Mr Peter Chen, Senior Minister of State for Education and Chariman SIU Political Supervisory Committee Speech - Launch of eCITIZEN Centre

Mr Peter Chen, Senior Minister of State for Education and Chariman
SIU Political Supervisory Committee
Speech - Launch of eCITIZEN Centre
Singapore, 10 April 1999

1. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to join you here today for the official launch of eCitizen Centre.


2. During the opening of Comdex Asia last year, DPM BG Lee Hsien Loong unveiled the Government's E-Commerce Masterplan which aims to encourage the pervasive use of e-commerce in Singapore, and to strengthen Singapore's position as an international electronic commerce hub. The masterplan aims to have $4 billion worth of products and services transacted electronically through Singapore by the year 2003.

3. At the individual level, IT is very much a part of our lives today. Some 112 million people worldwide are now reachable by the Internet and US$43 billion of goods were transacted over the Internet last year. Consumers have also become increasingly aware of e-commerce and the benefits it brings, such as convenience, accessibility, shorter transaction times and the wide range of goods and services available. There is keen interest to learn about how to make use of IT capabilities. For example, at the Surf@Stadium Internet training event held last year, nearly 4,000 people showed up at the Singapore Indoor Stadium to learn about the Internet and e-commerce.

4. Over the past decade, Singapore has deliberately prepared herself to meet the new challenges of the information age. We have developed a substantial national IT capability and made a good start to prepare our people for the world of IT. For example, every one of our schools is equipped with computers and connected to the Internet, providing our students with many forms of computer-enriched learning.

Strategic Intent of Electronic Public Services

5. But IT's potential is not merely restricted to enhancing the efficiency and productivity of business processes. The Public Service has already begun exploiting IT and the Internet to enhance and improve the delivery of public services. Most of us are familiar with many of the electronic public services that exist today, such as CPF On-line and Electronic Income Tax Filing.

6. However, more public services could be delivered electronically and more customers could benefit from the use of electronic public services. In fact, the development of electronic public services is strategic to Singapore in two aspects:

7. Firstly, it helps the Public Sector to achieve its PS21 vision of service excellence. The public expects high standards of service and there is an increasing need for government agencies to work together to deliver integrated public services. In fact, the entire Public Sector should as far as possible operates as one single entity, bringing together useful services and delivering them in meaningful and convenient packages to the public. The use of IT is one way of achieving this goal. It not only enhances the Public Sector's internal efficiency and effectiveness, it also benefits the public through better, faster and more accessible services. In time to come, the public should be able to interact with government agencies in this environment at any time of the day, any day of the week, and without having to make trips to the respective government agencies to do so.

8. Secondly, the development of electronic public services is critical to setting the pace in proliferating the use of IT and creating an IT-savvy culture in Singapore. It will serve to enhance the ability of the public to be increasingly familiar and comfortable with IT, which has become a critical component in the knowledge-based economy. Our people's openness to and skill with IT can offer a distinctive competitive edge to Singapore.

9. DPM BG Lee Hsien Loong announced last year that key public services will be delivered electronically by the year 2001. For this initiative to succeed, it is important that as many customers as possible benefit from using the electronic public services available.

Quality Customer Service

(a) Horizontal and vertical integration of electronic public services

10. Hence, it is not sufficient for government agencies to just deliver as many of their services on-line as possible. Government agencies should also streamline their work processes to be more customer-focused and to deliver electronic public services with the customers' needs in mind rather than the convenience of individual government agencies.

11. For example, this could involve integrating different parts of a public service into one single electronic package for the convenience of the users. Where possible, different electronic public services should also be grouped into service packages according to the users' point of view. For instance, when you move house, you should be able to apply for a phone line, your power and water supplies, and your TV licence at the same time, even though these services are provided by different government agencies. Similarly, when you are looking for a job, you should be able to access the necessary information and services provided by various government agencies, such the CPF Board, IRAS and the Ministry of Manpower, from a single location.

(b) Sensitivity to customers' needs

12. It is also necessary for government agencies to be sensitive to their customers' anxiety about this new IT environment and take the necessary steps to familiarise them with it. For example, members of the public who do not have any home computer system and those who are unfamiliar with the use of IT should not be excluded from enjoying the benefits of electronic public services.

13. Of course, those customers who have the ability to use electronic public services should do so. However, for those customers who need some help in using electronic public services, government agencies should ensure that such help is readily available until such a time when they are able to do so independently. Here, I would like to cite two examples of how government agencies can help the public.

14. The first example is IRAS' Electronic Income Tax Filing. On your way to this afternoon's launch, some of you might have noticed student volunteers helping the public with electronic filing of their income tax right here at this CC. I am told that IRAS has stationed student volunteers at several CCs to help the public file their income tax electronically. I also observed that IRAS has taken the efforts to publicise and familiarise the public with E-Filing for Income Tax. These include advertisements in television commercials, newspapers, and even giving away free calendar cards.

15. The second example that I'm going to cite takes place at this CC too. I am told that at the Bukit Batok CC, as part of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme, a group of enthusiastic senior citizen volunteers have been conducting regular classes to teach their fellow senior citizens how to use the computer. They prove the point that IT skills are in fact within the reach of everyone, young and old alike, and can even help us to sustain lifelong learning and stay socially active in our golden years.

Launch of eCitizen Centre

16. Today, with the launch of eCitizen Centre, we are taking an important step towards fulfilling this goal of one-stop, non-stop electronic public services for all. The project heralds a new era for the Singapore Public Service by changing the traditional way in which the public interacts with government agencies. More importantly, it harnesses the power of IT to introduce greater convenience to the public.

17. I am particularly pleased to note that eCitizen Centre has been developed with the customers' needs in mind. In fact, for the first time, electronic public services are grouped from the customers' point of view. With the project, the Public Service has come together to integrate information and services across different government agencies to bring about greater convenience to the public.


18. It is heartening to note that the Public Service has made good progress in using IT to improve on its efficiency and effectiveness. IT is, however, a rapidly changing field. We must always be prepared to adapt quickly to technological advances and harness the latest IT to improve our services to the public. I would like to urge the Public Service to continue to capitalise on IT to improve its services to the public.

19. I would also like to take this opportunity to encourage everyone to make use of and regard eCitizen Centre as a key part of your continual IT learning path. Open yourself to this vast universe of resources and opportunities that is now available at your fingertips. In time to come, you may find that IT can help you to be more productive and efficient, both in your working and social environments by opening up new and better ways of doing things. I encourage everyone to work together with the Public Service to explore how best to leverage on the excellent IT environment in Singapore, to create new competitive advantages both for yourselves and for Singapore. I look forward to the next innovative service initiative the Public Service has in store for us.

20. In closing, may I congratulate all the government agencies involved in the creation of eCitizen Centre, and I wish all of you every success in this very exciting project. It is now my pleasure to launch the eCitizen Centre.

Thank you.