Singapore opens up access to citizen data to facilitate business transactions

Commercial businesses can now access citizen data, such as mailing address and passport numbers, stored in the national MyInfo database, in a move the Singapore government says is aimed at improving service efficiency.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

The Singapore government has opened up access to its MyInfo service, allowing private businesses to easily tap a range of citizen data to process various transactions.

Offered through the new MyInfo Developer & Partner Portal, the service was an extension of the national system first launched in early-2016 as a way for citizens to automatically fill up online government forms with their personal details. The service then was based on voluntary enrolment.

In September this year, however, the Singapore government said all 3.3 million SingPass accounts would be linked to a corresponding MyInfo profile by December 2017. With the tie-up, citizens' personal details such as their name, identification number, marital status, passport number, and date of birth, would be used to fill up online government forms--after they had logged in via their SingPass account.

"SingPass acts as an authentication gateway, while the MyInfo service provides the user's basic personal data to form the digital user profile, to make transactions easier and more secure," the government's CIO agency GovTech then said.

The service was mandatory for SingPass users, which the government said was necessary as it worked towards its aim to establish a national digital identity.

With the launch of the new portal, MyInfo now would be accessible by private businesses and app developers, which could integrate the platform with their own digital services.

GovTech said the move was in line with the government's smart nation goal to facilitate collaboration between the public and private sectors, and "create better efficiencies for businesses and a more intuitive user experience for their customers".

An earlier trial involving banks was conducted, allowing customers to bypass the need to submit supporting documents such as copies of their national identification cards, when they opened new accounts or applied for credit cards. Banks were able to reduce service application time by 80 percent and improved approval rate by up to 15 percent, according to GovTech.

The government agency's CIO Chan Cheow Hoe said: "With MyInfo made available to a wider range of business transactions, we can help remove the need to verify documents and even reduce time spent on face-to-face meetings. This significantly improves business efficiency as companies can on-board their customers faster."

More than 100 businesses across different verticals, including utilities and telecommunications, had expressed interest in integrating with MyInfo, said GovTech.

With the new service portal, citizens still would need to provide consent before businesses were able to access the necessary data.

While often described in local reports as a "digital data vault", MyInfo was not a centralised repository that stored user data in a common database. Instead, it extracted the relevant citizen data provided to--and archived by--the respective government agencies, as and when they were required to pre-fill forms.

Data was stored across multiple systems safeguarded by cybersecurity measures that were in line with industry best practices, according to the government. Data available via MyInfo ranged from personal details such as passport number and residential status, to contact information including mobile number, e-mail address, and billing address.

Earlier this week, the Singapore government also announced plans to introduce a new bill aimed at cutting red tape and better enabling public sector agencies to share data with each other. The Public Sector (Governance) Act 2018 aimed to establish a "consistent system of governance and accountability" across government bodies as well as "clarify the accountability relationship" between these government bodies, respective ministers, and employees.

The Singapore government had long touted the importance of data in its push to become a smart nation, urging organisations to share and contribute data. It also made available datasets collected by several government agencies to the public, in the hopes that these could spur the development of new products and services.

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