Singapore government reshuffles agencies to deepen smart nation focus

Just months after a previous restructure, the Singapore government has unveiled plans to create a new unit under the Prime MInister's Office to better integrate and "turbo-charge" its smart nation efforts.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Just months after a previous restructure, the Singapore government has returned to the drawing board to create a new unit that it says will better coordinate efforts around its smart nation vision.

To be parked under the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), the new Smart Nation and Digital Government (SNDG) Group would allow the government to be "more integrated and responsive", it said in a statement Monday. The new unit would comprise employees from three existing government departments: the Ministry of Finance's Digital Government Directorate; the Ministry of Communications and Information's Government Technology Policy department; and the Smart Nation Programme Office, which was under the PMO.

Under the organisational changes, which would be effective from May 1, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) also would move from the Ministry of Communications and Information and come under the purview of the PMO.

Responsible for implementing ICT services for the public sector, GovTech itself was formed only in October 2016 after a previous restructuring that saw former ICT regulator, Infocomm Development Authority, merge with Media Development Authority to form the current statutory board, Infocommunications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

The new SNDG Group would be responsible for, amongst others, developing platforms for Singapore's smart nation rollouts, driving digital transformation in the government sector, and facilitating smart technologies for citizens. The government added that the new unit would further drive ongoing efforts to improve data-sharing and promote e-payments in the country.

In a Facebook post, Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said the new group would "turbo-charge" the government's smart nation goals and bring together policy and implementation teams under the same roof. Such efforts would include establishing the infrastructures needed to support the national digital identity, e-payments, and Internet of Things (IoT) network.

A ministerial committee, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, would oversee the new group, which also would include Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who also was the country's Minister-in-charge of Cybersecurity.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last month said the government was exploring plans for a national identity system that to further extend access to private-sector services via the SingPass account. Citizens currently used the account for e-government services.

Noting that countries such as Estonia already had a national identity system, Lee then said: "We need a good digital identification service which is reliable, which everybody can rely on. I can sign, I can identify myself, I can access services securely, and I can transact services online." He also noted the need for a robust electronic payment system to drive the adoption of cashless payments in the country.

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