Singapore: Singapore government has decided to make more spatial data public to encourage the creation of innovative services for citizens and businesses. This initiative comes under one of three strategic thrusts, the co-creation of higher value services of the country’s new e-government masterplan 2011 – 15.
Announcing the new e-government masterplan at the iGov Global Forum, Peter Ho, head of civil service and permanent secretary at Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that it would mark a mindset shift from “government-to-you” to “government-with-you”.
Ho observed that disruptive technologies such as social networking are making the “government knows best” notion irrelevant. Hence, today’s public services, developed by the government will not work in future. He added, “Public sector agencies will have to tap into the wisdom of crowds, into the knowledge and capabilities that reside in the private and people sectors. Together they will co-develop and deliver effective services to meet the customers’ needs.”
According to Ho, government agencies are custodians of vast databases of information that can be tapped to create useful services. One of the examples is the Land Transport Authority’s collaboration with Google to combine live traffic feeds and publication transportation data with Google Maps for commuters to better plan their trips. However, there is potential to do more, as well as open up more common applications.
Elaborating on the government-as-a-platform move, James Kang, assistant chief executive, government chief information office of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, said, “As the government moves to open up more geo-spatial and textual data to spur creative services, it will also make business analytics a focus, moving from data collection to making sense of collected data.” Further, Ho added, “A second thrust of the new e-government masterplan is to better connect to citizens and involve them in shaping public policies. This involves public sector agencies dipping their feet into mass collaboration channels such as YouTube and Facebook as well as discussing government plans via blogs.”
“The third thrust, which will specifically address the public sector, calls for a whole-of-government transformation. Under this approach, the government will embrace technologies and in particular, design the next-generation ICT infrastructure in tandem with the rollout of Singapore’s Next Generation National Broadband Network. It will also endeavour for civil servants to be agile and keep pace with the times,” continued Ho.
According to the Info-communications Development Authority (IDA) Singapore, the new masterplan is being developed in phases, with initial participation solely from the public sector. It will also undergo a public consultation exercise and testing of new ideas before its expected launch mid next year.
Soumitra Dutta, the Roland Berger Chaired Professor of business and technology and academic director of eLab at Insead, pointed out that social innovation was here to stay and leadership was important to harness and exploit the inherent creativity. Citing two different leaders and their use of YouTube, Dutta noted that the US President Barack Obama and his campaign team generated nearly 2,000 videos during the presidential election in 2008, which helped win over younger voters who in turn influenced those around them. Former British premier Gordon Brown also tapped the medium to gain support for his policies, putting up a video message on expenses of members of Parliament. However, in contrast, he disabled user comments which sparked a backlash.
To be able to tap citizen creativity, governments need to open up and reconceptualise, he said. “It’s ultimately up to the leaders… are [they] willing to share control?”
David McClure, associate administrator for citizen services and innovative technologies at the US General Services Administration, touched on the US government’s Open Government Initiative journey, which calls for transparency, participation and collaboration. So important were these elements that President Obama, he said, issued within 24 hours of taking office his first presidential memo–on openness and transparency over other concerns.
“Milestones were charted for the initiative, such as making available data sets through the data.gov Web site. These were accompanied by stringent underlying provisions such as addressing data quality before making available information,” said McClure. In this respect, there will be mistakes along the way, he acknowledged, which the government will admit and learn from.