SINGAPORE: A new Government unit has been formed made up of a specialist team of codes and engineers. Their focus is on using technology to bring people together.
Business consultant Martin Wong has first-hand experience of what the unit is trying to do and remembers a fateful day in June.
When his phone beeped, it was a notification alerting him to a possible cardiac arrest case nearby. He sprung to action, dashing about 400 metres to the victim.
"When I arrived there I saw a man in distress. He was perspiring all over, his buttons all undone,” he said. “He had a colleague beside him and I could tell straight away that he was feeling very uncomfortable. I'm prepared that it's a cardiac arrest case, but it doesn't appear so. So I went up there, identified myself as a trained first aider."
Call it crowdsourcing to save lives, Martin's actions were prompted by an app he downloaded called myResponder. Developed in collaboration with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), it's one of the earliest projects handled by the expanded the Government Digital Services unit.
Since its launch in April to September, ordinary Singaporeans have responded to over 80 potential cardiac cases.
DIGITAL SERVICES THAT BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER
Each time the SCDF operations centre gets a call on a possible cardiac arrest case, details - such as the location of the victim - would be sent to the myResponder app. For those who had downloaded the app, and were within 400 metres of the victim, they would get a ping.
Those who receive the ping can then decide whether or not to render help.
"The whole concept of what we are trying to do is really not just about the responding,” said Colonel Ng Yih Yng, a chief medical officer at SCDF. “It is not like we are outsourcing the care. Ultimately the ambulance comes. What we do is that we are bridging the gap between the time someone calls for help and the time the ambulance comes. So the in-between period, we are getting people to sustain the life of the patient then the ambulance comes to take over the job."
More of such services are in the pipeline as the coders and engineers crack the next generation Government e-services. Riding on Singapore's Smart Nation platform, the aim is to develop digital services that can bring people together.
"My personal belief is the Government can be a platform,” said Director of IDA Singapore’s Government Digital Services Mark Lim Choon Lye. “In the past, it was always about the Government rolling out services to the citizens.
“Actually technology has reached a point where we can be anticipatory. Meaning that we can become, to some extent, a platform that citizens can plug in and get notified or get alerted and have services pushed to them, instead of them trying to say, ‘oh! I need to have this, I need to have that, and I need come to the Government’. So with all this openness, the Government as a platform can then start to build community and even enable individual citizens or groups of citizens to help each other.”
“So myResponder is one example of the early days where we are bringing people who need help and people who can help them to come together,” Mr Lim added. “Taking into consideration all the location constraint and other elements that need to be involved in the calculations, we wrote the algorithm that can handle all this so that people can be brought together to help each other.
“I really believe in this concept of kampong spirit. Use technology to bring people closer together, and it can be done. The myResponder is only one. It can also be done for other things. For example, helping the elderly. Use technology to bring people who want to help the elderly together. And we are also talking about ideas to do with blood donation. To do with other forms of crowdsourcing of help and bringing people together."
The team of coders and engineers will form part of Singapore's first Software Design and Development Centre of Excellence. It will provide facilities for user-research, experience testing as well as consultancy services, for Government agencies to develop citizen-centric digital services.
The centre is located at the Sandcrawler, Lucasfilm's Singapore campus at Fusionopolis and is expected to be officially launched in October.