Rethinking the CIO role in government services

According to Jacqueline Poh, Chief Executive, GovTech Singapore, the CIO in governments is not a single individual, but a team with the capabilities to deliver the different skills that pull in different directions.

By Kareyst Lin
Nov. 25, 2016


With technology become more complex and diverse than ever, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is now required to deliver a model of information technology (IT) that require different skills that often pull in different directions.

"[And that is] the reason why the Government Technology agency (GovTech) was set up - we have acknowledged some of the structural shifts in this really exciting times, and it is a growth opportunity that will not cause stress if the tech function of any organisation, including the government, works as a team," said Jacqueline Poh, Chief Executive, GovTech Singapore, at the opening keynote of the inaugural GCIO Forum 2016 in Singapore on 24 November.

The new user in User Acceptance Tests

The first primary question that this team has to answer is: 'what is the user base?'

As the CIO of the government, the user in the User Acceptance Test (UAT) is not the person who has commissioned the system, but citizens and businesses. Therefore, there is a need to focus relentlessly on user needs in terms of citizen experience, said Poh.

"In Singapore, [GovTech] looks at moments of life in citizens - citizens use a range of government services at different points in their lives. However, they don't know which part of the government is fulfilling that need. They want to have one single point of contact that they can interface with, or better still, predict their needs and push services to them when they need it, not when they need to find it."

For example, the foundations of Singapore's National Digital Identity - SingPass and MyInfo - provide seamless and hassle-free experience for citizens to transact with the government on issues like housing and baby bonuses.

Building projects like Lego

The second important principle is to build projects like Lego.

"Governments used to build large products - but it also increases the risk of each project," explained Poh.

"Agile is something that [Govtech] has gone into in a pretty big way, in our front-facing services. For example, govBuy allows government agencies to buy snippets of codes on request and in micro-purchase form, using an auction system on the website. Small developers in Singapore who would never otherwise be able to sell to us using the usual procurement process, can actually do so." 

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