Singapore is known for punching above its weight in the global economy – a bustling financial hub that consistently ranks high in measures of economic productivity, public services and living standards.
Its success credits to the country's digital transformation efforts pursued for years. And a holistic "Smart Nation" approach that is tech-powered across all facets of the Singaporean society, from finance to education to transportation.
Amongst the most notable projects is the National Digital Identity (NDI) initiative— Users of their flagship service, Singpass, can conduct transactions with hundreds of government agencies and businesses on the cloud, without inconvenient paperwork, in-person visits and even passwords.
Ease of access helped the service see substantial growth in its early years, with total annual transactions rising from 4.5 million in its first year to 57 million in the first 10 years. The programme became known as the go-to secure gateway to hundreds of e-services offered by government.
The bigger ambition for the Singapore government, however, was to make Singpass a key enabler of the digital economy. But to expand the popular service into a universal trust framework, Singapore officials knew that managing infrastructure as well as identifying and mitigating potential security concerns was critical.
When tech meets human ingenuity
The Government’s Technology Agency, GovTech, engaged Accenture as one of the partners to support Singpass’ growth plans and improve resiliency.
Realizing that a simple "lift and shift" to replicate the on-premise architecture in the cloud wouldn't suffice, the team opted for a carefully managed migration with a new microservices architecture for service reliability, small-scale user testing and a user onboarding program that took place in waves.
One of the first moves was innovation on the security front, starting with the introduction of Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) to better protect user data. This also allowed users to perform government digital transactions involving sensitive information—such as filing taxes and viewing CPF statements—more secure.
To support the digitalisation of the economy, Singpass services were extended to the private sector. Financial institutions began integrating their digital services and allowing customers to do away with the need to submit supporting documents, such as NRIC scans or proof of address – ensuring greater ease and faster transaction times for services such as opening new bank accounts and applying for credit cards.
Another opportunity that presented itself was going mobile. GovTech launched the Singpass app in 2018, enabling users to log in to government’s digital services using fingerprint, face recognition or a 6-digit passcode. The app now serves as a secure mode of 2FA, with less reliance on SMS or hard tokens.
The early push to expand access to Singpass proved especially valuable as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded. NDI’s infrastructure was used to develop SafeEntry for seamless registration for contact tracing purposes, allowing users to check in to thousands of establishments they visited through a mobile app.
Singpass on Cloud
How Singapore’s GovTech manages a surging userbase
The NDI initiative has grown significantly since its launch. The Singpass app tripled its user base to become one of the most downloaded apps in Singapore in 2020, while kiosks for residents without mobile devices saw more than 19,000 logins in a year.
The business community continues to leverage Singpass’s suite of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to improve customer acquisition and business processes. For example, a human resource software company has integrated Singpass's face verification for HR portal logins, and a charity crowdfunding platform uses Singpass to verify beneficiaries, reducing paperwork by at least 40%.
The success of the Singpass story has helped propel Singapore along its “Smart Nation” journey with digital identity authentication, an important enabler of service delivery. As Singapore continues to explore and embrace innovation, it serves as an example to other countries seeking to harness technology to improve residents' lives and livelihoods.
Million personal and corporate Singpass transactions in a year.
Government agencies and private sector organisations on board.
Images credits: Government Technology Agency, all right reserved.