Open up e-govt platforms to private sector: Goh

Michael O'Loughlin
16 Jun 2009

Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has called on governments to open up their digital platforms to allow private companies and individuals to offer services and applications.

Speaking at the iGov Global Exchange yesterday, the former prime minister said governments should use their electronic platforms as an enabler for innovation.

'We have yet to fully grasp the scale of the opportunities of e-government,' he said. Governments needed to look outside the public sector for those with ideas.

Agencies should evolve from 'being the sole provider of services to being a provider of a platform', he said, pointing to the electronic document system developed by a Singapore firm that had cut the time to process documents from half a day to just seconds.

'The government must take on the role of a facilitator and enabler,' he said.

Goh said good governance, and not technology, was the foundation of e-government. Successful e-government required a culture of 'transparency, accountability and incorruptibility' and a whole-of-government mindset, he said in the opening keynote at the conference.

Many governments refrain from using the net to deliver services because it threatened the existing inefficiencies that 'enable many in the bureaucracies to reap personal gains.'

Goh noted that Singapore companies regarded success in an open and competitive tender as an advertisement of their capabilities.

He said citizens did not want to deal with multiple departments over a single issue Singapore government agencies were now required to take a whole-of-government approach to their role.

Agencies were now obliged to ensure that each issue brought to them was dealt with by the right department, said Goh, noting that six different departments dealt with blocked drains.

He said e-government also required continuous review. The Singapore government had recently simplified online approvals for manufacturers which enabled 40,000 companies to save S$3.5 million a year.

Whereas previously they required approvals, now they need only post an online declaration that they have the correct risk management processes in place, with an inspection to take place later.

'It is a mindset shift from regulatory and controller to one that simplifies administration and eases the cost burden for companies.'

E-government also improved the ability of governments to implement their policies. Singapore's target subsidies scheme, aimed at reaching the poor and needy, had been carried out by integrating multiple databases, including the Central Provident Fund and Housing Department.

'With e-government we could identify intended recipients more accurately,' he said.

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