The National Trade Platform (NTP), developed by Singapore Customs in collaboration with the Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech), was one of the potentially game-changing projects recognised by OpenGov during its Singapore OpenGov Leadership Forum in May this year.
In June, the NTP project won in the e-business category of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS; a global summit under the United Nations) Prizes 2017.
NTP is designed to be a trade and logistics IT ecosystem connecting businesses, community systems and platforms, and government systems. It is going to be a one-stop trade portal for Business-to-Government (B2G) and Business-to-Business (B2B) services.
The NTP will help businesses improve productivity through digital exchange and re-use of data with their business partners and the government. In addition, NTP will be developed on an open architecture where third party solution providers or IT developers can leverage the toolkits provided to develop new services and applications based on market needs.
Currently, there are two platforms which serve as National Single Windows for trade and logistics. TradeNet is the National Single Window for trade declaration. Launched in 1989, TradeNet integrates import, export and transhipment documentation processing procedures and enables the trade and logistics communities to fulfil their trade formalities. Through TradeNet, Singapore Customs and other Competent Authorities monitor the movement of goods and enforce health, safety and other regulatory requirements.
Launched in 2007, TradeXchange is the platform connecting the trade and logistics community. It offers a single electronic window for integrated workflow, submissions and enquiries to the Sea Ports, Airports, Maritime Authorities, Customs and Competent Authorities.
In the 2016 Budget, the NTP was introduced and presented as an example of ‘industry-level transformation’. It was revealed that the cost expectation was SG$100 million, while it would bring an estimated SG$600 million worth of man-hour savings each year for Singapore’s firms.
When completed, the NTP will replace both TradeNet and TradeXchange.
A company dashboard will provide an integrated view of company details (news, outstanding tasks, application statuses etc.), while a secure cloud based repository will enable companies to share data and documents with partners and the government.
Some of the government services which will be available on the NTP include:
2) Customs Advice Applications: Online submission for advice (e.g. relating to motor vehicles)
3) Declaration and Permit Management: Online permit and CO (Certificate of Origin) application with a dashboard view to track permit and CO application status
4) Inventory Management: Enhanced stock inventory control service to manage and track inventory & quota under the various Customs schemes and licences
5) Schemes and Licences Management: Online application for schemes & licences with customised display of eligible schemes and licences based on completed Trade FIRST (Trade Facilitation & Integrated Risk-based System) Assessment
6) Trader Registration and Management: Self-service online platform for registration of accounts
NTP will include a Developers Sandbox and data library to help developers design and build applications for the NTP. Tools/ Apps will be provided to enable users to extract information from selected documents to auto-populate other documents. Data services will provide translation of data into standardised digital formats. An App store will serve as a one-stop shop for all business related applications.
In response to a question on challenges faced in the development of NTP (included as part of OpenGov’s ROE invitation), Singapore Customs highlighted the different needs of the many different stakeholders. The reply was: “The NTP project involves many stakeholders ranging from traders and declaring agents to developers, solution providers and government agencies. Though they have different needs, their differing roles in the trade ecosystem are interlinked and interdependent as they are part of the same value chain. To ensure that NTP deliver value to different stakeholders, we adopted an outside-in approach and embarked on extensive consultation with industry users in order to co-design holistic solutions that works for them.”
The NTP team engaged extensively with the industry to gather insights, through interviews, ideation workshops, service concept workshops and usability testing, to develop a platform that is meaningful and relevant to the community.
For instance, more than 20 sessions were held in November 2016 with developers, TradeNet and TradeXchange users, business development executives, and business owners. The participants were invited to preview the wireframes – consisting of images that display the functional elements of the NTP website – and asked to complete a series of tasks. While they were navigating and completing these tasks, the moderators asked questions to ascertain whether they were able to navigate intuitively and understand the site structure, page layout, and the content, so that the feedback could be incorporated into the NTP design.
We had also asked Singapore Customs about future potential applications or services. The reply was: “Through extensive engagement with industry users, we received over 300 ideas on potential applications or services that could be developed and integrated into the NTP.”
Some of the ideas – such as document digitisation and process automation – have been incorporated into the NTP’s design and will be released as core platform functionalities. Other ideas such as an e-application portal for trade finance are proposed as value-added services. To enable their development, NTP has been designed as an open platform.
Examples of available value-added services include e-freight management (enables shippers to share data with their supply chain partner) and Marine Cargo Insurance Service, which enables freight forwarders and shippers to apply for marine cargo insurance through NTP to reduce the preparation and processing time for their applications by up to 90% and enjoy instant approvals for their cargo insurance applications.
The NTP will be progressively rolled out from end-2017.
The January-March 2017 Singapore Customs newsletter also mentioned that the team has engaged the TradeNet front-end solution providers, TradeXchange value-added service providers, and various competent authorities early, to ensure business continuity when the NTP is launched. Besides validating their needs with the new NTP functionalities, the team is also working closely with them to ensure the smooth transition of the existing B2G permit-related services, and adding B2B value-added services to the new platform.
Explore the development and features of NTP through this microsite.
 Trade FIRST is an integrated assessment framework that provides a holistic assessment of a company and determines the level of facilitation accorded. The assessment is free and it is mandatory for all companies who wish to apply for a Singapore Customs scheme or licence.