Speech by Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Launch of the E-Government Action Plan II, Raffles City Convention Centre 15 July 2003, 3.00pm16 Jul 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I am happy to join you today to launch the Second e-Government Action Plan (eGAP II).
2. Our goal is to be a leading e-Government that provides excellent service to our people. To achieve this, we launched eGAP I in June 2000. One of its key objectives was to get as many government services on line as possible.
3. Today, about 1,600 public services are provided online. These services do not just provide you with information, but also enable you to carry out transactions. For example, you can book sports facilities, register a company, file your income tax return, and apply for a new passport, all through the Internet.
4. But putting services on line is not sufficient. If Singaporeans are not comfortable with computers and the Internet, everything we develop - the IT infrastructure, the portals - will stay idle.
5. We therefore pushed strongly to raise the level of IT literacy, and to provide all Singaporeans with access to computers and the Internet. Our schools are already completely wired up, and so are our national libraries. The People's Association, together with its corporate sponsors, has set up a network of 22 eClubs in housing estates to provide broadband Internet facilities to residents. We have stationed helpers at the eClubs to guide users who are unfamiliar with the Internet and the Government services that are available online. We started a National Infocomm Literacy Programme, with the Community Clubs offering affordable courses and workshops to residents. We started a nationwide programme, called TrustSg, to boost consumer confidence in online transactions.
6. We have not done too badly. Our survey shows that 75% of Singaporeans who need to transact with the Government did so through electronic means. And for those who do, 4 out of 5 were satisfied. Internationally, Singapore is also recognised as a leading e-Government. The United Nations has just conferred a Public Service award on our TrustSg programme, which is a vote of confidence in what we are doing.
7. But eGAP I is just the start. We will build on the strong foundation it laid to deliver even better services to the public.
8. Under eGAP II, Government will invest S$1.3 billion over the next three years to upgrade infrastructure, develop capabilities, and further improve electronic public services. The design of eGAP II is driven by two significant trends. The first is economic; the second, social.
9. On the economic front, we are entering a new phase of development. The environment is more uncertain and more competitive. Our old model of relying on Foreign Direct Investment for economic growth will no longer suffice. We must be more dynamic, entrepreneurial and self-reliant, including venturing abroad, to seize and exploit the opportunities around us.
10. The Government is doing its part to create an entrepreneur-friendly environment, such as by lowering direct taxes, reducing business costs, and reforming our education system. We must also cut red tape and minimise bureaucracy, so that our regulatory requirements are as light as possible.
11. eGAP II will deliver more one-stop, integrated services to meet the needs of our public and businesses. We already have Tradenet, which provides a one-stop service for traders to comply with all import and export regulations. We have also moved business registration on line, through the BizFile system. The online system is not only more convenient to use, but also cheaper to operate. I am therefore pleased that Registry of Companies and Businesses will halve the business registration fee from $100 to $50, and reduce the annual renewal fees from $25 to $20, with effect from 15 August 2003.
12. Under eGAP II, we are developing an Online Application System for Integrated Services (OASIS). Using OASIS, a company can register a business and apply for all required licences by visiting just one website. There is no need to fill up different forms at various government agencies. Like Tradenet, the agencies will need to re-engineer their individual backend processes to provide a customer-centred service. They must strive to make things as convenient as possible to the customer, rather than make things easy for themselves. I urge all agencies to deliver more convenience and more cost savings to the public.
13. On the social front, Singaporeans increasingly want to be heard in the deliberation of policies. These days, when a member of public writes in to make a suggestion, he will not simply accept 'no' as the answer. He expects a serious explanation, and will debate the pros and cons of what he is proposing.
14. The Government welcomes this development. As the economy becomes more knowledge-intensive, the Government must increasingly work on the basis that it does not know everything. To develop new policies and enact new laws, we must seek the views and expertise of private sector experts and various stakeholders. Agencies such as IDA and MAS regularly involve the public in their policy making. Both the Economic Review Committee and the Remaking Singapore Committee consulted widely, both locally and overseas, before settling their recommendations.
15. Our Government needs to become even more consultative and open. The eGAP II will develop the tools to help us connect citizens with each other and the Government, and involve them in issues that affect them, or that they have expertise in. The Online Consultation Portal, launched in April this year, makes giving feedback and airing views easier than before, wherever you are in the world. Making a donation to the less fortunate will also become more convenient. The Online Donation Portal enables donations to be made online, either using Economic Restructuring Shares or via credit card. The donations are also tax-deductible.
16. Ultimately, eGAP II is not about IT, but about changing the approach to Government. The default answer to any request cannot be to preserve the status quo, but to ask why the status quo should remain, what we can learn from the members of public, and what other perspectives are relevant in considering the issue. This is the biggest change we are aiming for, which will go a long way to Remaking Singapore.
17. I hope that the eGAP II will spur a new wave of meshing among different government agencies, and bring the government and people even closer together. Let us all work together to make it a success, and make our Government a better one.
18. It is now my pleasure to launch the Second e-Government Action Plan.