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Featured image: Screenshot of Dr. Puthucheary speaking at the Committee of Supply Debates 2017

Featured image: Screenshot of Dr. Puthucheary speaking at the Committee of Supply Debates 2017

Singapore government taking the lead in digital transformation & helping SMEs leverage on digital technologies

At yesterday’s Committee of Supply Debates 2017 in parliament, Dr. Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Communications and Information, said that to deal with the anxieties in the age of disruption, the government will take the lead in several areas: 

-Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) will lead the charge towards a more integrated and technology-enabled government 
-Government will help businesses seize opportunities in the digital age

GovTech taking the lead in digital transformation                    

The establishment of GovTech last year is to continue to boost Singapore’s efforts towards a Smart Nation. GovTech is currently enhancing the Smart Nation platform, which is a common sensor and communications platform that facilitates collection and sharing of data across the island, by multiple agencies.

Through the Smart Nation Platform, large amounts of data will be generated by a variety of agencies through a wide mix of sensors. These can yield meaningful analyses and applications for government to better deliver key public services such as in transport and utilities and much more. Citizens can also be much better informed and make better decisions through the applications and data analytics available, often through their personal mobile devices. GovTech is also building an API Exchange (APEX), to facilitate such data sharing and improve the ability to gather insights from various data analytics tools. Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications & Information also commented at the same debate that the Internet Surfing Separation policy across the entire Singapore civil service is meant to protect government systems and citizens’ data by removing one avenue which cyber-attackers can use to steal information.

Besides setting up necessary infrastructure to ensure officers can still easily access the Internet for work, the government is adjusting and adapting their work processes, and introducing productivity solutions and tools to help maintain an efficient and productive Public Service. There has been no impact to the government’s public service delivery.     

Members of the public are still able to send and receive e-mails from government officers. Government digital services and transactions by the public and businesses have also been unaffected. The government is working to ensure a smooth transition for public officers to meet our target May 2017 implementation date. This separation is necessary and the government will continue to review and calibrate our security measures to ensure their systems remain resilient and trusted.

Helping businesses seize opportunities in the digital age                    

Many SMEs may not be aware of the possibilities that exist with the use of data and digital technologies or may have some concerns about regulatory clarity. The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will establish a Data Innovation Programme Office (DIPO) to address industry concerns by facilitating data-driven innovation projects, and the development of the data ecosystem in Singapore. One of the ways DIPO will do this is to introduce a Data Sandbox, which will provide a neutral and trusted platform for companies to share data securely, without threatening their individual interests. The Data Sandbox will also provide data analytics tools to help companies build expertise in data science.           

To encourage co-creation of solutions using data by citizens and businesses, GovTech has been actively improving data.gov.sg, focusing on quality, instead of only quantity, of data. For example, a Developers’ portal was introduced last year to provide data users and developers easier access to real-time data via APIs. DIPO will also work with government agencies to release more economically-useful data through data.gov.sg.

The Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) has been implemented for over two years now and there is greater awareness among organisations of the need to protect the personal data in their possession. The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) will be actively reviewing the Act in light of the lessons learned over the past two years, and the needs of the industry today.                    

The PDPC is also committed to improving the data protection ecosystem, and will put in place additional measures to ensure businesses know how they may use personal data responsibly. The PDPC will develop Data Protection starter kits to help SMEs kickstart DP practices within their companies; engage SMEs through Trade Associations and Chambers, and sector-specific forums; and provide more affirmative guidance to give certainty and clarity on what is permissible. In helping SMEs to transform and leverage on digital technologies, Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim, also spoke about IMDA’s iSPRINT programme, which has helped more than 8,000 SMEs improve their business through tech solutions since its inception in 2010. Building on iSPRINT, IMDA and (Cybersecurity Agency of Singapore (CSA) will work with agencies such as SPRING on a “SMEs Go Digital” programme. It will help raise SMEs’ overall level of digital readiness by giving them step-by-step advice on the technologies to use at each stage of their digital journey.                    

Full speeches by Dr. Puthucheary and Dr. Ibrahim can be found here and here respectively.       

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