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IT Help Provides Better And More Convenient Public Services


The National Computer Board's focus for IT in the public sector is to make the Singapore Civil Service an exemplary model of the intelligent island. Initiatives are concentrated on developing applications and IT ...

The National Computer Board's focus for IT in the public sector is to make the Singapore Civil Service an exemplary model of the intelligent island. Initiatives are concentrated on developing applications and IT infrastructure to help the Civil Service provide better and more convenient public services. These initiatives also support the PS21 objectives of creating an excellent public service for the 21st century.

In total, over 900 systems have been deployed under the Civil Service Computerisation Programme (CSCP). In FY95 (1 April 95 - 31 March 96), 65 projects valued at $58 million were completed. Another 36 projects valued at $567 million were approved for implementation. As at 31 March 1996, the CSCP managed the development of 167 projects with a total value of $683 million.

Public Services through the Internet

The Internet was introduced as a new delivery channel for providing both information and transaction-based services to the public. To-date, 60 government agencies have their own home pages on the Internet, with some ministries providing transaction-based services as well. These services range from application for jobs in the civil service, application for government scholarships, registration for "O" and "A"-level examinations, registration at child care centres, application for various permits such as work permits for foreign workers and exit permits for NSMen, and applications for various licences.

The Government Electronic Mailbox was also introduced to enable the public to send enquiries, suggestions, feedback and engage in on-line communication with any public servant. Providing government services over the Internet has allowed the public to access government services round-the-clock.

On-line Services

Besides using the Internet, we have continued to exploit the use of IT to provide convenience to the public through on-line services. Examples of such services launched this year are:

a) Primary One (P1) On-Line Registration. With the new P1 On-Line Registration system, each child's details are entered into the system at schools. Information on registration statistics and vacancies for each phase can be obtained immediately, resulting in time saved for both parents and schools. The system also helps school authorities to detect duplicate reservations made at different schools.

b) Work Permit Application. The electronic link-up between the immigration checkpoint, companies, and employment and insurance agencies meant that only a single trip to the Work Permit and Employment Department was needed for the whole work permit application process. Waiting time was cut down to one hour compared to two to three hours previously.The application processing turnaround was also reduced from seven days to one day. The direct savings to employers from the reduction in waiting time alone is estimated to be $3 million a year.

c) Automated Traffic Offence Management System (ATOMS). A multi-agency project involving the Subordinate Courts, the Traffic Police and the Land Transport Authority, the system allows members of the public to pay traffic composition and court fines via interactive kiosks. ATOMS is the first court service to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to the convenience gained, the public gets to enjoy the benefit of paying a lower fine when paying through thekiosk, as opposed to having to pay a court fine.

d) Automated Information and Marriage Searches Kiosk (AIMS). AIMS is a multi-media touch-screen kiosk which provides information about whether a person has a marriage registered with the ROM. AIMS allows the public to use the self-service kiosk to do a search and get immediate results. In the past, such a search request would have taken three days to process.

Increasing Efficiency

Besides systems that directly impact the members of the public, systems which improved public administration by providing greater efficiency were deployed. The projects carried out this year include:

a) Electronic Procurement System for Government (EPS). The Budget Division of the Ministry of Finance and the Pharmaceutical Department of the Ministry of Health are piloting the EPS to carry out procurement from some 40 suppliers. The EPS automates the procurement processes within the government department and establishes electronic linkages with suppliers through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), reducing the procurement cycle time. Based on the procurement volumes for FY93, it is estimated that the Government can achieve close to 30 man-years of effort if all departments use the system. Two other agencies preparing for the implementation of EPS by the middle of 1997 are the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Singapore Police Force.

b) Mobile Terminals For Police (COP-II). Police investigators in patrol cars have been equipped with laptop computers to enable them to have quick and convenient access to information when carrying out investigations at the scene of the crime, using wireless technology. For example, officers can screen persons and vehicles by accessing databases from their laptops. This allows law enforcement officers to act on informed decisions and respond more promptly.

c) Video Conferencing Facilities. Video-conferencing facilities have been implemented at the Subordinate Courts to eliminate the need to transport the accused from the Remand Prison to the Courts. Vulnerable witnesses (e.g. victim in a rape case) could also choose to give evidence in a separate chamber which is less emotionally traumatic. Chambers matters could also be conducted via video-conferencing, saving time and transportation cost for lawyers.

Enhancing the Government Information Infrastructure

With the Civil Service moving into increasingly more sophisticated application systems, the government information infrastructure has been enhanced to ensure a robust and consistent infrastructure which is able to take on the demands for higher bandwidth capacity and integration across different government ministries.

A new government network infrastructure, called the Singapore Government Network (SGNet), has been put in place by enhancing and expanding the existing government Inter-Departmental Network. SGNet has enhanced network, security and connectivity features.

A new generation Civil Service-wide electronic messaging system, Singapore Government Electronic Messaging System (GEMS) has been introduced to allow civil servants to have quick and reliable email and to access documents which are stored centrally. GEMS also allows documents to be electronically transferred across ministries, improving the coordination of work. Three pilot sites are currently using GEMS. Roll out to all government ministries and organs of state will begin in Dec this year.

The Public Sector Card will soon be in place, giving every civil servant a common identification document. The card will carry multiple applications, such as providing electronic access to offices, computer networks, and electronic mail as well as staff benefits and entitlements. The PS Card is compatible with the NETS Cashcard system and can also be used to pay for goods at canteens or retail outlets, telephone calls, and purchases at vending machines. All civil servants working in the new Central Ministry Building will be issued with the PS Card.

Looking ahead

The NCB will actively leverage on the broadband Singapore ONE infrastructure to deploy government services to the public. We will also work with our clients in the government to use cutting-edge technologies to bring about productivity gains and better service levels to the public. Some major initiatives started this year are:

a) Government Call Centre. The NCB is working with the Ministry of Labour and the Customs and Excise Department toset up Call Centres at the respective ministries to provide quality service to the public over the phone. With the Call Centres in place, the public need only call one 1-800 number from each ministry to have any enquiry answered. Customer Service Officers will be able to answer general enquiries on the ministry's services; policies and procedures; provide information on status of applications; take orders for publications and other products; schedule appointments with ministry officers; and perform other simple transactions over the phone. Both Call Centres will go "live" by January 1998.

b) Government Kiosk Applications. Discussions with NETS are underway to deploy the first suite of government kiosk applications from four government departments onto the NETS kiosks. The first government kiosk application is planned to be launched by mid-1997. By 1998, the public will be able to make payments and bookings, perform information searches, renew licences and obtain application forms from these multimedia kiosks.

c) Immigration Auto-Clearance System (IACS). The NCB is working with the Singapore Immigration Department to speed up clearance procedures at immigration checkpoints by using fingerprint biometric matching and smartcard technology. Commuters issued with personalised smart cards which have been encoded with their fingerprint data can be quickly cleared through automated lanes equipped with fingerprint scanners and access card readers. With the system in place frequent travellers can be cleared through the Woodlands Checkpoint in about 10 seconds. The first phase is scheduled to be implemented in December 1997.