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Opening Address by Minister in Prime Minister's Office, 2nd Minister For Finance And 2nd Minister For Foreign Affairs, Mr Raymond Lim at The 7th Annual Visa International Government Services Conference, Grand Hyatt Hotel Singapore, 18 May 2005

18 May 2005

Distinguished Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning at the opening ceremony of the 7th Annual Visa International Government Services Conference. May I first extend a warm welcome to all the conference delegates, especially our foreign guests. I understand that this is the first time the Annual Visa International Government Services Conference is held in the Asia Pacific region.

2. In the span of a decade, electronic payments -- whether by stored value cards, pre-paid cards, charge cards, credit cards, debit cards or internet direct debit -- have become such an integral part of our daily lives. The move from cash to electronic payments has revolutionised consumer spending, fuelled the growth of e-commerce, boosted the economy and generated efficiency gains. Fundamentally, it has expanded opportunities for improvements to service delivery by making possible the completion of an entire transaction via the Internet.

3. The pervasiveness of electronic payment modes have enabled governments across the globe to push out e-government initiatives to reach out to their people anytime, anywhere. While each may adopt a different approach in its e-government efforts, all governments share a common goal -- to improve service delivery to the public through better use of info-communications technologies (or ICT for short). The technological leaps have opened up unprecedented opportunities for governments to re-engineer their business processes and achieve an effectiveness and efficiency in serving citizens and businesses impossible without ICT.

4. e-Government is fundamentally not about ICT or systems. It is a catalyst for change - to transform service delivery to our citizens and our customers. Singapore's vision is to be a leading e-Government to better serve the nation in the Digital Economy. The year 2000 saw the first e-Government Action Plan in Singapore. It marked the start of our e-Government journey in harnessing the power of ICT in the public sector for policy development, organisational excellence, service delivery and engagement of citizens. It heralded a new era for the Singapore Public Service by changing the traditional way in whichpublic agencies interact with the public to one of greater citizen-centricity and customer orientation. With the launch of the e-Government Action Plan II in 2003, we set our core intent as delighting customers and connecting citizens. Today, some 1600, or more than 98% of all public services that can be delivered electronically, are available online. Of these, 84% are at the Interact or Transact level. However, the aim of e-GAPII extends beyond the mere provision of all our services online. While eGAPII leverages upon and improves our e-advantage -- Singapore was ranked first in terms of Networked Readiness, according to the 2004-2005 World Economic Forum Report, and third in the latest Global e-Government Leadership report by Accenture -- eGAPII goes beyond that. It seeks to reinvent the Government in all aspects, to create a fundamental transformation in our internal processes and in our service delivery to the public, both individuals and businesses, such that all public agencies can work across boundaries to integrate information, processes and systems, to achieve the end objective of providing convenient one-stop, non-stop, and user-centric public services.

5. The challenge here is to be proactive in anticipating and seeking to understand the needs of customers. And then work beyond just satisfying them, but also delighting them. That is, we have to think ''customer'' and start with the customer in mind in everything we do.

6. How then do we achieve a proactive and dynamic service delivery paradigm? Reaching beyond the current service offerings today, we need to look for new potential and opportunities that can create fresh growth and untapped value. The question we seek to answer here is what value can be added over and above that which the government can create on its own? Partnerships are the key in generating new synergies in service delivery. Partnerships between the public, private, and people sectors enable the harnessing of potential and realising of opportunities beyond what the government can do on its own.

7. Partnership is not outsourcing, or joint capital investment with the private sector, or joint financing of ICT projects. The underlying motivation to partnerships is to explore new possibilities for innovation, and to leverage on the unique strengths, expertise and capabilities of the public, private, and people sectors respectively, so that scarce resources can be mobilised and utilised in an optimum manner to create and maximise value, and radically alter the way we deliver services to our customers.

8. The needs of a typical customer span across the boundaries of organisations, and transcend beyond the government. How do we then provide the customer with a seamless service experience, such that he does not have to deal separately with the government, and the private and peoplesectors? In Singapore, we have been aggressively pushing our e-services up the maturity levels, from publishing information online, to providing interactive, then transactional e-services, and then integrating e-services across the government. However, if we want to serve our customers in the best possible way, we would have to go beyond integration within the government, to integration with the private and people sectors.

9. This next level of service delivery in Singapore's e-services maturity curve, 3P Integration, is yet another form of Public-Private-People partnership. It is about achieving service transformation through cross-boundary collaborations. To our customers, 3P Integration is really about any service, at anytime and anywhere. As a customer, your needs should be satisfied promptly even if they span across the boundaries of organisations. You can access a multitude of services that you need through a single point of entry. You will enjoy services that focus on your needs for the particular situation you are in.

10. 3P Integration is an expression of how the Singapore Government views its relationship with citizens and businesses. It is a desire to bring about a new total interaction and service experience for any parties who need to deal with the Government. What 3P Integration really requires is a change in our mindset: our people are customers to be delighted through our service offerings, and businesses are our active co-partners and enablers to bring about this outcome. 3P Integration requires public agencies to challenge themselves to think beyond current service offerings, to be proactive in reaching out to potential partners in the private and people sector, and engaging them to create new seamless service offerings. I believe this is how we can exploit ICT to its maximum and bring our services to a new height of integration and totality.

11. The logistics sector is one area in which the Singapore Government has been investing considerable efforts to use ICT as a productivity tool. In 1989, the TradeNet system, a national trade permit declaration system, was implemented to enable the trading community to submit trading declarations electronically to the relevant authorities. Since then, other IT systems such as PortNet and Cargo Community Network have been introduced over the years to meet the specific needs of its user communities. The question to ask is how we can further improve processes and maximise information flow. Have we fully exploited the benefits of ICT? Can we integrate these stand-alone systems to form a more powerful network to serve the entire trade and logistics community in Singapore? To achieve a quantum leap in our status as a global logistics hub, the Singapore Government will be investing up to S$50 million over 5 years to develop an inte grated trade and logistics IT platform. This one-stop IT platform, code-named TradeXchange, will provide a single web interface to all trade-related IT systems. It will facilitate commercial and regulatory information management throughout the entire trade and logisticsvalue chain. Integrating public sector services, like customs declarations and the application for permits, together with private sector offerings, such as financial services and insurance, TradeXchange will further simplify the nationwide trade permit declaration system and provide the trade and logistics community with a total customer experience.

12. Another example of 3P Integration is the National Electronic Payment Hub, which the Singapore Government is currently looking for potential partners to build and operate. Today, individuals and businesses have to access and contend with different payment portals, and establish multiple payment arrangements for different billing organisations. How can we provide consumers with a truly one-stop experience in paying their bills? The National Electronic Payment Hub, which is expected to be set up early next year, will offer consumers the convenience of secure and trusted electronic payments of both public and private sector bills through a single portal. The Singapore Government believes that electronic bill payment is a vital component for successful and widespread e-commerce. Being one of the biggest billers in Singapore, the Government's involvement is vital to jumpstart the electronic bill payment and presentment process. Besides offering consumers greater convenience, the hub will generate efficiency gains to our financial system by saving billing organisations time and cost in processing payments made through manual modes such as cash and cheques. Resources can then be channelled towards improving customer service.

13. The crucial issue from the citizen's point of view is not whether partnerships should or should not happen, but under what conditions, and in what forms, they should happen. In our relentless pursuit of e-Government, the issue of the digital divide remains. There is yet this question of reaching out and converting or catering to the non-customers of e-Government. The answer lies in actively engaging the private and the people sectors to focus on what customers value. Only then can e-Government fulfil its role as an important instrument of connection between citizens and the government.

14. The theme for this year's conference "Partnering for Success" articulates this new service delivery paradigm most aptly. It clearly articulates the exciting opportunities for the private and public sectors to come together and create greater value for our customers. This demands that we transcend our organisation-centric thinking, to adopt a whole of service approach. It is only in collaborating with the private and people sectors, and not only working across agency lines within the public sector, that any government can truly be a one-stop, non-stop government.

15. I call on all parties to take proactive steps towards greater collaboration, so that together we can achieve greater synergies in responding to our citizens' and businesses' needs to deliver truly seamless services to them. I wish one and all an engaging and fruitful conference. Thank you.