Singapore e-gov services still not global

Country leads in e-government implementation worldwide but locally-developed e-government products still lack presence in global landscape, notes official, who says government will help push Singapore public-sector products abroad.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

SINGAPORE--While the country leads in e-government implementation, few locally developed e-government applications or services are adopted in the global market. This is an issue ICT regulator, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), hopes to fix.

During a media Q&A held here today, James Kang, assistant chief executive of government chief information office at IDA, said Singapore had a low number of products and services in the global e-government landscape, noting that this was "ironic" as the city-state was placed in leading positions in several global indexes on e-government.

For instance, the country ranked No. 1 in the World e-Government Ranking 2012 by Waseda University; No. 2 in the Global Information Technology Report 2012 by World Economic Forum (WEF) and INSEAD; and No. 10 on World E-government Leaders 2012 by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Thus, a lot more needs to be done to bring Singapore-developed "world class" e-government products overseas, Kang said.

IDA plans to address this through the "productization" of locally-developed e-government applications, he said. The government agency will link local businesses to international market accelerator and help them gain exposure overseas, he noted.

The ICT regulator in 2009 set up an entity, IDA International, specifically focused on exporting e-government expertise around the world.

E-gov innovation through public-private cooperation
IDA also hopes to drive innovation in the procurement of e-government services.

During his presentation at the IDA Industry Briefing 2012, Kang introduced plans to pilot the "innovation procurement process" which aims to change existing e-government procurement rules to encourage the adoption of more inventive applications and services.

Koh Chin Yong, IDA's assistant director for the government infocomm governance division, explained the process as a "co-creation" of e-government services by the public and private sector, adding that the pilot will commence in the next two years.

Elaborating, Koh said a government agency will be able to issue a request for proposals when they have an IT problem that cannot be solved using products currently available in the market. IT suppliers then can propose different solutions based on the problem, he said.

From the proposals, the agency can then shortlist a few IT vendors which will each develop its own prototype, he added. The agency will evaluate and shortlist some prototypes to pilot he said, adding that each stage of evaluation can comprise more than one supplier. After the trial, the most successful service will then be implemented by the government agency.

Koh explained that this process is different from the current system where procurement is dependent on paper-based proposals.

The new system will provide a level playing field for IT suppliers as proposals will not be based on previous track records, since all products here will be new, he added.

When asked, IDA declined to comment on processes it had in place to eliminate IT procurement fraud.

Earlier this year, top ranking officials were suspended from their duties following allegations of misconduct involving a female executive from an IT company that had supplied products to local government offices.

IT players welcome government tenders
During his presentation, Kang said the Singapore government will increase its ICT tenders to S$1.2 billion (US$936.7 million) this financial year from S$1.1 billion (US$857.8 million) last year. In contrast, governments in the United States, United Kingdom and Europe are were cutting down on their ICT spend, he said.

Last year, one-third of contracts were awarded to multinational corporations while the rest went to local suppliers, said Kang, who described this "a balanced proportion".

Several IT players which ZDNet Asia contacted welcome the news.

Joe Ong, managing director for Hitachi Data Systems in Singapore, said: "The sustained government investment in technologies that enable operational efficiency and productivity in the public sector, reflects the positive impact of technology on Singapore's infrastructure and its capability to provide a high standard of public sector services to citizens."

Joshua Soh, managing director for Cisco Systems in Singapore and Brunei, said: "With this announcement, IDA is reinforcing Singapore's leadership in creating a connected and collaborative government that uses innovative technologies as a foundation for new government services.

"Technology and the network have changed the way governments and public sector agencies collaborate, and the sustained investment by Singapore will create a highly-connected, future-state community," Soh said.

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