Singapore government pushes on with cloud migration

More than 150 systems classified as 'restricted' and below have been moved to the commercial cloud, and at least SG$870 million ($623.56 million) worth of contracts this year have been set aside to double the number running on the cloud.

Singapore's public sector is ploughing ahead with its five-year cloud migration plan, with more than SG$870 million ($623.56 million) worth of contracts dedicated this year to moving more of its systems over to the commercial cloud. One such system is the Inland Revenue Interactive Network (IRIN), which will be getting an update that includes a shift to a microservices architecture. IRIN is currently used by 5 million entities and 2,000 officers each year.   

Singapore in late-2018 unveiled a five-year roadmap to move the majority of its on-premise IT systems to a commercial cloud environment as it looked to speed up the delivery and improve quality of government services to its population. 

Since then, more than 150 systems classified as "restricted" and below have been migrated to a commercial cloud platform, said GovTech in an update on Wednesday. The government agency oversees the public sector's ICT strategy and deployment. 

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This year, it added, a further SG$870 million in contracts had been "earmarked" to double the number of systems running on the commercial cloud, as the government pushed ahead with its "cloud-first" efforts. 

It pointed to the ability to link up government agencies with a wider ecosystem of partners, including developers and users, as a key benefit of operating in a cloud environment. 

Leveraging the cloud capabilities and services of commercial cloud systems helped the government develop applications and services for citizens more quickly and in a more scalable way, said Kevin Ng, GovTech's director of core operations, development environment, and exchange (Codex).

A digital platform that facilitates the delivery of the government's e-services, Codex comprises its data framework and technology stack, including shared software components and infrastructure to build digital applications. 

Instead of having to develop a new application from scratch, government agencies are now able to access a global ecosystem of ready-made applications to add advanced features to their digital services. GovTech added that application testing and deployment could be automated and done in real-time, speeding up the delivery of more robust digital services to citizens and businesses.

Running its cybersecurity, services, cloud computing functions as a centralised platform, on the Singapore Government Technology Stack, also ensured cybersecurity and data security measures were incorporated into IT systems development.

This was critical as government and citizen data are stored on commercial cloud systems, said Bernard Tan, GovTech's director of cybersecurity consulting services. 

"Moving to the commercial cloud also allows agencies to utilise cloud-native security services to enhance security, as well as modernise and secure their deployment, while achieving higher resiliency through cloud-native auto-scaling capabilities," Tan said.

GovTech further touted the IRIN as an example of how government digital services could become more agile with the move to the cloud. 

The inland revenue system, which supports the nation's tax administration and revenue collection service, is being prepped for an update to a third-generation system that will be hosted on the government's commercial cloud. DevOps tools and structure also will be deployed to increase automation.

In addition, the system will move from a monolithic architecture to microservices for improved scalability, agility, and reliability, said GovTech. "When completed, the redeveloped system will enable taxpayers to complete their tax obligations, from assessment to payment, in a single sitting," it said. "Corporate taxpayers' tax submission processes will also be simplified and more integrated with their systems and accounting software."

Other systems slated to move to the commercial cloud are Infocomm Media Development Authority's Integrated Regulatory Info System (IRIS) and PUB's smart water meter initiative. The latter is slated to roll out in 2021, marking the country's first smart water meter system that will be able to capture household water usage readings wirelessly and push information to households on water-saving measures via a customer portal. 

Also scheduled to launch next year, the IRIS is touted to eliminate the need for infocomm and media industry players to submit physical documents, including for content classification, and provide updates on application statuses, amongst other features.

To facilitate joint development with the private sector, GovTech said it has awarded 17 companies in a co-development tender this year involving applications that could be hosted on the cloud.

The government is also looking to modernise its application development practices, which will be necessary to address challenges in existing applications and build capabilities that could support its digital initiatives, said GovTech's assistant chief executive of services, Tan Eng Pheng. 

For its financial year, the government agency's development teams will be frequently deploying changes to software codes with the aim of improving applications and test automation and software reusability.

Government tenders for applications will also increasingly require contractors to use modern application development practices, the SHIP CI/CD (Secure Hybrid Integrated Pipeline, Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery) platform, and government technology stack, Tan added.

The Singapore government earlier this month said it would increase its fiscal 2020 ICT spend by 30% to SG$3.5 billion ($2.52 billion) as part of efforts to fuel the adoption of digital technologies and help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), in particular, will be able to participate in 80% of such procurement opportunities.

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