SINGAPORE: Another mobile app by the Singapore Government? Yawn.
That could very well be the sentiment of a good number of Singaporeans after reading about the Moments of Life (Families) app or the SingPass Mobile app unveiled during the Prime Minister’s Office session of the Committee of Supply debates in Parliament earlier in the week.
One promises to proactively push digital services to Singaporeans who just had a child or have children aged six and below, such as the ability to register their births and apply for Baby Bonus at the same time – without having to physically queue at the various agencies.
The other allows citizens to securely transact with the Government using their mobile phones, thus eliminating the need for a physical two-factor authentication (2FA) token.
“Citizens should not have to figure out how to access the myriad Government services,” Minister-in-charge of Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said about the MOL (Families) app in Parliament on Thursday (Mar 1).
“Instead, it is the Government as a whole that should recognise the delivery of our services to meet the needs of our citizens,” he added.
Both apps will be progressively rolled out to the public from the second half of the year.
It is worth noting that they will join an increasingly crowded list of Government apps already available and, possibly, overlap in scope: HealthHub, myENV, Parking.sg, Mobile@HDB, myResponder, Beeline. The list goes on.
It would understandably lead one to app fatigue, overwhelmed by the glut of choices. In not wanting to clutter up our smartphone interface – less is more, after all, right? – people’s reluctance to download yet another app is all too real.
Security is another concern, with Facebook users commenting on the news that CPF members over 55 can get their lump sum withdrawal via PayNow, saying that they will not be using the service given uncertainty over the service's reliability and whether it might get hacked.
But if you don’t give the digital services a go, should you lend your voice to those decrying efforts by the Government to come up with more innovative ways of delivering citizen-centric services?
And if you do have complaints after trying out the app, is making your thoughts known only on social media platforms really going to do anything to improve it?
One positive example of how public feedback actually improved a public service is Parking.sg. During its beta phase, one of the feedback from users was how it would be helpful to be notified that their parking session is ending ahead of time.
This resulted in the feature that allows app notifications to be sent to drivers 10 minutes before this happens, and prompting them to extend the session if they so choose to.
That’s not to say the app is without flaws. Just this week, the service was down for several hours for Android users due to a “network issue” and those affected could not pay for parking sessions. Other issues include a bug last December that caused some users’ parking sessions to disappear after they closed the app.
But this is an issue that afflicts every service provider in the digital space. Ask Facebook. Or Google. Or WhatsApp.
THE MEANING OF CO-CREATION
I know from conversations with SNDGO that users’ feedback on the MOL (Families) app, in particular, will be very welcome, considering it’s a new, proactive way of providing bundled services to citizens. The list of services available at launch is by no means exhaustive, and it will add on to them going forward – even folding in services from the private sector such as food catering and confinement nannies, if there’s demand.
Personally, this effort to break down silos within the public sector and develop services straddling multiple agencies is commendable, and should be encouraged – warts and all.
To echo what Non-constituency Member of Parliament Chia Yong Yong said in Parliament during the debate on the Public Sector (Governance) Bill, “much good can be gotten, if used wisely”, as agencies could build more holistic citizen profiles and, with that, deliver better services.
It also reminded me of what Dr Balakrishnan pointed out during an interview in 2015, when he said realising the Smart Nation vision will result in the “shift in tone” in Singapore’s society.
This means moving away from citizens being reliant on the Government to solve all problems, to one where citizens are able to make use of the information available and come up with solutions for real-life problems, Dr Balakrishnan said then.
“It’s not a dependent, suspicious, passive and apathetic society. We will have the truly active Singaporean in an active society,” he said.
This is already happening, I would argue, with yet another app by the Government – so long as it was developed and refined with citizens' feedback in mind.