Spanning established fields like biotech to up-and-coming sectors like greentech, digitalisation has made its mark across every industry today. Amid all the emerging kinds of ‘tech,’ one arguably forms the backbone of the rest: regulatory tech, also known as regtech.
Tracing its roots from fintech, regtech refers to the use of digital technologies by businesses and organisations to navigate the intricate regulatory landscape. To safeguard against reputational risk, regtech allows institutions to ensure compliance through tools like automation and artificial intelligence (AI)—reducing error-prone manual processes as well as achieving efficiency and transparency.
To safely and securely bring Singapore into the digital future, the Regulatory Technology (RegTech) division of the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s (IMDA) Policy, Regulation & Competition Development (PRCD) Group aims to harness technology to enhance the regulatory processes underlying the city-state’s digital ecosystem.
From licensing to law enforcement, many domestic services are operating in tiptop shape today thanks to the efforts of IMDA’s RegTech team. In this feature, we spotlight two IMDA changemakers quietly revolutionising RegTech, one project at a time.
Keeping an AI on digitalisation
Trained in computer science, joining the then-Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) was a natural step for Mr Teo Yeow Hong to kickstart a technology career. Currently a Senior Manager (RegTech), he creates positive impact each day by helping the PCRD Group accelerate projects related to the digitalisation of internal business processes. With IMDA’s digital policies designed to build a safe and common space tailored to relevant industries, it is important that decisions are made responsibly and effectively.
According to Mr Teo, AI is especially useful in streamlining such laborious processes. “For example, we collaborated with colleagues from other divisions to implement AI tools which leverages on computer vision, natural language processing and machine learning to aid in decision-making,” he shared. The implemented tools improved the productivity of the officers, allowing them to cope with increased demands in their work.
One of the projects that he and his colleagues have worked on is an Intelligent Licensing Assistive Chatbot to help their Licensing colleagues to answer licensing-related queries from the public. In another, he has implemented a system that analyses images using AI that has helped improve productivity gains by more than 70%.
“Using assistive technology to automatically decide and respond would significantly reduce human effort, as the officer would just have to “teach” the system to answer emerging questions and the system can deal with it subsequently. As IMDA is Singapore’s digital architect, we should set an example by accelerating internal technology adoption to improve business processes.”
Mr Teo Yeow Hong
Beyond digital transformation, Mr Teo also manages other tech projects seeking to disrupt traditional operations. Taking his skillset to the telecommunications sector, his team handles IMconnected, a mobile application that crowdsources information like speed, latency and coverage. In turn, IMDA can take measures to improve consumer’s quality of experience. In doing so, the team helps users address the connectivity concerns that come with an increasingly digital lifestyle.
By helping users understand regulatory requirements, such assistive technology has the potential to create a seamless experience for businesses and consumers as they work to comply with IMDA’s robust and progressive regulations.
“The thing about working in tech is that I often get to experience new technologies and broaden my knowledge,” reflected Mr Teo, adding it can be a challenge for some to adopt emerging digital solutions. But with his knack for tech and a demonstrated passion for improving lives, he—and the rest of IMDA—is surely up for the challenge.
Returning to the regulatory roots
Meanwhile, fellow Senior Manager (RegTech) Mr Peter Lin, actually started out working in the regulatory side of the statutory board, then called IDA a decade ago. “I started my career with the regulatory side of IDA, looking at the market access of telecommunications providers, submarine cable landings and licences called Facilities Based Operator Licences,” he shared. “Now that I’ve returned, I’m looking to use technology to enhance and improve regulatory processes.”
But with his broad interest in different technologies, Mr Lin eventually ventured into the development side of the house, actively immersing himself in digital platform programmes. Most notably, in his previous role as Senior Manager within IMDA’s Next Generation Platforms division—now called the Trust Tech Programme Office—he contributed to driving business applications for blockchain and other next-generation platforms in Singapore, exploring their nascent potential in multiple sectors.
One of his most memorable projects, he recounted, was the Blockchain Challenges that IMDA has run since 2018. By raising awareness about blockchain in the local ecosystem, the Challenges kickstarted the blockchain initiatives of several companies and even led to the publication of Singapore’s Blockchain Ecosystem Report and Landscape Map, recalled Mr Lin.
“Seeing the ecosystem develop around blockchain technology and being part of this growth was more rewarding than I had ever imagined it [to be],”
Mr Peter Lin
After a fruitful run in the industry development side of IMDA, Mr Lin returned to his roots in the regulatory space earlier in June 2021. While new to the team, he is more than enthusiastic to revisit regulatory technologies, both old and new to improve different processes and help IMDA build a better, more trusted online space for businesses to compete and thrive.
Currently, he is working on using natural language processing (NLP) to easily identify and ‘sniff out’ crucial contextual information from licence applications, significantly streamlining the workflow. “Improving these processes would greatly release our colleagues from administrative tasks, and this could translate to them doing more meaningful work,” Mr Lin said.
With over 10 years with IMDA under his belt, Mr Lin is no stranger to the many opportunities that can be pursued at the agency. For now, he is delighted to rediscover his regulatory interests and see how these technologies can create lasting change.
“I’m glad I can marry both technology and regulation in my work today. You could say [returning to the regulatory group] was like coming back home,”
Mr Peter Lin
Interested in a career at IMDA? Find out more about the opportunities available on our Careers page: https://www.imda.gov.sg/Who-We-Are/careers