Singapore government to reclaim some IT services for in-house development

With plans to spend S$2.2 billion in IT procurements this year, Infocomm Development Authority says the government is aiming to have up to 20 percent of IT services managed internally to gain better deployment speed and control.

The Singapore government has increased its ICT spending this year, with plans to reclaim some IT services to be developed in-house instead of opting for the traditional outsourcing route.

The government will be putting up S$2.2 billion (US$1.63 billion) worth of IT procurements for tender, which is an increase from S$1.95 billion spent last year, according to officials from the country's ICT regulator Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA).

A large part of the monies will go toward supporting the city-state's smart nation push including the smart nation platform (SNP), as well as in areas such as infrastructure enhancements, application development, web services, data analytics, and cybersecurity.

TradeNet, for instance, will be undergoing a facelift to improve the e-government platform for the local trade and logistics industry, which was first launched 25 years ago, said Chan Cheow Hoe, IDA's assistant chief executive for government chief information office. A tender for this project had been called and bids were being evaluated, Chan said, explaining his reason for declining to provide more details. The initiative, though, would see the introduction of more features and value-added services on top of existing functions such as online permit and license application.

Jacqueline Poh, IDA's managing director, also noted that several technology components will be among the government's top 10 list of procurements for first time this year, pointing to data analytics, robotics, and Internet of Things (IoT) as examples.

Taking back ICT development in-house to be "nimble"

Also new is the way the government would seek IT services, according to Poh.

"We don't believe it's feasible to have an extensively outsourced approach to government procurement in IT," she explained, stressing the need to build internal capabilities in engineering and data analytics, for instance. "We want to do this because a digital government needs to be nimble."

She said the government, "over time", was targeting to have up to 20 percent of its ICT procurements to be carried out in-house, compared to the current environment where its deployments were "largely" outsourced to external vendors.

Noting that this impacted the way the government delivers its IT services, Chan added: "In the past, everything was built by a vendor, Today, we're defining how they should be built."

Reclaiming IT developments allowed for faster output and changes that need to be carried out would be done more quickly. The government also would have more control over the project's outcome, Poh said.

She added that some agencies had started in-house development last year and the outcome had been positive. Projects that used to take one to two years to deploy through the outsourcing route could be reduced to months with internal development, she said.

IDA in April announced plans to open a new software design and development facility to allow government agencies to access its research and data analytics capabilities, and create e-government services that better meet the needs of Singaporeans.

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The ICT regulator works with 96 government agencies to provide e-services for its citizens.

Spanning 13,000 square feet and scheduled for launch in mid-July, the new development lab is located at Lucasfilm's local campus Sandcrawler in the country's research and development hub, Fusionopolis.

Smart homes go on sale

Also this week, the Singapore government made available for sale its first lot of public housing in Punggol Northshore that have been designed to be smart homes. Starting from S$88,000 (US$65,362), or S$28,000 (US$20,797) with government grants, for a two-room flat, the apartment units will come with additional power and data points to enable easy installation of smart technologies, which residents can choose to deploy in their homes. These include home energy management system to monitor the power consumption of their home appliances, as well as healthcare monitoring systems for elderly or patient care.

Smart technologies also will be deployed in the estate's surroundings such as carpark management systems to monitor parking demand and environmental modeling to study wind flow and temperature, which will provide data to assist Singapore's city planners in deciding where to place outdoor amenities such as playgrounds.

With the large volumes of data expected to be collected, stored, and analyzed, security would have to play a big part in the country's smart nation ambition.

According to Poh, security accounted for S$29 million (US$21.54 million) of the government's ICT spending in 2013. This figure climbed to S$408.6 million (US$303.49 million) last year, some of which went toward beefing up the capabilities of its Cyber Watch Center.

Concerns about security led to the Singapore government's move to own the smart nation platform, she said, so it would have greater control over outcomes and changes that would need to be made. "More importantly, it enables us to establish a security stance for the smart nation platform. We take cybersecurity very seriously because there will be a lot of data flowing through it."

She added that its security plan, for instance, would ensure data centers were secured and encryption was used to safeguard sensitive data.

This also includes plans to own the telecommunications infrastructure that carries the data, which ZDNet understands to mean ensuring leased lines used to transmit such data will be owned by the government.