Mr Lam Chuan Leong, Chairman Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore Keynote Address - 36th ICA Conference, Swissotel The Stamford
Mr Lam Chuan Leong, Chairman
Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
Keynote Address - 36th ICA Conference, Swissotel The Stamford
Singapore, 22 October 2002
Good morning, Mr John Riddle, ICA Chairman,
Mr Khaw Boon Wan, Senior Minister of State, MITA,
Ladies and gentlemen.
1. Globalisation and the rapid progress of infocomm technologies (ICT) are bringing about fundamental changes in all aspects of our society. Remarkable changes have taken place in the business sector with the advent of e-commerce. Similar changes are taking place in governments and fuelled by the rising expectations of citizens and global competition. Singapore is no different.
2. Our response to these fundamental changes is to transform ourselves into an e-Government, one that harnesses ICT to serve citizens the best way possible. This means meeting the demands for service effectively and efficiently, and in a way convenient to our citizens. It means not asking the citizen for more information than necessary or requiring the citizen to go to more than one agency for a specific service. It means Government agencies linking their back-ends rather than expecting the citizen to do so. E-Government will help increase the IT savviness of the public and enhance economic competitiveness.
Using ICT to Better Serve Citizens and Businesses in the Digital Economy
3. E-Government is not simply adding an "e" to government. It requires that we fundamentally re-think all aspects of government services to see how we can take advantage of technology and new business models to improve the efficiency of internal processes. It also means that we leverage on ICT to change the nature and quality of government interactions with both individuals and businesses. It is about achieving, what we like to call, "Many Agencies, One Government", and delivering services that are integrated from the customer's viewpoint, regardless of the number of agencies involved in providing the service.
The CSCP Journey
4. Singapore's move towards e-Government is built on the solid foundation established by the Civil Service Computerisation Programme (CSCP). This programme was conceived in the early 1980s with a clear direction of transforming the Singapore Government through IT. Since its launch, the CSCP programme has progressively advanced and evolved with the changing technological, business and social climate to bring about exciting changes to the way the Singapore Government serves the public.
5. The first phase of the CSCP was directed at improving public administration through the effective use of IT by automating traditional works functions and reducing paperwork. The emphasis subsequently shifted to inter-agency communication and co-ordination so as to provide integrated services to the public. A number of Data Hubs were created to reduce redundancy in data capturing and promote data sharing within the Government. The early 1990s saw the beginnings of an adaptive and robust civil service-wide network, and the consolidation of computing facilities in a data centre.
e-Government Action Plan
6. Two years ago, we launched the e-Government Action Plan after wide consultation with all levels of the public sector. This Action Plan charts the Singapore Public Service's key strategies and programmes to transform itself into a leading e-Government, while retaining the flexibility to adapt to changing needs. A total of S$1.5 billion (i.e. US$840 million) was set aside to fund the development costs of these programme and projects for FY2000-FY2002.
Delivering e-services Online
7. In the area of e-service delivery, we have identified four levels of e-service maturity based on the depth of interaction between the public and Government to assist our public sector agencies in developing their e-services capability. The 4 levels can be denoted as "Publish", "Interact", "Transact" and "Integrate". At the lowest level of "Publish", the interaction is one-way with the user receiving information online. At the "Integrate" level, the organisational complexity is hidden from the customer.
8. In our approach to e-services delivery, we strive to deliver electronically every service that can be delivered electronically. We also aim to deliver every e-service at the Transact level online, unless impossible, in which case it shall be offered at the Interact level.
9. To-date, about 83% of all feasible public services are already online. That means 1,625 out of about 2,000 services. We expect to put the remaining services online by the end of this year.
10. About a third of these services are available through the eCitizen portal, our one-stop gateway to government e-services that are organised around customers' needs rather than along agency lines. eCitizen requires agencies to work across boundaries to integrate information, processes and systems so as to provide a seamless online experience. The portal currently houses about 600 e-services classified into 15 categories and receives about 3.1 million hits each month.
11. Pivotal to the quick and efficient development and deployment of e-services is the Public e-Services Infrastructure (PSi). This comprises a highly scalable and secure infrastructure layer, a rapid application development environment and a set of basic services such as payment, authentication and data exchange with legacy systems.
12. On the Government to Business space, services essential to the running of a business are aggregated and integrated into a single window. This helps promote greater productivity, efficiency, and convenience with simplified procedures and faster turnaround times. The One-Stop Public Entertainment Licensing Centre, or OSPEC for short, is one such example. The application approval process involving seven different agencies was shortened three times, from 6-8 weeks to a mere 14 days. What powers OSPEC in shortening the turnaround time is the back-end integration and linking-up that co-ordinates the concurrent processing of the same application by different agencies.
13. The Public Service has also put in place an integrated, one-stop portal where suppliers and prospective revenue tender bidders can interact with the Public Service for procurement activities. Known as the Government Electronic Business (GeBiz), this end-to-end online procurement system now hosts about 2,000 trading partners with annual transaction value of about S$200 million. Currently, all service-wide period bulk tenders are hosted in the form of electronic catalogues and procurement is via GeBiz.
Gallup Perception Survey in March 2002
14. Besides the availability of services online, it is equally important to consider their acceptance and usage by the public. The benefits of e-Government can only be reaped if the public regard e-Government as the norm in transacting with Government.
15. To understand the usage and satisfaction of online public services, we commissioned Gallup to conduct an e-Government perception survey in March earlier this year. This survey revealed that 2 out of every 3 Singaporeans who transacted with the Government in the past year had used e-services. Of those who transacted online with the Government, 1 out of 3 persons declared the Internet to be their preferred mode of interaction with the Government.
16. In the same survey, it was also revealed that the two out of three persons that did not transact online with the government indicated that they had never accessed Internet as the main reason for not transacting online. The survey found that these were likely the elderly citizens above 40 as well as those who were IT-illiterate.
Building an e-Inclusive Society
17. Singapore is committed to help citizens gain basic access to basic Infocomm technologies if they are on the wrong side of the digital divide. We are committed to ensure that technology is made accessible and affordable to all, regardless of race, language, social background or ability.
18. To build this "e-inclusive society", a term coined by our Prime Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong, we have put in place various initiatives to ensure that there is sufficient public access and helping those with less financial means to have access.
19. The National IT Literacy Programme is one such initiative to increase the ICT literacy of the nation as a whole. This programme which we launched in June last year aims to help 350,000 Singaporeans over 3 years, especially workers, homemakers and senior citizens, learn basic things about using computers and the Internet. From basic computer literacy to workforce training to infocomm manpower capability development, the programme focuses on different levels of infocomm competency to enhance quality of life and to improve employability.
20. Today, we have a nationwide broadband infrastructure that has over 99% coverage and over 950,000 Broadband users. Almost all schools, libraries and community centres have broadband access and over 300 commercial buildings are already broadband enabled.
21. To ensure that all Singaporeans are able to enjoy the benefits of e-Government, we are establishing an extensive network of eCitizen Help Centres around the island. Each eCitizen Help Centre is equipped with computers offering free Internet access to Government e-services. eCitizen Helpers are on hand to guide citizens, such as the elderly and IT-illiterate, who may need assistance to access Government e-services.
22. In terms of helping those who cannot afford the access, over the past years, IDA has been managing the PC Re-Use Scheme with the support of 20 other organisations and self-help groups to provide needy families with refurbished personal computers so that each one has the opportunities to learn IT skills. Each refurbished computer is bundled with 6 months of toll-free Internet access. To date, 6,200 needy families have benefited from this scheme and another 850 PCs have been deployed to help non-profit organizations set up IT Resource Centres.
23. We have also introduced a Mobile Phone Reuse Project which aims to equip the hearing impaired with donated mobile phones bundled with Short Message Service (SMS).
The Next Stage: Delighting Customers, Connecting Citizens
24. In building this e-inclusive society, we inevitably will shape the expectations of our end users. We face similar e-government challenges such as balancing the delivery of seamless integrated services and the citizenry's needs for greater protection and transparency in the management of personal information within the government.
25. Moving forward, there are two areas that we are focusing on to delight our customers and to connect citizens.
26. Firstly, in the area of service delivery, we will continue to deliver accessible quality e-services. We will continue to ensure that technology is affordable and everyone who wants to transact with the Government is able to do so.
27. Within our government, we have initiated a process to review all public sector rules across Government. This process looks into, among other things, removing obsolete rules, streamlining overlapping rules, and redefining of outdated rules. The aim is remove unnecessary bureaucracy, reduce compliance costs, and maximise convenience to our citizens and businesses.
28. We will also continue to review the current suite of online services and the needs of the public to identify opportunities for service innovation that will yield greater value for the government and public. Service innovation can come from integration of existing cross-agency related services, streamlining of existing processes and collaboration with private and other non-government organisations to invent new services. The use of Customer Relationship Management techniques in e-services implementation will be useful to gain insight into user behaviour and needs and to shape services centred on customer needs.
29. Secondly, we believe that ICT can be leveraged on as a powerful tool to engage the citizens as stakeholders to bring citizens closer together. As with e-services, the emergence of new technologies significantly widens the scope for consulting with citizens and to facilitate citizen participation. We will explore forming new channels using ICT to build the infrastructure essential to nurture national bonding and facilitate the building of a stronger sense of belonging to the country. This will appeal to a populace that is becoming more comfortable in making use of electronic channels for work and play.
30. Just as we have identified several levels of e-services maturity, we have developed a corresponding framework for e-governance maturity comprising the 4 levels of "Describe", "Explain", "Consult" and "Connect". At the lowest level of "Describe", public agencies are encouraged to inform citizen of its public policies. At the highest level, a network of citizens are engaged in the early formulation of public policies.
31. Moving forward, we will focus on establishing basic levels of e-governance and working our way up to establish greater consultation and citizen participation.
32. ICT has been a key enabler to empower the Public Service to better serve our citizens and businesses.
33. Singapore government is committed to continue to leverage on ICT through constantly reviewing our processes, improving the quality and accessibility of our e-services and to connect citizens to bring them closer together.
34. We welcome a mutual exchange of ideas and I hope you will benefit from the series of presentations we have lined up for you.