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Singapore extends reach of digital ID system with cloud

GovTech is using AWS to host a developer platform that enables government agencies and businesses to develop services that build on the upcoming National Digital Identity system

The cloud has been key to helping Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) extend the reach of the National Digital Identity (NDI) system.

The NDI, slated to be operational in 2020, is intended to provide a single digital identity for citizens and businesses to transact securely with both government and private sector, and is part of Singapore’s push to transform itself into a smart nation.

Speaking at the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Sector Summit in Singapore, Kendrick Lee, deputy director for the NDI programme at GovTech, said the government agency is engaging with developers and partners to develop more value-added services that build on the NDI.

GovTech realised that the engagement model had to be scalable and digital. This resulted in a developer platform that enables developers and partners to build and integrate new e-services – such as transaction signing with digital signatures – with MyInfo.

MyInfo is a digital vault of personal data that government agencies and businesses – with customers’ consent – can use to open bank accounts and facilitate loan applications, among 180 digital services.

“When we launched this, we knew there were 500,000 businesses in Singapore, but we were not sure if we would receive 100 or 1,000 requests,” said Lee. “We had to be able to respond quickly and provide new services as soon as the demand appeared.”

While personal data remains on-premise, the developer portal is hosted on AWS.

Hosting the developer portal on a cloud service not only offered the scalability that GovTech wanted, but it also offered project management capability. The GovTech team can easily get status updates on various software builds, and once some work is completed, the staging environment is automatically built.

Cloud analytics also provides key service statistics, and the capability to drive email marketing.

“The beauty of using a cloud platform is the fact that you just use it,” said Lee. “You don’t have to buy a server, rack and stack it and find a space for it. We could try before we buy, and it allows us to turn things around quickly.

“Everything happens on the mobile phone. It is a suite of tools that allows us to monitor availability, uptime and events.”

Read more about cloud computing in ASEAN

There is growing interest in cloud adoption by the public sector in the ASEAN region, said Peter Moore, managing director for AWS’s public sector business in Asia-Pacific and Japan.

“The Singapore government is very progressive in its use of technology,” he said. “While the government are building their own infrastructure, they are increasingly leveraging cloud for unclassified and more sensitive information.”

Besides the Singaporean government, which is expected to migrate most of its IT systems to commercial cloud services within five years, another AWS public sector customer in ASEAN is the Bureau of Customs of the Philippines, which has digitised customs processes and enabled payments and pre-clearances on the cloud.

Some non-profit organisations have also tapped into the power of the cloud to handle large datasets. One example is the PetaBencana project, a cloud-based, early flood detection system that started in Jakarta and has spread to other cities in Indonesia.

The International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines also uses AWS tools and technologies to map and release the complete sequence of genomes for 3,000 different types of rice, and to process satellite data to determine the status of rice crops in Asia.

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