Singapore has build an extensive digital infrastructure as part of its smart nation initiative. It now uses that experience and knowledge to quickly develop tech solutions able to combat the spread of COVID-19. The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) has initiated several applications and tools over the last months. Emerging Market Experts (EMEx) has published an overview of the GovTech applications launched so far.
Trace Together App
Trace Together was launched on Friday 20 March and the latest mobile application by the Singaporean government to combat the spread of COVID-19. It was developed by GovTech and the Ministry of Health. By downloading the app, users consent to participate and they allow the app to help with the contact tracing process. Users have to turn on their bluetooth and enable push notifications and location permissions. Short-distance signals between phones allow the app to detect other users of the app who are close by, according to a press release. Records will be stored in the users’ phones and not shared with the government. They will only be asked to share those records as part of contact tracing investigations. Current investigations are build upon the memories of infected patients which are often incomplete or flawed. This application strengthens that investigation. Singapore plans to release the app as open source so other countries can use the tech as well.
The National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Campus Infrastructure’s Digital Transformation Unit (UCI DTU), its Organizational Excellence Transformation Unit (OETU) and GovTech explored ways to improve the temperature screening process. Such an improvement was necessary to meet the high human traffic at various places around Singapore including office buildings. “VigilantGantry is an automated temperature screening system that alerts and bars movement when high temperature is detected, thus allowing prompt staff intervention and reduction in manpower”, according to a NUS press release. It also includes an alarm to alert staff and facial recognition for contact tracing. Masks don’t have to removed for the temperature scanners resulting in less quieing and saving time.
Self-help Temperature Scanner
Singapore recognises the need to combat the COVID-19 spread by having proper temperature scanners at the entry of buildings and offices. GovTech developed a self-help temperature scanner which makes use of “a existing contactless off-the-shelf battery operated infrared thermometer and other off-the-shelf materials” according to an announcement by the department. The system is deployed at government buildings and community facilities.
Ask Jamie is a virtual assistant developed by GovTech to answer queries within specific domains on government agency websites. It was already launched in 2014 and has been implemented across 70 Government Agency Websites. To combat the COVID-19 spread, the chatbot can now also answer questions on the virus and “uses machine learning to improve the accuracy of replies, and data analytics to detect trending topics”, according to GovTech. The chatbot can also be accessed via Facebook Messenger and Telegram.
COVID-19 Chat for Biz
A similar chatbot to ‘ask Jamie’ but this one is specifically used for companies. It was developed by GovTech together with the Ministry of Trade and Industry. All businesses related questions regarding COVID-19 can be answered by this bot. It also answers questions how businesses are helped in the Budget 2020.This chatbot addresses questions from businesses related to COVID-19, including information on measures to help businesses in Budget 2020. Businesses can access the chatbot at www.go.gov.sg/businessconnect.
Whatsapp is also in Singapore one of the most used mobile chat applications. “The official Gov.sg whatsapp account provides citizens with timely and trusted updates on the COVID-19 situation”, according to GovTech. It pushes out daily updates and grew from 7000 subscribers to 900000 subscribers in 10 weeks. It can be used in 4 languages and is improved so it can send multi-lingual messages to all subscribers within a short period of time. Citizens can subscribe to updates by registering at www.go.gov.sg/Whatsapp. The Ministry of Communication and Information will also make a app for Telegram (www.go.gov.sg/govsg-telegram) and refresh its Twitter channel (www.go.gov.sg/twitter).
GovTech together with several government agencies including the Ministry of Communications and Information, Ministry of Health, and People’s Assocation created an application that helps residents of Singapore to find the designated location, day and time where they can collect their masks. The website can be accessed via www.maskgowhere.gov.sg. By using this app the Singaporean government has distributed more than 5 million masks to 1.37 million households.
Leave of Absence & Stay-Home Notice Tracking Solution
GovTech developed a SMS and mobile web-based solution allowing people to serve out their Leave of Absence or Stay-Home Notice by reporting their locations to the Ministry of Manpower quickly and accurately, according to a press release.
Travel and Health Declaration System
GovTech developed a free-for-use Cloud-based visitor registration systems. “Visitors scan a QR code using their SingPass Mobile app, give consent to share their name and contact information with the building managers, and make the necessary declaration required.” It allows businesses and building owners to verify user identity and compare them with Government sources. More info can be found at www.go.gov.sg/travelandhealth.
GovTech developed this website together with the Ministry of Health and the Public Health Preparedness Clinics. More than 900 clinics are participating on this website. It offers users a convenient way to search through a list of clinics who provide special subsidies for those with respiratory illnesses. The website can be accessed via www.flugowhere.gov.sg.
Tjeerd S. Ritmeester