Singapore’s Government Digital Services is making open data much simpler for all agencies.

The unit’s open data team has built a new Developers Portal, helping agencies publish real-time streams of data to app builders.

“The deeper goal is to make it easy for other agencies to provide data that is not currently existing,” Li Hongyi, data engineer, Government Digital Services, told GovInsider.

As Singapore plans to embed sensor networks across the island for its Smart Nation vision, agencies will receive a lot more real-time data. But they may not all have the technical skills needed to handle this data, Li said.

“Once this is settled and battle-tested a little bit, new agencies, who have no technical knowledge whatsoever, can just be like: ‘Look here’s our data, make it an API to the public’,” he added.

The data science team is building APIs – application programming interfaces – which will do it for them. APIs will automatically pull data from agencies to apps that use the data in real-time.

developers portal

The portal is for the first time giving developers historical access to frequently updated data. For example, in the past the API for traffic camera images would provide only the latest photos, but not those from the previous day or week.

“If someone wanted to do an app or something that looks at that, they could just get the current situation,” said Pallanikumaran Selvan, chief infrastructure consultant at the Government Digital Services.

New access to historical data will allow citizens to build new insights by analysing data patterns across time, he added. “With the APIs, it will be easy for them to say: ‘Now it’s crowded, but last Friday it wasn’t crowded’,” for instance.

The Developers Portal was soft launched last month and the team is piloting it with the National Environment Agency and Land Transport Authority. There are so far 10 APIs on the portal.

“We are bringing them on board first, [as] proof of concept [to] show agencies it’s actually not that hard,” Li said.

Li and Selvan are part of a team of five (pictured) that rebuilt Singapore’s open data portal data.gov.sg. The portal was launched last year, and has data from around 50 agencies.

For Singapore as a whole, open data projects help citizens better understand how the country operates, Li said.

“From a government perspective, people being educated about things means that you can therefore have better conversations about policy,” he added.

Image by Data.Gov.Sg