Last updated: 13 March 2023
Published on: 10 February 2016
4 MINS READ
Find out more about the data science initiatives that IDA is championing to serve the public.
Creating dynamic bus routes that can adapt in a matter of days; gauging the “heartbeat of the city”; and understanding Parliamentary debates past and present – these are some of the crowd-sourced initiatives that the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is exploring as it spearheads the use of data science for public good.
Speaking at the Strata + Hadoop World conference held last December in Singapore , Singapore’s Foreign Minister and Minister in charge of the country’s Smart Nation Programme Office Dr Vivian Balakrishnan highlighted the importance of open data to Singapore.
He said the push to get public agencies to share data underscores the government’s “obsession” with integrity, honest and openness, and is also helping to drive the reengineering of government processes.
One of the data science initiatives that the government is working on to benefit the public is Beeline, where express bus services are created based on public transportation data, including crowd-sourced information on commuters’ transportation needs.
Presenting the app at the conference, Mr Liu Feng Yuan, Director, Government Analytics at IDA, said it allows users to specify their start point and end point, and these will be clustered to identify viable routes or modify existing ones.
For example, using the feedback garnered from Beeline, additional stops can be introduced along a bus route or a new crowd-sourced route can be activated within weeks or even days.
Significantly, a new route that was introduced using Beeline was full on the first day of its operations, attesting to the commercial viability of the service, said Mr Liu.
Data in a Heartbeat
Another area that IDA is working on is the challenge of deriving insights from textual data. This is important because of the vast amount of data that exist in the form of text in reports, feedback forms and social media, said Mr Liu.
Using a tool for Structural Topic Modelling, data from textual information is summarised into key underlying topics.
For example, applying the tool on parliamentary speeches captured in Hansard, the IDA team was able to identify a shift in areas of interest over the years.
Take for instance, the 1960s: Then, rural development and resettlement issues dominated Parliament debates. Today, the focus has shifted to social issues, feedback and review.
A third area that the Government Digital Services team at IDA is working on is to try to gauge the “heartbeat of the city” using more real-time and granular economic indicators.
Instead of taking six months to a year to get an accurate picture of where the economy is heading, data related to areas such as transportation, job postings and electricity consumption, amongst others, can be pulled together and analysed.
This can help produce insights so that policy makers and organisations are able to respond to shifts in the economy even though the movements may not be immediately evident.
Reiterating the importance of open data and the insights that could be uncovered from there, Dr Balakrishnan said it presents an opportunity for the Singapore government to reengineer processes in order to be more effective and responsive.
“It enables us to work in real-time and ultimately make wiser decisions to improve the lives of the people we are supposed to serve.”