Speech by Minister Grace Fu at the Committee of Supply Debate 2019: Smarter Services for Residents, with Residents

Mar 6, 2019 20:00


Introduction: Residents at the Heart of Our Service

Mr Chairman,

I would like to thank Members Mr Baey Yam Keng, Mr Ong Teng Koon, Mr Amrin Amin, and Ms Cheryl Chan for their questions on the Municipal Services Office, or MSO, and also Ms Denise Phua’s positive mention of MSO in her earlier speech relating to the Ministry of Social & Family Development.

The MSO was set up with the belief that public services should be focused on our residents. I am happy to share that the collective actions and efforts of government agencies, Town Councils and MSO have translated into tangible improvements for residents over the past four years.

Residents can now conveniently access the services they need with the OneService App. We now have 157,000 App users who have reported 288,000 cases. Today, about one in five municipal feedback received by government agencies are reported through the App, double the one in ten over two years ago.

Residents can now expect more timely responses to their feedback. On average, cases are addressed within three working days. For cases that require multiple agencies to work together, we have improved case routing processes, and integrated agencies’ feedback systems for greater efficiency in case management. With the inclusion of all Town Councils in September 2016, the number of cases referred between these systems has increased from about 5,000 cases per month then, to 14,000 cases per month last December. Today, 90 per cent of such complex cases are closed within 13 days, while the average time taken has fallen from 8.5 to 6.5 days over the past three years.

Residents’ issues are being addressed more effectively. Last year, we introduced the Local Infrastructure Projects scheme to enable MSO and agencies to assess residents’ requests for small-scale infrastructure in a timely manner. For example, we jointly evaluated a request supported by the Citizens’ Consultative Committee for a footpath with lighting under the Sengkang West vehicular bridge. For the safety of residents, PUB tapped on the scheme as the implementing agency to build the infrastructure. Their efficiency in meeting the needs of the residents won them compliments from the residents.

Smart Services for a Smart Nation

As Mr Ong, Ms Chan and Mr Amrin have suggested, technology offers us great potential in achieving better services with high operational productivity. As part of the Smart Nation movement, we have been harnessing technology to deliver smarter municipal services.
 
We have started enabling residents to do more with the OneService App to meet their diverse needs. This year, we will progressively introduce new features to transform the App into a one-stop community platform—not just to report feedback, but also to perform transactions, engage one another and access information.

For example, residents will soon be able to book and pay for neighbourhood facilities such as barbeque pits near your block through the App. Motorists will be able to obtain paperless Electronic Parking Systems (EPS) receipts for HDB and URA car parks through the App, which can be useful for tracking expenditure or claims. Residents can also receive alerts on happenings in their neighbourhood, such as roadworks and hawker centre closures for maintenance. We will be implementing these enhancements in the coming year. And I thank Ms Chan for her suggestions on how we can deepen connections and community involvement through the App. We will continue to engage our users and partners with these ideas as we transform the OneService App.

Next, we are working with our partners to respond better to residents, by using technology to re-engineer our processes.

First, we have implemented case routing using Artificial Intelligence. This enables cases to be routed automatically to the right agency, freeing up officers to focus their efforts on solving more complex problems. Second, agencies can access one another’s proposed and on-going projects through a new Infrastructure Works Dashboard. They can use system tools in the dashboard to de-conflict overlapping works for better coordination. Hence, we can minimise inconveniences arising from infrastructure works to residents. 

In the future, we want to bring about more service improvements through the Municipal Services Productivity Fund introduced in 2017. An example of a funded project is Parking.sg, developed by GovTech, HDB and URA. Besides making it more convenient to pay for parking, removing the need for a paper coupon system, Parking.sg has actually resulted in savings for motorists. Nearly half of parking sessions are ended early and drivers have been able to get $3.3 million in total refunded to them, for unused time so far. 

We have extended the fund and set aside $25 million for agencies to tap over the next five years. We have approved two new projects under the extended fund—drones by SLA for early detection of maintenance issues; and a trial deployment of compactor litter bins by NEA for more efficient waste collection.

In total, we have awarded $5.2 million for six projects, and expect about five times that in productivity gains. 

Doing It Together

Mr Baey and Ms Chan asked about the efforts of MSO and our municipal agencies in partnering the community in tackling issues and building greater ownership. They highlighted the value of residents’ feedback—which MSO can study, using data analytics, to understand root causes and develop more effective and targeted solutions. We fully agree with them, and are progressively doing so as we build up our database to tackle complex issues. Mr Baey asked if we could enable residents to easily alert agencies through the OneService App for municipal offences that may require enforcement action, such as illegal parking. We are studying this carefully with agencies, taking into account the need to ensure responsible reporting for the purpose of enforcement.

Beyond giving feedback, when private individuals and groups come forward, we can tap on diverse ideas, deeper knowledge and stronger networks to solve our problems effectively. This is why agencies are collaborating extensively with grassroots organisations, Community Development Councils (CDCs), Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and the public. These partnerships enable us to harness ideas, co-create and pilot solutions for issues with the local community.

Last year, MSO organised the OneService Innovation Challenge and the Love Your Living Environment Youth Challenge. Residents from all walks of life came forward to contribute suggestions and work with agencies to implement ideas to deliver better services or tackle municipal issues. 

A group of NUS students participated in the Youth Challenge and designed rubbish bins that allowed people to have some fun in expressing their opinions. They call it “PollBins”. For example, people could indicate their preference for roasted versus steamed chicken rice by throwing their litter into the corresponding bin. The students tested their idea and found that people are more minded to discard their trash in the bins. The students gained from understanding gamification and its impact on behavioural change.

We also want to encourage residents to do their part in improving their living environment. We launched the HelpBuddy app pilot last year, where residents can take part in activities offered by agencies. Checking if the gravitraps set up by NEA to monitor the mosquito population, whether they are in good working condition, is an example. Going forward, we will enable residents to put up simple activities on the app. For example, residents can help spot missing pet dogs, or share household tools with one another. If the pilot is successful, we will incorporate it in the OneService App.

Conclusion

To conclude, in the coming year, we will work closely with our partners to enable more convenient, effective and efficient services for residents. But we also want to do this with residents, because municipal issues ultimately impact us all in our daily lives. By so doing, we can build a better home for all, together. Thank you.