Mr Raymond Lim, Acting 2nd Minister for Finance Keynote Address - E-Government Forum 2004, NTUC Centre Auditorium
Mr Raymond Lim, Acting 2nd Minister for Finance
Keynote Address - E-Government Forum 2004, NTUC Centre Auditorium
Singapore, 28 October 2004
Ladies and Gentlemen
Start with the User in Mind
1. You have just watched the video presentation of the new Singapore Government Online Portal, www.gov.sg. I am very pleased to see it. It is one of several new developments in the continuous quest to be a leading eGovernment. www.gov.sg is not just a unified 24-by-7 gateway to all Government services and information online. It represents a stepped up effort to think of the user as the focus of attention: What will be useful for him? How can the website be made most friendly to him?
2. So with www.gov.sg, click on a tab and you get into all the eCitizen services for Singapore citizens and residents. Click on the next tab and you get into www.business.gov.sg for easy access to a whole range of services useful for businesses. Click yet a third tab and you enter a site particularly useful to non-residents interested in visiting Singapore. And all this while retaining www.gov.sg in its role of providing information on Singapore and its government. So what's new you may ask: not very much in terms of new content, but everything is new in terms of how to serve the user in the best way possible. It is not the website, but the emphasis and the focus on the user which is new.
3. The eGovernment Action Plan II sets its core intent as delighting customers and connecting citizens. Delighting customers is not the same as satisfying customers. You measure customer satisfaction by how few complaints you receive. You measure delighting customers by how many compliments you get. Connecting citizens is a matter of building relationships, between citizens and between government and the citizen. How do we involve the Singaporean in evolving policy and practice? How to engage him? How to create room for discussion and participation?
4. I notice several developments this past year which increasingly put the user at the centre of the design of the web and the delivery of the service. eCitizen has been revamped into seven eTowns from the previous 16. The eTowns come complete with eTown Mayors, who are the Permanent Secretaries of the ministries owning the majority of the services in the eTown, plus eTown Deputy Mayors who are Deputy Secretaries of the ministries with the second most number of services in the eTown. The idea is a more intuitive selection of the eTown most likely to offer the service you seek, plus a search engine which can find you the service even if you do not know which eTown to go to.
The Online Business Licensing Service
5. Having last served in the Ministry of Trade and Industry with a particular interest in SMEs, I am particularly pleased with the Online Business Licensing Service, which has completed its pilot phase and is now fully online. Starting a business can be a daunting experience, with a seeming maze of agencies to negotiate for various licences. However, with the Online Business Licensing Service, or OBLS, under the Business segment of www.gov.sg, applying for licences is now a breeze. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the OBLS is the one-stop solution to all the business licensing needs, or at least for 69 licence applications as of now, with licence renewals, updates and terminations available by end next year. An applicant now only needs to complete one integrated form and perform a single payment for many licences, instead of a series of forms and separate payments.
6. The integrated form has been possible only through thorough review of business licensing policies and the re-engineering of processes. Licences that have ceased to fulfil a purpose have been removed, while the processing times for licences that remain have been shortened. In fact, the average processing time for business licence applications has been halved, from three weeks to about twelve days. Some examples of the most significant reductions are in the incorporation of a company - from 5 days to 2 hours, and the application for the change of use of premises - from 3 to 2 weeks. With such process simplification, businesses now have more time and resources on their hands to focus on their businesses. My congratulations to all the agencies involved in getting OBLS working. This is Networked Government at work, providing integrated services across multiple agencies, and yet shielding users from the transactional complexities involved. I know it is not easy for agencies to give up their familiar procedures to agree to a common process. But the fact that we have succeeded in OBLS is testimony to the willingness and dedication of agencies to serve the customers as best they can, always searching for maximum convenience and maximum ease of use for them.
Other Integration Projects
7. There are whole hosts of smaller integration projects. For example, ministries are now on a 3-year programme to adopt common Web Interface Standards, so that homepages of all Government agencies will have the same features in the same places and pages will have a common feel even though the looks will bear the particular identity and characteristics of each agency. I am especially pleased to announce the latest multi-agency Integration project: As from the end of next month, there will be a Central Website for Unclaimed Monies, www.unclaimedmonies.gov.sg. This will list names of owners of monies being held by public agencies which Government would very much like to return to the rightful owners, but have not been able to do so simply because we do not know how to contact them despite repeated attempts to do so. So anyone who thinks he may have some money he can get back from Government should go to the website, type in his name and conduct a search. Some of these monies have come from unclaimed tender deposits or excess levies paid. Some from court deposits the owners did not claim back. Some from pawnshops which have disposed of items not redeemed but have not been able to contact their customers to give back the surplus between the sale price and what the customer owes the pawnshop.
eGovernment Action Plan II - Total Customer Orientation
8. These improvements in eGovernment activities are all part of the eGovernment Action Plan II. eGAP II is about total customer orientation. Launched in 2003, eGAP II is not merely about providing practically all our services online, which was achieved under eGAP I. While eGAP II leverages upon and increases our e-advantage - Singapore was ranked 2nd, after the United States, in terms of Networked Readiness, according to the 2003 - 2004 World Economic Forum Report, and our Internet penetration ranks high at almost 65% of the population it goes beyond that. eGAP II seeks to address more fundamentally the challenge of serving our customers in the most convenient, most responsive, most effective way possible, with the help of IT.
9. Delivering services online is just the means to an end, of providing a total service experience to users. But have we arrived? The answer is clearly "not yet". No doubt, we have been aggressively pushing our e-services up the maturity curve. Our e-services range from simple information publication, to interactive, fully transactional services, and finally integrated e-services across Government agencies. There are many more e-services to be integrated across the silos in Government. I urge all agencies to work at this with added vigour. The world is marching on. eGovernment is not a nice-to-have item. It is national competitive advantage. But even while our job at integration across Government is not complete, it is increasingly clear that even integration across Government is not enough. We need a new service delivery paradigm.
3P (Public-Private-People) Integration a New Paradigm in Service Delivery
10. Customers and businesses need more than just Government services. They also need goods and services from the private sector, and sometimes also the people sector. They want "total service delivery", where their needs are satisfied without their having to deal separately with the Government and the private and people sectors. Why can't it be one seamless transaction, where the service suppliers worry about the back-end, while the user simply needs to come to one service window.
11. We call this next level of service delivery "3P Integrate". 3P represents a public-private-people partnership, through cross-boundary integration of people, private and public services, to provide totality of services to the user. 3P Integration goes beyond Government; agencies will be challenged to get out of their silo-thinking and to look actively for service integration opportunities. It is a task based on the imperative "Start with the User in Mind." Whatever it is that will serve the user best, should be met with a "Why not?"
12. Why 3P Integrate, which is simply Integrate-plus i.e. Integrate within Government plus the private and people sectors? The Government provides many essential services, but the reality is that the public has much more contact with the private sector than with the Government. So Integration within the Government alone is not good enough. Integration must extend to offering services to the user which are provided by the private sector and the people sector. Of course the participation of the private sector and the people sector will have to be entirely voluntary, but if the public and businesses make their preferences known that they wish private and people sector services to be brought to a common platform with Government services so as to conveniently meet their particular needs, I am sure the businessman will respond soon enough to the market signal.
13. 3P Integrated services will therefore bring about greater convenience for users. For the private sector, there will be exciting new business opportunities. For the Government, there will be cost savings through leveraging on the competencies of the private sector.
Integrated Trade & Logistics IT Platform
14. We have already begun this exciting next phase of eGovernment. As announced at the Infocomm Media Business Exchange in June this year, the Government is developing an Integrated Platform to better serve our trade and logistics communities beyond today's TradeNet. When completed in end 2006, the Platform will consist of a core IT system to automate the creation and exchange of commercial and regulatory documentation, to facilitate trade throughout its value chain. Combining public sector services, like customs declarations and permits, together with private sector offerings, such as financial and insurance services, the Integrated Platform will provide a total customer experience for our trade and logistics businesses.
National Electronic Payment Hub
15. I am also pleased to announce that we are developing a national electronic payment hub, which will be another 3P Integrate project. The Hub will cater to all our customers' payment needs online, and is expected to be ready by third quarter 2005. It offers an integrated, total bill payment experience for our customers; they can view and pay both Government and private sector bills online, using a payment mode of their choice. They will enjoy the convenience of a one-stop payment portal and no longer need to contend with different payment websites. With the Hub, agencies need not maintain their own separate payment infrastructures, which invariably lead to duplication and wastage.
16. The Hub will also provide a secure common payment mode across all of Government, known as FlexiPay, based on the GIRO-on-demand model. With just a single authorisation, customers will be able to pay any Government agency online. No need for individual authorisations to each agency.
Moving House Online
17. Besides these two initiatives, we are also looking at other areas to 3P Integrate. For example, we are conceptualising a one-stop Moving House Portal, to cater to all our customer's moving house needs like change of address, application for utilities and phone lines, etc. Such a service is not new. In the UK, when you move house, there is a privately-run online service, iammoving.com, where you can update your new address and it will notify the public and private agencies of your choosing about your change in address, saving you the hassle of having to notify each one separately.
Bridging the Digital Divide
18. In our relentless quest to deliver ever-better services online, we remain mindful of those who are not IT-savvy or do not have Internet access. The Government will not forget them. Various IT training and literacy programmes are available. We also launched the eCitizen Helper Programme last year, for those who need help transacting online with the Government. This programme is offered at over 80 locations island-wide, including the eClubs at our Community Centres. I am happy to see the new eCitizen Helper mascot. This mascot with outstretched hands epitomises friendly helpers who will help you to transact online with the Government. I hope to see the mascot keep spreading its cheerful presence.
Connecting Citizens through e-Governance
19. Besides just delighting customers through new ways of service delivery, we also need to connect our citizens and connect with our citizens. IT has been mobilised to engage our citizens and promote active citizen participation in the policy-making process. There is a similar continuum of e-governance maturity levels, like our e-service levels, to measure the effectiveness of our e-governance efforts. These maturity levels range from simply describing and explaining our policies online, to consulting citizens on the policies, to connecting citizens through these policies. I am glad to note that Government agencies have put online the thinking and rationale behind more than 85% of their public policies, and over 60% of policy consultations are conducted electronically.
20. IT is also used to help Government agencies to be more engaged with citizens. For example, public officers can now use the Public Consultation Resource Portal to learn about conducting public consultations. This resource portal was set up to support Government agencies in their efforts to engage citizens more effectively and confidently.
21. Merely delivering services electronically, or integration within the public sector, are clearly not enough. They fall short of the total service orientation our customers demand. 3P Integration is our answer to providing greater customer-centricity. It presents exciting opportunities for the private and public sectors to come together and create greater value for our customers, and demands that we transcend our agency-centric thinking, to adopt a whole of service approach. I urge you therefore - whether you are from the public, private or people sector - to share your ideas for cross-boundary collaboration, so that services can be integrated in a way not possible before.
22. eGovernment fundamentally is not about ICT or systems. It is about how to serve the customer and connect with citizens in the best way possible. Sustained effort to move up the value chain of e-services, from Publish to Interact to Transact to Integrate, and now all the way up to 3P Integrate is essential. Untiring effort to push up the value chain of e-governance from Describe to Explain to Consult to Connect is necessary. There must be a sense of urgency in this. "Start with the User in Mind" must be the uncompromising principle. Change rules. Change procedures. Work together. See things from the user's point of view. Understand his needs. Keep things simple for him. Make it easy to apply for services or to comply with regulations. IT makes all this possible. But little will be accomplished if there isn't a keen and widespread desire on the part of agencies to serve with the highest of standards in responsiveness, comprehensiveness, thoroughness, efficiency and effectiveness.
23. I wish you a most fruitful morning of learning and sharing. Thank you.