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To boost the economy and support businesses recovering from COVID-19, the Singapore government will spend an estimated $3.5 billion on ICT procurement in Financial Year (FY) 2020, an increase of 30 % from FY2019’s projected spend of $2.7 billion. The increased spending will help the government accelerate digitalisation as technology becomes increasingly vital in enabling citizens and workers to resume normal activities, and businesses to reopen safely after the COVID-19 “Circuit Breaker” (CB). Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be eligible to participate in 80% of these potential procurement opportunities.

The projected government ICT expenditure will be in five key focus areas:

a) development of new tech tools to respond to COVID-19

b) development of citizen- and business-centric digital services

c) development of ICT systems on cloud

d) modernisation of government ICT infrastructure

e) use of data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors within the public sector

The projected FY2020 procurement spending will include ICT projects that have been brought forward by agencies because of the COVID-19 outbreak. These projects include the development of tech solutions to respond to COVID-19, and Sport Singapore’s ActiveSG Circle – launched in April 2020 – which aims to elevate the sporting industry in Singapore via technology. Envisaged as the virtual super sport club, the ActiveSG Circle offers a rich repository to inspire and enable citizens to live better and maintain their active lifestyles beyond this COVID-19 period.

The government’s investment in digitalisation – by leveraging cloud, modernising ICT infrastructure and enabling greater use of AI and sensors – has not just led to the delivery of citizen- and business-centric digital services; but was instrumental in the government’s technological response to COVID-19. For example, by leveraging cloud infrastructure, GovTech engineers were able to quickly build the TraceTogether digital application for contact tracing, roll out SafeEntry as the National Digital Check-in System, as well as launch the MaskGoWhere and SupportGoWhere websites to help citizens find their designated location points for mask collection and COVID-related government support schemes respectively. GovTech engineers also developed several AI-based temperature scanning solutions – such as VigilantGantry and SPOTON – for government buildings and community facilities, and piloted the use of the AI-powered SPOT robot to support safe distancing operations at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park and delivery of essential medical supplies at the Changi Exhibition Centre community isolation facility. By modernising its ICT infrastructure, the government enabled the large number of public officers to continue to serve the public by working from home seamlessly, aided by digital tools.

COVID-19 has accelerated the push for digitalisation within the public and private sectors. For FY2020, the government will continue to invest heavily in technology to carry forward the impetus for digitalisation at a whole-of-nation level. These include:

a)the development and delivery of key Strategic National Projects such as the National Digital Identity (NDI) and Moments of Life (MOL) for citizens and businesses

b)continual migration of eligible ICT systems onto commercial cloud as part of the five-year (2018-2023) government on Commercial Cloud initiative; modernisation of ICT infrastructure to empower public officers under the Digital Workplace Programme

c)developing more applications and uses within government and across the industry for AI and sensors

Helping SMEs to participate more easily in govt ICT procurement

In FY2019, SMEs were awarded nearly 70 % of the total ICT contracts. GovTech has continued to work with the Ministry of Finance to streamline and introduce new procurement methods to improve SMEs’ access to government ICT procurement opportunities. These include incorporating more bulk tenders and dynamic contracting to shorten the ICT procurement process. For FY2020, the government will put up bulk tenders for services such as User Experience Design, Agile Development, Application Development, Data Science and AI, among others. With a projected value of $1.2 billion, these Bulk Tenders will broaden the opportunities for SMEs to participate in and win ICT contracts with government agencies.

One of the SMEs to benefit from the bulk tender is SimplifyNext, which was awarded a robotics process automation (RPA) bulk tender for the whole of government. Mayank Gupta, managing director of SimplifyNext, said, “We help our customers deploy software that automates their business processes. Unlike larger companies, SMEs like us have limited resources and we used to spend more time trying to win contracts than to deliver them. This is where the government’s initiative of pooling demand for new services into bulk tenders has really helped us. We went through an extensive and rigorous evaluation process to secure the RPA bulk tender, and it has opened many doors for us to do business with government agencies.”

Strengthening the nexus between government, industry and tech community

As part of its community building efforts, GovTech has soft-launched the Singapore government Developer Portal (developer.gov.sg), a centralised resource to help industry and developers learn more about the tech products developed by GovTech and how they can work with GovTech to co-create digital solutions. The portal will be a platform for the tech community to engage and share ideas on technology and their possible applications for public good. Complementing the Developer Portal, GovTech will continue to organise more STACK-X meet-ups to strengthen engagement and co-creation with the industry and tech community. GovTech has organised more than 10 STACK-X meet-ups since August 2019 on topics such as Agile Development, Cybersecurity, Cloud Strategy and Data Science for over 1,000 participants from the tech community. More recently, the meet-ups have moved online with a COVID-19 themed webinar to crowdsource ideas on COVID-related problem statements such as contact tracing and ways to reopen the economy safely. More virtual STACK-X events on topics such as User Experience Design and Software Engineering are planned over the next few months.

Active recruitment to accelerate digitalisation

To strengthen the government’s internal engineering capabilities and accelerate the pace of digitalisation, GovTech is actively recruiting fresh graduates and experienced tech professionals as part of the SGUnited Jobs initiative. There are more than 400 vacancies in roles such as software engineers, digital business analysts, cybersecurity specialists, data scientists, AI engineers and infrastructure specialists, etc. GovTech has launched a five-week recruitment drive – a virtual “TechHunt” – from 21 May to 21 June. Interested applicants who believe in tech for public good can visit go.gov.sg/techhunt for more details and to register their interest.

Mr Kok Ping Soon, chief executive officer of GovTech, said, “As we take on the new normal of COVID-19, we are re-engineering our back-end digital infrastructure which underpins the delivery of front-end government digital services to citizens, businesses and public officers. COVID-19 has illustrated the importance of digitalisation, and the need to accelerate it within and beyond the public sector. We hope that businesses, especially the SMEs, will benefit from the larger pool and higher value of ICT procurement opportunities, work with us to build a Smart Nation and Digital Government, and emerge stronger from this crisis together.”

The government’s ICT procurement and digitalisation roadmap is usually announced at the Smart Nation and Digital Government Industry Briefing held annually. In light of the CB measures, GovTech is rolling out an online multimedia package - comprising long-form articles and videos – with more details on the government’s key digitalisation focuses and areas of projected spending, beginning from 10th of June.