SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will increase spending in technology "significantly", with Second Minister Josephine Teo highlighting bus scanners at Tuas Checkpoint and a “bio-surveillance programme” as examples of such investments.
“As an illustration, my ministry’s annual investment in technology infrastructure, sensors and sense-making, and C3 (Command, Control and Communication) is projected to triple over the next two years,” she said in her Committee of Supply speech in Parliament on Friday (Mar 2).
Under the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority’s (ICA) Bus Scanning Project at Tuas Checkpoint, two radiographic imaging scanners are being installed to scan all arriving buses for anomalies such as hidden compartments.
“With this enhanced detection capability, ICA officers are freed to perform targeted checks based on scanning results, rather than spend valuable time conducting manual visual inspection of the buses, which is time-consuming and possibly less effective,” Mrs Teo explained.
“ICA has therefore been providing training to re-skill and re-orientate its officers to perform higher value-added responsibilities such as X-ray image analysis and analytics-driven security profiling. About 40 officers have been trained so far.”
And to deal with the potential terrorist threat of bio-chemical weapons, MHA has - since 2009 - equipped laboratories at Singapore’s borders with “state-of-the-art” systems to test for multiple biological threats within three hours - compared to the 12-hour timeframe required by traditional systems.
This Bio-surveillance Programme is currently implemented at land checkpoints and Pasir Panjang Terminal Gate 4, and can also be readily deployed for large-scale public events. It has already been used for the annual National Day Parade, 2010 Youth Olympic Games and 2015 Southeast Asian Games.
Elsewhere in MHA’s push to adopt technology, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) is developing exo-skeletons to help officers lift heavier loads so they can sustain operations for a longer period of time.
Mrs Teo also pointed to the police’s PolCam surveillance project as a “game-changer”, announcing that footage from these cameras has helped solve over 900 unlicensed moneylending (UML) cases.
“The annual number of UML cases involving damage to property has fallen by more than 80 per cent, from more than 7,600 cases in 2012 to about 1,000 cases in 2017,” she said.
In her speech, Mrs Teo also addressed concerns raised by Members of Parliament over the private security industry.
Dr Tan Wu Meng, for instance, asked why security training manuals were not written in "simple English". But Mrs Teo said the passing rate for last year’s Security Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) courses was about 90 per cent, and that the profiles of security officers are taken into consideration when setting standards for training providers.
Mr Edwin Tong also wondered about the pool of qualified security consultants, to which Mrs Teo revealed that to further develop expertise in security consultancy, MHA and Temasek Polytechnic will jointly offer a new specialist diploma from next year.