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Singapore public sector aims for IT standardisation

The majority of government agencies have made the transition to SOEasy, an initiative to standardise the IT operating environment for the public sector in Singapore
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

The majority of government agencies have made the transition to SOEasy, a massive initiative to standardise the IT operating environment for the public sector in Singapore.

At a media session Thursday, Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) reported that 62 out of a targeted 75 agencies have crossed over to the transition phase. This means that oneMeridian, the consortium awarded the project last year, has assumed the management of the infrastructure and systems in those agencies.

According to Pauline Tan, senior director in the government chief information office at the IDA, the SOEasy initiative has led to the revamp of 12 existing communications infrastructures, and is expected to add 10 new ones at a later date.

Thirty-nine central services will sit across the 22 infrastructures, the SOEasy programme director said. The services are delivered by two Government Network Operations Centres (GNOCs), which also monitor network health 24/7.

SOEasy services will be availed in three phases starting with the replacement of existing services such as email and desktop security, added Tan. New services, such as unified messaging, will be introduced in subsequent phases next month and in February 2010.

To date, four agencies have begun implementation of SOEasy. The rollout in IDA was initiated in July and is now about 70 percent complete. Over at the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts, and the National Heritage Board, between 30 percent and 50 percent of public officers have also begun to utilise the centralised services.

Agencies that are expected to commence SOEasy implementation in the near term include the Ministry of Health, Public Service Division and the Supreme Court. Two or three agencies are expected to initiate the rollout every month, said Tan.

Under SOEasy, each officer is issued a 'suite', which consists of hardware, software and services. The suites are selected from a menu of pre-configured combinations, with additional services topped up where necessary.

First unveiled in 2005, the standard operating environment initiative is envisioned to deliver greater agility and efficiency to the Singapore government. It is also aimed at helping public-sector agencies better collaborate and share information.

The project is valued at S$1.3bn (£550m) over eight years, for the design, development and delivery of core infrastructure and services. Some 800 personnel form the core SOEasy team, led by HP-owned EDS.

Lim Hup Seng, deputy secretary (performance) at Singapore's Ministry of Finance, noted that the number of seats has increased since the project was awarded last year. The number of public-service officers currently stands at around 75,000 against the initial target of around 60,000, resulting in additional costs, he said.

Windows 7 evaluation underway
IDA's Tan noted that while the release of Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system was not in time for the commencement of SOEasy rollout, the team is currently evaluating the platform. Windows 7 is expected to launch officially on 22 October.

Testing of the backend applications took place some six to nine months before the July rollout, and had demanded a "stable environment", explained Tan. Windows Vista was adopted as the platform to roll out SOEasy.

"We... have already started to test and see what is the best time for Windows 7 to be introduced," she noted, adding that agencies that are scheduled to implement SOEasy next year could move directly onto the platform, "depending on the need" and the stability of the new platform.

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