October 28, 2021
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Credit: Photo by Stuart Breckenridge on Unsplash
The public sector needs to catch up. Citizens now expect a level of service that can match the digital native businesses they often interact with on daily basis. Consider e-hailing, e-commerce, and e-wallet players — they provide a comprehensive service completely through digital means. Coupled with the advancements in e-KYC for digital onboarding, it comes with no surprise; citizens expect the public sector to follow suit.
The governments of today recognise this trend. In order to meet their citizen’s expectations, many government agencies are adopting Cloud computing progressively to enable their digital transformation. Recently, more than 60% of the governments’ Cloud initiatives have been successful, proving the effectiveness of this strategy.1
Some of the key benefits driving Cloud adoption among governments are:
By outlining the clear benefits of the Cloud, we want you to understand how governments are using it. Here, we will provide insights into how Singapore government agencies implement their Cloud strategy and share examples of services hosted on the Cloud.
In order to understand Singapore’s Cloud transformation, it is important to understand the role of GovTech first. Established in 2016, GovTech is the main entity spearheading the digital transformation of Singapore’s government services.
Parked under the Prime Minister’s Office, GovTech oversees the digitalisation of all the ministries and agencies of the government. It plays a central role in the 5-year plan (initiated in 2018) to migrate the government’s IT systems onto the commercial Cloud. GovTech has since migrated nearly 600 systems to the commercial Cloud.2
The role that GovTech plays here is vital; it helps the country’s agencies and ministries to move away from the traditional silos that government agencies typically operate under. Moreover, having a centralised agency to implement the digital transformation ensures that all ministries advance consistently.
Building the Singapore Government Tech Stack
A very distinctive feature of GovTech’s role is the development of the Singapore Government Tech Stack (SGTS).
Here, GovTech built a centralised technology stack hosted on a commercial Cloud. This technology stack acts as the backbone of all the government agencies’ digital services. It consists of three (3) main components –
All these components make it easier for Singapore government agencies to deploy and maintain applications.
For example, in the past, each government agency would typically build their applications on top of their dedicated infrastructure.
These layered steps severely limited the speed and scalability of building applications for the public sector. The agencies had to maintain each application individually with different sets of architectures. With time, this gets harder to sustain.
With SGTS in place, the base application becomes easily reproducible. Depending on the service that the agency wishes to provide, they can now customise the solutions on top of that base application.
As such, this substantially speeds up and eases the process for Singapore government agencies to provide digital services. More importantly, the agencies can focus primarily on delivering value without the need to manage its underlying infrastructure.
The benefits don’t end there. Here are some other key benefits of this approach:
1. Shifting from a monolithic model to a microservices model with SGTS
In simple terms, a monolithic model application works as a single unit. This means that the agency must make any updates and maintenance to the entire application’s codebase. The model essentially limits the scalability and agility for pushing out new services.
In contrast, a microservices model breaks down the application into smaller independent components. Hence, agencies can apply updates without the need to deploy a new version of the whole application.
The shift to a microservices model provides the much-needed agility for Singapore government agencies to develop digital services faster. Moreover, this approach is crucial; the public sector needs to adopt agile software development practices, similar to what the private sector is already using.
Running on legacy systems with outdated security practices may leave the government applications vulnerable to cyberattacks. SGTS ensures that all government applications come with modernised security practices and data protection policies.
This situation extends to services beyond security. For example, having a modern architecture with SGTS allows government agencies to adopt advanced analytics tools similar to those used in the private sector.
With the speed and agility provided by SGTS, the public sector can now keep up with technology developments. Moreover, this can also benefit the public sector by attracting and retaining top tech talents.
Traditional application infrastructures meant that Singapore government applications operate in silos. Hence, they were not able to integrate data across agencies.
SGTS’s architecture loosens these barriers. Using a set of secured Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), the agencies can now share confidential data securely. Furthermore, GovTech complements this initiative with the development of the Application Programming Interface Exchange (APEX).4
APEX enables the secure transmission of confidential citizen data. It is a centralised API exchange that allows government agencies to tap into the wealth of data acquired across the government. This ability significantly improves the speed at which data can be shared and creates a more streamlined business process.
Another game-changing benefit is the ability to enable collaborations. The technology industry is a rapid race. Open-source tools are dominating the scene with innovations every day. Without access to these tools, the public sector may inevitably fall behind.
Having a common platform with SGTS creates the opportunity for the government to co-create solutions with the ecosystem players. In 2020, GovTech chose 17 companies to co-develop solutions using the SGTS platform.5
This was simply impossible in the past. The private sector typically worked as outsourced contractors but not as collaborators. This approach changes that dynamic by allowing the government to foster closer relationships with the private sector to build valuable citizen services.
Example applications hosted on commercial Cloud
Let us see how these developments have advanced Singapore’s citizen services. We cover the top three (3) applications that work on SGTS. This will give you an understanding of how impactful cloud can be for improving government services.
Singpass is Singapore’s national digital identity system. Through this system, citizens can gain access to over 340 government agencies with over 1400 digital services. This singular platform eliminates the traditional customer experience of having separate logins for different government services.
Singapore citizens widely recognise Singpass as one of the best government services. It is ranked as the fourth (4th) most popular app in Google Play Store there, with an average rating of 4.8 stars. To date, there are more than 2.5 million users, with over 90% of them having at least one interaction per month.7
b. LifeSG (formerly known as Moments of Life)
LifeSG consolidates the best of Singapore’s government services onto one common platform – like a super app. Previously named Moments in Life, the updated app personalises a citizen’s journey based on their life stage. The services include birth registration, school registration, job-seeking portals, parking services, taxations, etc.
LifeSG simplifies the citizens’ search for information on relevant services. In addition, the app also has a user-friendly interface, giving an easy overview of important information. The application is widely in use, with over 140,000 downloads and 7 out of 10 Singaporeans registering births via LifeSG.
c. Health Hub
Health Hub aims to make it easier for Singapore citizens to access their health information and services under one platform. Built in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Board, this service contains information like immunisation records, medical appointments, prescriptions, dental appointments, etc.
This was possible by integrating several systems, ranging from the National Electronic Record System, School Dental System, School Health System to the National Immunisation Registry. The integration of multiple systems is a clear feature of how Cloud services have enabled the government to build this service. To date, the application has over 730,000 downloads and scores an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars on the Google Play Store.6
Meeting the expectations of citizens
Ultimately, customer experience matters the most. For the public sector, results are not as quantifiable in comparison to the private sector. Hence, metrics such as delivery time, user satisfaction surveys, and application ratings are applicable in performance reviews.
Singapore conducts the Survey on Satisfaction with Government Digital Services (Citizens) annually. Its recent results showed that their citizens rated the government digital services at the highest since FY2012. 86% of respondents said that they were extremely satisfied with the digital services. In addition, over 90% of respondents rated the government digital services as one of the best digital services they have used.
Lessons from GovTech
The approach taken by the Singapore government acts as a prime example of how governments can move forward in this digital era.
Singapore placed a strong priority on truly understanding their citizens’ pain points, which takes precedence over tools. For instance, each application goes through several rounds of pilots and surveys. Based on the feedback, the government agencies then apply amendments.
This is where migrating to the Cloud becomes valuable. It is not merely a ‘lift and shift’ process, but it enables the government to change how they build solutions for their citizens. Initiatives such as SGTS, APEX, data sharing, and fostering collaborations with the private sector are vital components of this renewed approach of building citizen services.
August 30, 2022
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“TM One is the main agency pioneering the foundation of our nation’s digital infrastructure. Through this strategic collaboration, it greatly helps Ipoh City Council in managing the city more efficiently and in an orderly manner,” – Dato’ Rumaizi bin Baharin, Ipoh Mayor.
With the blend of heritage, food and great scenery, the Lonely Planet ranked Ipoh as one of the best cities in Asia to visit. As a hotspot for tourism, the bustling city provides abundant business opportunities. The city has harnessed this potential by increasing the readiness of its digital infrastructure for mobile and fixed broadband internet.
Keeping this in mind, Ipoh envisions becoming one of the first smart cities in Malaysia by 2030. The Smart City 2030 action plan targets seven domains – Smart Living, Smart Environment, Smart Governance, Smart People, Smart Digital Infrastructure, Smart Economy and Smart Mobility – to effectively address urbanisation challenges faced by the people of Ipoh and to realise Ipoh as a Green and Low Carbon City by 2030. We are embarking on a journey to prepare for a digital future, with TM One acting as the digital enabler and provider to assist the city in its transformation.
In conjunction with the City Leap Summit 2022, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was established between The Ipoh City Council and TM One. The strategic collaboration includes several initiatives that are planned and will be implemented:
One of the most remarkable achievements is the implementation of smart traffic lights. TM One’s STARS leverages AI-enabled sensors at intersections to measure the average waiting time and identify vehicle motions, thereby adjusting green light duration based on real-time congestion, and improve the journey time. This solution also help to reduce the carbon emitted by the vehicle that is using the junction and this is in line with Ipoh Green City Vision to achieve low carbon city. Additional to the benefits, STARS is a single monitoring platform that provides relevant personnel with a centralised viewing of road conditions and equipped with real-time fault notification that triggers alarms through the Telegram chat application. This will allow the relevant personnel to take swift actions and dispatching manpower on-site when needed.
As a result, the smart traffic light solution has improved traffic flow in one of the busiest streets, Jalan Sultan Idris, by 51%. This solution also has led to a 7,500 kg decrease in carbon dioxide emissions in a month – in line with Ipoh’s goal to be a Low Carbon City by 2030.
FORCE satisfies the need for a fluid system to connect the call centre agents, dispatchers and service technicians to attend to citizens’ complaints and inquiries for better communication and coordination. It allows the teams to promptly respond to public complaints and emergencies by accessing real-time ticket statuses. Also, the all-in-one platform automates task scheduling and team management, tracks real-time progress of on-site maintenance and provides access to customer profiles on the go – modernizing the city’s field service solution. FORCE is envisioned to be the system support for MBI’s existing myAduan@MBI citizen app to improve its customer experience, better cost management, and internal resource management.
The Ipoh City Council aspires to establish its first digital call centre via outsourcing. The digital call centre aims to solve the challenges of handling multilingual support requests and reduce abandoned call rates, while elevating critical issues to relevant parties when necessary. Consequently, the city can free up resources and optimise costs, while ensuring the best customer service for the people of Ipoh.
TM One Business Services (BPO) with more than 15 years of contact centre experience in Malaysia, leveraging on our Center of Expertise will be sharing the best practice; which aligned to the Industry Standards and Best Practices to help Ipoh City Council to establish the citizen engagement centre and ultimately elevate the citizen experience to the higher level.
Ipoh aims to be one of the first cities in Malaysia to enable 5G, and TM One plans to support this vision with the provision of free 5G wifi in selected areas. Additionally, a digital fibre connectivity superhighway and smart surveillance systems is being planned for Ipoh citizens.
Smart technologies help Ipoh save cost, shorten commutes, reduce carbon emission rates, and most importantly boost the quality of life for the people of Ipoh. In the long term, smart cities will spur higher citizen and government engagement as they begin to remove the communication barriers and increase the trust between citizens and officials. With the great synergy between both parties, Dato’ Rumaizi aspires to achieve more milestones in collaboration with TM One.
“My hope is that together with TM One, we will explore even more opportunities and smart technologies towards enhancing lives for the people of Ipoh.” – Dato’ Rumaizi bin Baharin, Ipoh Mayor.
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Five years ago, the conversation surrounding smart cities was in its infancy, with most topics revolving around demystifying the technology behind them. Today, cities around the world have moved past demystification and are taking great strides in implementation. Globally, there are several shining examples we can turn to for inspiration;
While we are witnessing the transformation of several cities worldwide, what are the required factors that make a city ‘smart’?
Developing a smart city is not a task that can be sustained with an ad-hoc approach. Instead, a holistic vision is required to steer decision-making and guide action plans toward implementing realistic solutions that deliver tangible results that can enhance the lifestyles and living quality of all citizens within the city.
The Malaysia Smart City Framework (MSCF) has offered several initiatives such as MyDigital, GTMP and JENDELA as official ‘textbook approaches’ or suggested priorities. Local councils or Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan (PBTs) can refer to these initiatives in developing the smart city vision that best fits their cities.
Behind the development of a successful smart city, lies an excellent core vision that is developed based on the citizens’ real-life experiences. The application of technology is moot if it does not bring tangible benefit to its end users.
The common occurrence of pilot projects being abandoned, with selected technologies being seriously under-utilised, is a result of decision-making without a clear understanding of the real-life pain points experienced by the end-user, the citizens themselves. For a smart city to truly elevate our lifestyles and quality of living, the solutions we choose must be people-centric and based on actual needs.
Critically, PBTs will require sufficient funding to set the ‘smart city’ ball rolling smoothly. However, based on a survey conducted during the previous TM One City Leap Summit 2020, only 2.6% of PBTs surveyed indicated that they have sufficient funds, while 42% of them responded that they required funding assistance.
While procuring sufficient funds may be an issue, we can look to Indonesia to overcome the same challenge. Under West Java’s Digital Villages Theme, the West Java Provincial Government started their digital transformation of rural fisheries by installing basic smart auto-feeders in 4289 ponds across West Java. Instead of immediately using high-end tech solutions, the deployment of basic technology allowed the fishermen to empower their own productivity, resulting in a 30 to 100% increase in earnings and effectively generating their own initial capital for more cutting-edge solutions. On top of that, there was the added benefit of increasing digital literacy among the fishermen to be more receptive to newer technological solutions.
With a vision outlined and action plans identified against the available funding, the next key factor in creating a successful smart city lies in the capabilities of the project management office to turn the vision into reality. Key traits of a great project management office are:
It takes more than a day and more than just a single person to build a smart city. In fact, stakeholder management is critical in garnering support and alignment toward the outlined vision of smart city development. Effective stakeholder management requires a deep understanding of all parties who will benefit from implementing smart cities. These benefits include more efficient public services for citizens, data-driven disaster mitigation strategies for local governments, and more diverse revenue streams for investors.
Communication and outreach are vital in building the required understanding among stakeholders. Examples of campaigns designed to encourage stakeholder involvement include PLANMalaysia’s Libat Urus Pemegang Taruh involving government agencies, stakeholders and research teams for cities such as Ipoh, Johor Bahru and the Federal Territories.
Learning from our Indonesian neighbours again, the West Java Provincial Government has taken on a ‘Pentahelix Collaboration’ model, with initiatives geared towards encouraging collaboration and participation from authoritative bodies, media bodies, businesses, academics and local communities.
Good governance is the final thread capable of tying all of the above factors together. Implementing strong top-down leadership and transparent policies can crystallise each PBTs smart city vision. Good governance can also help develop sustainable funding schemes according to each PBTs needs while delivering the talent required to project management offices. It will also support communications campaigns to encourage the stakeholder buy-in needed for successful execution.
After several years of conversation, the time is ripe for Malaysia to transform its cities. The rakyat already stands to gain much more from a smart city transformation. With the effects of climate change already rearing its ugly head at our mobility, agricultural production and air quality, Malaysia is ready to accept solutions that promise to solve day-to-day difficulties. However, the advancement of smart city technologies stands to take us even further beyond problem-fixing – smart city technology now can elevate Malaysia towards a cleaner, safer, more sustainable, higher-quality way of living.
June 07, 2022
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Many governments, state councils and local authorities talk about the potential of smart cities and how they unlock new possibilities in a hyper-connected urban environment. Ideas such as the sky being filled with flying taxis, robots sweeping the streets and rooftop farming on every building may seem like the epitome of human civilisation. But, is this the future we seek? The various studies into smart city concepts all lead us to one key observation, intelligence technologies will play a far more significant role in our daily routine as compared to massively disruptive ideas.
A brief look at the global smart city landscape reveals good progress in making our cities intelligent. Examples of the international efforts to build the foundations of next-gen digital playgrounds include prominent cities:
Malaysia is rising up to its global peers on this front. The national policies under the Malaysia Smart City Framework (MSCF), which includes MyDigital, IR4RD, JENDELA and GTMP, is set to enable the translation of blueprints into meaningful action plans.
From a survey held during the previous City Leap Summit 2020, TM One collected insightful grassroots data from 33 local councils or Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan (PBTs) on smart city implementations. Results displayed that most respondents were not ready to turn plans into actions due to gaps in infrastructure, shortage of financial resources, and below-average talent capabilities.
In addition, PBTs in Malaysia focused their efforts on basic systemic issues surrounding security, safety and transportation that have already been experimented on in other countries. Out of all the solutions introduced to local leaders, smart security & surveillance, smart traffic lights and smart parking systems were the top 3 priorities to help citizens achieve a better quality of life.
While the results may reflect the state of mind two years ago, we need to think bigger. A powerful catalyst for PBTs is to reimagine how their cities can create better living experience for Malaysians. While the extensive list of smart indicators provided by ISO 37122 may appear intimidating, the journey toward building smart cities begins with a single step forward.
Many around the world have already mastered of the art of building smart cities. So, as we celebrate the remarkable technological developments in major cities worldwide, we should also learn from them. Here are a few examples of cities that have embodied the critical success factors that contribute to a winning smart city:
TM One is in a prime position to support the government’s vision for smart and sustainable cities around the nation. While fancy solutions may capture headlines, we understand the importance of a strong foundation.
We provide an unparalleled level of robust and secured digital connectivity, coupled with a solid digital infrastructure. This includes Hyperscaled intelligent cloud solution and data centre infrastructure and services that protect data sovereignty.
As TM One continues to build solutions for the needs of tomorrow, we offer a wide array of smart city solutions to address the immediate PBT needs of today. Smart city applications, dashboards, smart street and traffic lights, smart parking systems and deep surveillance are great examples of our market-ready solutions to bring our customers closer to smart and sustainable cities. In fact, 25 PBTs around Malaysia have already deployed our smart surveillance systems to keep our citizens and utility infrastructure safe.
The icing on the cake is our integrated operation centre (IOC) which is a robust platform designed to efficiently consolidate various data types from networks and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices to intelligent applications. This integrated monitoring system will enable local governments to make quick decisions and changes in response to real-time conditions.
TM One is the one-stop hub to support Malaysia’s smart city needs
While our solutions are ready to help PBTs in their mission to roll out smart city projects, we encourage a more structured approach.
The first step is to design a smart city blueprint that narrows down the PBTs’ concerns. We no longer need country-level frameworks; we need immediate action plans. Start by finding local priorities and focus on the key problems that would best benefit the citizens when addressed.
Next, implement solutions that have quick wins and solve the core issue. Take the initiative to experiment with niche smart city solutions and validate their benefits.
Last but not least, be open to exploring different types of collaboration models. Often, private-public partnerships are good ways to leverage the unique strengths of two distinct organizations to create a powerful solution. TM One is committed to helping Malaysia move toward smart and sustainable cities for a better future.
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Md Farabi Yusoff, Head of Smart City from PLANMalaysia delivered his presentation at TM One’s City Leap Summit 2002. This article summarizes the key takeaways from his address.
“Smartness” is not a measure of how advanced or complex the technology being adopted is, but how well the solutions solve the society’s problems and address existential challenges”
– YB Datuk Seri Reezal Merican bin Naina Merican, Minister of Housing & Local Government
Smart City has been a hot topic of discussion for the past decade. With the advent of IR 4.0, the technology underpinning smart cities has matured significantly. Over the years, the Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan (PBT)’s understanding of the potential benefits to be reaped through the implementation of smart cities has also evolved. The next big challenge is in making the implementation of smart cities successful. There are two key imperatives in making this possible, viz., (a) developing a holistic smart city plan and (b) a blueprint for turning fundamental concepts into action.
Smart cities cannot be developed in silos – it requires a network of connected solutions that are effectively integrated, with data feeding into each element to ensure all facets of city-dwelling are elevated to the same level of capability and efficiency. An effective smart city is both holistic in nature and all-encompassing. The network of connected solutions also needs to be functional, providing tangible solutions to actual issues faced by citizens.
Even at a conceptual level, holisticness and people-centricity need to be embedded into smart city development to guide decision-making and ensure the solutions chosen are people-oriented and realistic. For this to happen, smart cities require careful planning and development, with each decision accounting for infrastructure, city operations and digital capabilities to create the solutions capable of elevating all elements of city-dwelling.
PBTs should prioritise taking this holistic approach into the conceptual framework of smart cities:
While a holistic, all-encompassing conceptual framework underpins smart cities’ strategic development, implementing the said framework presents an entirely different challenge. Concrete action plans based on a flexible, adaptable blueprint is the surest way forward in making smart city initiatives a success.
In creating an adaptable blueprint, PBTs need to ensure that all the 4 fundamentals of smart city planning are covered. While the overall action plan can be carried out incrementally through stages, each stage needs rigorous review. Subsequent actions need to be adapted to fit needs of citizens and PBTs accordingly as new findings arise across the journey. The blueprint can broadly be classified into three distinct phases.
As the Federal Department of town and country planning for Peninsular Malaysia, PLANMalaysia’s role in the smart city agenda is to guide and support local councils in realising their smart city aspirations. Our work encompasses the four areas which are detailed below.
Creating Smart City blueprints: Effective smart city planning and implementation cannot be one-off decisions. Each element needs to feed into one another to create a network of systems and solutions. With that, PBTs need a blueprint that strikes a balance in being both definitive and flexible, and to assist decision-making when it comes to choosing solutions and deciding ways forward – this is where PLANMalaysia comes in, to guide PBTs on blueprint formation and ensure decisions made are holistic and adaptable to future needs.
Running Malaysia Urban Observatory (MUO): Data collection and interpretation are integral to smart cities. MUO is a data-sharing platform that enables public data sharing and supports decision-making. PLANMalaysia’s custody of MUO ensures that all local councils can benefit from the federal department’s collaboration and support, effectively interpreting public data in enhancing services tied to smart city systems.
SmartCity Accreditations: Involved in the makings of the standards or benchmarks for smart cities and data integration. To ensure usability of data and effectiveness of smart city implementation, certain criteria needs to be met to ensure systems chosen are in fact beneficial, functional and can be used to generate the right insights to enhance public services.
Increasing Awareness: One of the vital challenges to smart city implementation is stakeholder management, and there are many. PLANMalaysia endeavours to manage vital stakeholders by running several campaigns and programs to align all relevant stakeholders, from investors to local authorities to local communities. This fuels understanding of the ultimate goal of transforming into a smart city and the benefits that stand to be gained by all stakeholders.
When addressing smart cities in the past, we may have been uncertain of what was needed. We may have not fully grasped the technology or were not aware of what we wanted out of it. Today, we are in a much more secure position – enriched by knowledge, alongside the maturation of the technology, we are more ready than ever to be elevated towards a smarter future. The road ahead may not be simple or straightforward, but we are equipped with guides, blueprints and action plans which are both symbols and roadmaps to success. They represent our common goals is our binding objective in uniting all stakeholders towards a smarter, healthier, more sustainable Malaysia.
Organisations are responsible to protect and safeguard their business and customer data from cybercriminals. They need to have the right tools, processes and above all the right people, a team of cyber-intelligence experts or security analysts, in place at all times
Innovation is a key driver for organisations to generate new opportunities and to create greater value. It enables organisations to find fresh solutions to problems and generate value that they otherwise couldn't access. It takes leadership’s commitment to drive innovation across an organisation. With the right mix of people, tools and leadership, organisations can unlock their next advantage, today.
Beyond smart cities and their incredible benefits, a solid foundation should equally uphold the successful deployment of smart city technology. Find out more about how infrastructure readiness, cyber security, data analytics, and AI contribute to a successful smart city!
A proactive strategy is when businesses wholly employ a good cybersecurity framework including leveraging new technologies and trends to keep their systems secure. Utilising artificial intelligence (AI) in cybersecurity and automation to bring benefits to their overall operations.
External attacks can happen on your Information Communication Technology infrastructure, Internet of Things (IoT) or operational technology (OT) devices, your cloud environment, remote service attacks, your supply chain infrastructure, or even as part of social engineering whereby your employee is targeted and lured to divulge sensitive information.
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