Not many people would describe their country's public services as agile, responsive, or customer-centric. But for Singaporeans, long queues at government offices are things of the past. Taking time off work to wait one's turn at a government office isn't exactly most people's idea of time well spent. We'd rather spend time doing something else. And that's what Singapore's eCitizen portal allows citizens to do.
Singapore, 30 June 2002
Not many people would describe their country's public services as agile, responsive, or customer-centric. But for Singaporeans, long queues at government offices are things of the past.
Taking time off work to wait one's turn at a government office isn't exactly most people's idea of time well spent. We'd rather spend time doing something else. And that's what Singapore's eCitizen portal allows citizens to do.
The Web portal is designed to enable citizens to conduct a wide range of activities and transactions with the government on a single user-centric interface. Filing of tax returns, renewal of a vehicle license, application for a business license, registering the birth of a child, lodging a police report, filing a marriage notice, or searching for a job - the list of things that can be done through eCitizen goes on.
Launched in 1999 with 170 e-services, eCitizen aimed to be the first stop for a wide range of online government information and services. eCitizen was enhanced in October 2001 to offer more than 560 e-services. Fourteen categories of online services are currently available, including housing, education, health, employment, business, transport, elections and defence.
Principles of Good e-Government
The Singapore government has moved quickly and with great care to incorporate Infocomm technology into the delivery of government services.
"Thanks to best-of-breed Web retailers and service providers, consumers have become used to a sterling quality of online service," said Mr Lim Siong Guan, the head of Singapore's civil service. "There is no reason why the government cannot harness the same technologies and principles...to achieve a similar transformation in its internal operations and delivery of services."
Citizens of Singapore are increasingly able to interact with the government as one entity, even when a particular task requires interaction with several different government bodies. This new level of service has resulted from an ability among civil servants to envision how Infocomm technology can enhance the delivery of government services.
Principles followed in building the eCitizen portal:
When physical presence is necessary, the aim is to keep the number of visits as low as possible - preferably one. Those without Internet access can use e-government services through 24 community-based self-service terminals. Public service staff are on hand to assist with online transactions whenever necessary.
By January 2002, 66% of all government services feasible for online delivery have already been made available electronically. The Singapore government's target is to deliver 100% of these e-services by December 2002.
How eCitizen Is Made Possible
What lies behind Singapore's successful e-government initiative? Forward-thinking government officers. The spirit of collaboration among public service providers and the Infocomm industry. A customer-centric approach.
However, behind the effective and integrated delivery of e-services through the eCitizen portal, there has to be an innovative infrastructure. Called PSi, the Public Services Infrastructure enables rapid development and large-scale deployment of e-services through online portals such as eCitizen and GeBIZ, the government electronic business portal.
PSi, a secured, scalable and central government-wide infrastructure, is a shared platform offering common components that cater to different government ministries and agencies. It provides a suite of application services commonly required by these agencies - including an e-service generator, payment gateways, security services, electronic data exchange, and e-service management tools.
The Ministry of Finance and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) launched PSi, the first integrated government-wide infrastructure in Southeast Asia, in February 2001. Spearheaded by IDA, PSi was jointly designed and developed together with a consortium of technology companies including National Computer Systems (NCS) and Ecquaria.
Functioning as the Chief Information Office of the Singapore government, IDA is pivotal to the design, development and deployment of government initiatives such as PSi and eCitizen.
Mr Lee Kwok Cheong, chief executive officer of NCS, sees PSi as a landmark project. "It provides a common platform and gives agencies the flexibility and scalability to add new applications, decreases the time-to-delivery of online services and reduces the government's operational costs," he said.
Ecquaria's president and CEO, Dr Foong Wai Keong, added that PSi has become a best practice in e-government infrastructure. To provide a user-centric interface, and to support the growing volume of users, "PSi was designed to securely integrate and manage information sharing across government agencies and their legacy systems. The results are better cross-agency collaboration and communication," he said.
The results speak for themselves.
eCitizen received the bronze award at the October 2000 Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) International Awards Program.
More recently, in June 2002, Singapore received the Explorer Award at the E-Gov 2002 show in Washington DC for the success of PSi.
A study conducted by Accenture ranked Singapore as the world's second best e-government in the years 2001 and 2002. The World Economic Forum cited Singapore as one of the most IT-savvy nations in the world in a May 2002 report.