Singapore has gone full steam ahead with its Smart Nation journey. The city-state has rose from the ranks, coming in 11th in last year’s UN e-government survey.

“It was easy in the beginning because you have someone to follow,” Chan Cheow Hoe, Singapore’s Government Chief Digital Technology Officer, told GovInsider. “But the problem is, once you reach a certain point of maturity and you are top of the heap in some ways – you have no-one to follow”.

What’s next in Singapore’s innovation journey, and how can agencies prepare for what lies ahead? Wee Luen Chia, ServiceNow Managing Director for Asia, shares the roadmap for the future of citizen and business services.

Simple, transparent processes

Singapore has come a long way in its transformation journey. Next, it can look at providing “’real-time’ services that would allow citizens and businesses to know which stage their request or application is at, Chia says.

Agencies that lead with customer experience will match the services that digital natives provide, like Grab or Amazon . Similar to how customers can keep track of their order online, keeping citizens and businesses updated on the process will increase their trust in agencies.

To achieve this, Chia says agencies will need to digitise and automate their back-end processes. A lot of citizen-facing front-end processes are currently digitised, but organisations need to look at the back-end as well.

“You can drive consistent, continuous improvement with better data and metrics,” he adds. With advances in technological innovations, there is a great opportunity for agencies to evolve how citizen satisfaction and engagement are measured, to detect bottlenecks, and drive continuous improvement to services.

ServiceNow worked with a global logistics company in Singapore to streamline their processes, Chia reveals. When Covid-19 hit, demand for their services surged. The old way of manually helping customers track their parcels no longer worked.

ServiceNow helped the logistics company to integrate their back-end processes and shift this tracking process online, he says. Customers can now log in and check the status of their deliveries themselves, reducing the number of calls handled by staff. Customers no longer needed to wait for their call to be answered to track their parcel, enhancing their experience.

Citizens first

Agencies are at different stages of their digital transformation journey, but there’s one thing in common – they “don’t start from a fresh slate”, Chia says. Most organisations have legacy systems containing data that isn’t tapped.

Organisations need to be able to integrate new and existing systems into a single platform, he emphasises. Analysing this data would help governments build services that tailor to citizen and business needs.

Agencies have done very well to streamline the engagement points, with the likes of the GoBusiness Licensing Portal and Business Grants Portal. The next evolution would be to explore how to leverage modern technologies like digital workflows, AI/ML and analytics to drive better decisions, shorten processing time and deliver better experiences. Agencies can also provide better visibility on the progress and expected turnaround times for each part of the process, thereby building trust with citizens and businesses through transparency.

ServiceNow is also working with governments to streamline their vaccine rollouts. The company helped agencies such as the US Department for Homeland Security and Scotland’s National Health Services set up a vaccine administration system.

With the entire vaccine administration process running on a single digital platform (and integrated to multiple backend systems), it is much easier for national bodies to plan and to react. For example, we will be able to track and diagnose root causes for adverse effects much faster.

Training tech-savvy employees

The digital world is fast advancing, and agencies need to upskill their workers to unlock new frontiers of innovation.

In the early days of computerisation, typing used to be a skill gained by attending a course. Today, people learn how to swipe and type before they learn many other life skills. Skills like data analytics and digital workflow design will become “de-facto” skills that employees will need to be productive at work.

Organisations must ensure these skills are available to everybody, not just top tier leaders, he says. Agencies also need to give time to employees to learn. The “biggest challenge with remote working is that everyone is working extended hours with the blurring of work and home spaces, which can come at the expense of learning time,” he explains.

“Organisations will do well if they can reinvent that very precious learning and enablement time,” he adds.

Innovation will be the only way forward for governments. Transparent, citizen-centric services and a tech-savvy civil service will pave the way.