Smart Nation In Conversation Webinar - 19 August 2020
Opening Remarks By Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, at the “Smart Nation: In Conversation Webinar – Putting People First In Tech Design”
19 Aug 2020
Let me welcome everyone to Smart Nation: In Conversation.
Overview of Current Digital Landscape in Response to COVID-19
If you look back at the last six months, this is an unforgettable period in our life. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the world in a very short time. But the changes which we have witnessed in the last few months, in fact, did not start with COVID-19.
These were trends and forces that were already evident way before the crisis. In particular, the digital revolution had begun years ago. But what COVID-19 did was to draw our attention and accelerate the sense of urgency. I’m glad to see that Singaporeans as a people, the corporate sector, people sector and the Government have all risen to the challenge – in the digital space – posed by COVID-19.
The Government, on our part, have had to develop a whole suite of digital tools in a hurry to meet the urgent needs of our citizens during these times. For example, when the Government was distributing masks, our GovTech engineers, literally overnight, developed a MaskGoWhere website to enable our citizens to find mask distribution points.
When the Government rolled out in four successive Budgets various support programmes for our citizens, it was hard to keep track of all the support measures available. We rolled out the SupportGoWhere website. It was a one-stop venue where you could get all the information that you needed. Accurate, well-summarised and well-presented.
We also developed TraceTogether and SafeEntry, which today, most of us would use on a daily basis. This enabled us in real-time to improve the speed and accuracy of our contact tracing efforts.
The point I’m making here, by citing these examples, is that we were able to rise to the challenge of these urgent needs because we had prepared years beforehand, recruiting the engineers, preparing the infrastructure, educating our workforce and most importantly our citizens, including those who would have been less technologically familiar. These years of preparation enabled us to rise to the challenge and deliver these apps, and more importantly services, quickly, urgently and efficiently.
The other point I want to make is that it must never be about technology for technology’s sake, but we need to focus on the user experience, on delivering services that people actually need and want. And that also means it is not just about adding bells and whistles, features and other options, but to make sure it meets a need in real life.
Another example, we all use SafeEntry now for entry to a variety of venues. You will realise that we provided multiple options to conduct the SafeEntry transaction. We had to make sure people could do it even if they didn’t have a phone. But on the other hand if they had a smartphone without a camera, they could still enter a form online. But if they had a camera and a QR code, they would be able to effortlessly check in.
Then we decided that if we are also using TraceTogether, why not allow TraceTogether to also be able to mediate that SafeEntry transaction. Then the other thought that came to our minds because some people said, hold on a minute, I don’t have a phone, or I don’t want to use the app on my phone, and that’s where we again, very quickly developed the TraceTogether Token. It has been made and we have started to distribute it, focusing especially on seniors and people who would otherwise be at risk of being left behind because they don’t have the necessary hardware.
So the point I’m trying to make is that this is a time of great change, a time of great challenge. Many urgent needs have emerged. But fortunately, because over the years we have prepared and invested, we are ready and able to deliver apps and services to people at that point of need.
Putting People First in Tech Design: Moments of Life to LifeSG
One other announcement I want to make today is many of you may be familiar with the app called Moments of Life. This is an app which many young parents, maybe some seniors, would be familiar with. It has been used, for instance, to register a new born baby and currently 7 out of 10 new births are registered through Moments of Life.
We have now upgraded it, enhanced it, made it more personalised, more convenient, more citizen-centric. And we’ve rebranded it today as LifeSG. I wanted to not only just make a plug for the app and hope you will use it and check it out for yourself. If today, you try to open it, the first thing you need to do is to update it. And what you will find is, it knows who you are. So for instance, I’ve logged in on my own account. It also has an idea of the services that I usually would use, or predicts that I need to use. I don’t need to remember the Ministry, I don’t even need to remember the name of the service. But it’s personalised, it’s relevant, it’s convenient, and in a sense, ultimately, we want technology to recede into the background, and instead, for government services to simply be available on tap whenever people needed it.
The other point is the way we developed it. We went through what we call a service journey, where we actually sat down with real people and say well, look at this, how do you use it, how can we make it more convenient to you? And using this iterative process, refine it.
So I would recommend this app to you. We first launched it June 2018, with a focus initially on families with young children. Today, as I said earlier, 7 out of 10 live births are registered through this app. We have also rolled out the Merdeka Generation e-Card for seniors and employment support guides for job seekers also through this app.
I would hesitate to call it a super-app although we are discussing super-apps today, but rather to say this is part of an evolution of the delivery of government services using technology, but focused and customised for people as individuals, and keeping humans at the centre of all our developments.
So again, welcome to our In Conversation session today. I’m looking forward to listening to your questions and comments and having a wonderful discussion with everyone. Thank you all.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
Minister-In-Charge Of The Smart Nation Initiative