government will entail.
At a recent industry briefing, Kok Ping Soon, Chief Executive of GovTech, expressed the agency’s vision for stronger collaboration with industry. Image: GovTech Singapore.
Singapore’s government is projected to spend 3.3 billion SGD, or nearly 2.5 billion USD, on info-communications technology this year, shared Kok Ping Soon, Chief Executive Officer of Singapore’s Government Technology Agency, at an industry briefing held on 24 May 2023.
Two-thirds of the budget will be allocated to applications, such as developing citizen and business facing digital services, adopting enterprise software-as-a-service products, and maintaining existing applications. The remaining third will be allocated towards the upkeep of infrastructure, from refreshing hardware devices to services that support cloud computing infrastructure and cybersecurity services.
At the industry briefing, Kok shared key insights on the government’s approach to ICT spending in the coming financial year. Here are five key takeaways on what’s coming up for the next bound of Singapore’s digital government.
1. Industry partners are friends, not vendors
Industry partners are not vendors – they are friends, according to the industry briefing’s opening video. The video thanked industry partners such as Accredify, which helped Singapore roll out digital health passports during the Covid-19 pandemic to Amazon Web Services, one of the government’s key cloud services providers.
In Kok’s opening keynote, he highlighted that the success of Singapore’s digital government blueprint thus far would not have been possible without the help of industry partners.
Projects co-developed with industry will account for almost half of the projected spending (45 per cent) in FY2023, up from 27 per cent in 2022, signalling an increased openness to collaboration with the private sector.
Currently, 27 industry players are qualified to co-develop projects with the government, and the increased budget will enable the government to bring more players on board, said Kok. Such players will be able to co-develop projects with agencies on the SG Tech Stack and other government platforms.
80 per cent of all procurement opportunities will be available to SMEs as well.
2. SaaS to play a greater role in digital government
“We need to break the mindset that the government is very unique in the things we do… actually, many of the functionalities are the same,” said Kok, as he shared on why the government would be embracing SaaS in the near future.
The government is allocating 0.6 billion SGD, or nearly 0.5 billion USD, to a bulk tender for enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) products, allowing agencies to access a range of ready-made, subscription-based software to perform operational tasks.
This includes software services such as customer relationship management, case management, and service management software, as well as low-code platforms. Currently, the government has adopted Workday, a HR platform, across its systems, along with productivity tools such as Slack, shared Kok.
3. Greening ICT and ICT for green
High on the agenda this year is sustainability – adopting ICT technologies in an environmentally conscious way as well as leveraging ICT technologies to drive sustainability initiatives in government and society.
In an opening address for a panel on sustainability, Henry Chang, Deputy Chief Executive of GovTech, highlighted that digitalisation and sustainability are often in tension, and the government will need to find a balance between the potential of digitalisation vis-a-vis the carbon footprint of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence.
A key focus for GovTech will be to incorporate sustainable practices across the ICT value chain. This will include consolidating data centres to improve efficiency, evaluating devices for carbon emissions and reusing devices to minimise wastage, and embedding sustainability criteria in procurement processes.
Chang also shared that GovTech aims to incorporate a digitally-enabled monitoring and reporting platform to track sustainability performance across the government.
4. Cloud journey to continue
Singapore’s government is close to achieving its cloud goals of migrating 70 per cent of less sensitive systems by the end of 2023.
Now, the government plans to leverage its cloud infrastructure to develop more applications on the cloud and modernise legacy systems. More than a third of projected spending this year will be allocated to developing applications on the cloud.
For the remaining legacy systems in the government, Kok shared that the government will systematically assess whether to retire or redevelop these platforms, from moving them to the cloud to modernising how these applications are built.
According to Kok, the migration of government workloads to the cloud has enabled average cost savings of 30 to 40 per cent as compared to keeping these systems on-premises. It has also accelerated the development of IT applications by 3 to 14 times.
5. Tools that will drive productivity
Finally, speakers covered the key tools that will be driving productivity across government, from the SG Tech Stack and DevSecOps to using geospatial data to drive urban planning.
Kevin Ng, Senior Director of Government Digital Services at GovTech, along with Thao Dang, Head of Enterprise Modernisation, Platforms and Clouds at Thoughtworks, shared how tools like the SG Tech Stack, as well as upcoming artificial intelligence tools such as Pair, can support developers in moving quickly.
Methodologies like a continuous delivery approach, DevSecOps, as well as standardising and automating infrastructure, can help developers do more with less and focus on building and rolling out new features quickly, the speakers shared.
James Tan, Director of Smart City Applications at GovTech and Brian Wong, Cluster Lead for Built Environment and Transportation at Esri Singapore, shared how incorporating geospatial data visualisation, digital twin technology, and 3D modeling can accelerate smart city and smart building planning and management.