Smart Nation Addendum 2020 (Speech by Minister Vivian Balakrishnan)
Smart Nation Addendum 2020
Prime Minister’s Office (Smart Nation And Digital Government Group)
Addendum To The President’s Address
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister For Foreign Affairs And Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative
The Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) aims to build a Smart Nation where people acquire relevant skills for new jobs in a digital future and our enterprises become more competitive and productive by leveraging on technology. We will drive digital transformation nationwide, build long-term capabilities within Government and enhance services to the public.
Using Technology to Support the Fight Against COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis has brought to the fore the importance of digitalisation, and the importance of developing deep engineering capabilities to respond effectively.
GovTech rapidly engineered digital solutions to enable a more effective response to COVID-19. TraceTogether and SafeEntry have helped to make contact tracing faster and more accurate. We have started distribution of TraceTogether tokens to seniors and those who do not own smartphones. The Government also built a suite of digital tools to direct Singaporeans to the relevant delivery points of essential items like masks and tokens. We have adapted to Circuit Breaker and the urgent need to reduce physical contact by accelerating digitalisation: home-based learning and working were widely practised, and more businesses and Government services have shifted online. Our quick response and adaption have been possible because we have been steadily building our digital foundations and capabilities over the past few years.
COVID-19 presents both a challenge, but also an opportunity to leverage and build on our gains in digitalisation. We must grasp this opportunity and accelerate the transformation of Government, Economy and Society through technology, to allow us to emerge stronger into a post-COVID-19 world.
Accelerating our Digital Government Efforts
We will redouble our current Digital Government efforts, so that all Government services are digital from end-to-end by 2023, as publicly committed in the Digital Government Blueprint. Many agencies have in fact already brought forward their timelines in view of COVID-19. This enables all citizens and businesses to transact with us in a paperless, “presence-less”, and cashless manner, for greater convenience, and at this time, also for greater safety.
We will continue to put users at the centre, and maintain high citizen and business satisfaction with digital Government services, which were at 86% and 78% in 2019 respectively. We just rebranded the Moments of Life app as LifeSG. The app now provides a one-stop directory of key Government services grouped by topics and provides recommendations on programmes and events, based on the user’s profile and interests. We will add more features and personalisation in the coming months.
We will also use technology to build Singapore into a Smart City, and to improve quality of life. JTC’s Open Digital Platform at Punggol Digital District enables centralised and more efficient district management. HDB’s Smart Hub integrates data to improve estate management and facilitate better town planning. These will be linked to the Smart Nation Sensor Platform to enable even more use cases.
We continue to strengthen our cyber and data security measures and update our data governance policies. We are implementing the recommendations made by the Public Sector Data Security Review Committee, which will strengthen the Government’s data security regime. We will continue to improve on these measures to ensure that data is safeguarded and used securely. For greater transparency, we will also publish and report on past data incidents.
Transforming the Digital Economy amidst a Global Downturn
Amidst a global downturn, we must ensure economic resilience and preserve jobs for Singaporeans. For Singapore to remain competitive and innovative in the post-COVID world, businesses need to accelerate their digital transformation. SNDGG will support the work by MCI, MTI, and the various sector leads to build a digital economy and create more jobs for Singaporeans. In particular, we will use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive the next phase of Smart Nation, and implement the National AI Strategy.
We will make it simpler, better and faster for businesses to transact digitally with the Government. With COVID-19, the GoBusiness platform was enhanced to help businesses to stay up-to-date on COVID-19 related regulations and apply for exemptions. GoBusiness also launched an e-Adviser to help businesses better identify relevant government support based on companies’ needs. Going forward, the platform will be expanded to include more services and personalised recommendations.
To facilitate businesses going digital, the Government is working closely with the industry to build up national digital infrastructure, platforms and standards, that can be used by both the public and private sectors. The National Digital Identity platform will provide a suite of trusted services to help business digitise and transact securely with customers. Our E-Payments infrastructure enables seamless and secure payment. For instance, there are now over 2.4 mil individuals registered for PayNow Mobile, 1.7 mil for PayNow NRIC and 200,000 companies for PayNow Corporate.
Our digitalisation efforts will help develop capabilities within the local ICT sector. The value of Government ICT contracts is projected to increase by over 30% for FY20, to $3.5 billion. SMEs will be able to participate in up to 80% of procurement opportunities.
An Inclusive Smart Nation for All
Even as we push ahead with our digital transformation as a nation, every Singaporean must feel that they are a part of and can benefit from Smart Nation. To do so, digital technology must enhance, instead of replace, the human touch.
COVID-19 has shown that vulnerable groups who are unable to access digital technology are at a greater risk of being left behind. Our digital services, for both public and private sector, need to be accessible and inclusive. The Government will take the lead to strengthen existing and start new digital inclusion efforts. These include efforts to translate digital services and websites commonly used by seniors into our official languages. Our digital services are tested for accessibility and meet accessibility standards, and we will constantly incorporate feedback from seniors and persons with disabilities. We will also work closely with MCI’s SG Digital Office to increase outreach to less digitally literate persons and equip them with the necessary hardware and skills.
We will also continue to support the SG Together movement by engaging Singaporeans to experience, understand and co-create digital technology. We launched “SmartNation Together”, an online series featuring tech-related talks and workshops, for all age groups. Many of these are conducted by Smart Nation Ambassadors, who are volunteers from all walks of life, united by a passion for tech. Singaporeans will also be able to co-create Smart Nation initiatives. At Smart Nation Co-Creating with Our People Everywhere (SCOPE) sessions, citizens can try out prototypes of upcoming products and share ideas on how to improve our services.
COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis. But this crisis presents both a need and opportunity to make profound digital transformations and in doing so, emerge stronger as a nation. Within the Government, SNDGG will accelerate the building up engineering talent, and the foundations that enable more agile use of IT and data, such as the Government Data Architecture. These have proven to be invaluable in this time of crisis. All ministries are pursuing plans to raise their digital maturity. Across our economy, tripartite partners are working together to raise digital skills, develop digital infrastructure and enable companies to innovate. This will ensure that digitalisation benefits Singapore and Singaporeans, by transforming how we deliver Government services, grow new economic opportunities, strengthen the core of local talent and improve the lives of our people.