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‘Consolidation the way forward’ for Smart Nation drive

SINGAPORE — The road to becoming a Smart Nation will require “consolidation” in a landscape that currently sees fragmented infrastructure, with the Government moving to ensure “inter-operability” between services for consumers, said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday, as he acknowledged that the Government has been “too slow” in this area.

An exhibition displayed along the Singapore river. Photo: AP

An exhibition displayed along the Singapore river. Photo: AP

SINGAPORE — The road to becoming a Smart Nation will require “consolidation” in a landscape that currently sees fragmented infrastructure, with the Government moving to ensure “inter-operability” between services for consumers, said Dr Vivian Balakrishnan yesterday, as he acknowledged that the Government has been “too slow” in this area.

Dr Balakrishnan, who is Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Programme Office (SNPO), also said that the Government will provide data to allow businesses and citizens to develop products to serve needs — as exemplified by the launch of GrabShuttle, a new on-demand shuttle bus service by ride-sharing service Grab launched yesterday. The service is powered by data from the Beeline platform, which was developed by the Land Transport Authority and the Government Technology Agency.

“Providing government data, having open data, and allowing the private sector to ride on top of it, creates a whole new level of services that we could not have imagined, or could not have delivered with such style,” said Dr Balakrishnan during the Committee of Supply debate for the Prime Minister’s Office’s budget.

The debate saw some MPs question the roll-out of Singapore’s Smart Nation drive and whether it was creating more efficiency. Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC), for example, cited the myriad of cashless payment options available — EZ-Link cards for buses, cashcards for Electronic Road Pricing gantries, credit cards for meals — and asked if the Government could take the lead in streamlining these platforms.

Moreover, many government agencies have their own mobile applications, she noted, asking if it was “practical and convenient” for people to have to download so many apps.

In his speech, Dr Balakrishnan acknowledged the need for more integrated digital platforms. But while there should be consolidation at the infrastructure level, customers should continue to have options, to retain an element of competition and choice.

The way forward is “interoperability”, such as the Central Addressing Scheme being developed that will allow people to transfer money to one another using their mobile numbers, across participating banks, he said.

Dr Balakrishnan also pointed to the unified point of sales terminals that can read a range of payment technologies, and said this approach will be taken for transport.

As for the slew of government apps, he acknowledged that the Government needs to get away from “an agency-centric approach” and towards a more “citizen-centric model”.

“One way ... is to group them by milestones. When you’re born, what services do you need, when you have a child, when you go to hospital, or when you work, there are moments in life, and we can cluster these services,” he said.

The new GrabShuttle service will allow commuters to suggest routes and book rides any time between one month ahead to five minutes before. Fares range from S$3.50 to S$5. For now, there are 15 routes available on weekdays.

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