THE government is assembling a team of IT specialists whose job is to develop digital services that will meet the needs and expectations of citizens as Singapore morphs into a smart nation.
This core group of software coders and engineers will be part of the Software Design and Development Centre of Excellence, a 13,000 square foot research and testing lab at the Sandcrawler, Lucasfilm's Singapore campus at Fusionopolis.
The centre, to be launched by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) by mid-July, will be where IT solutions within the government and citizen-centric digital services will be researched, developed and tested.
Announcing this on Thursday, Minister of Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said that, as more citizens connect to the Internet, the government must ensure that e-services are delivered in a user-friendly way.
"To achieve this, we need to create a one-stop centre where expertise in developing e-services of such calibre is concentrated, and supported by research and analytics of data captured by our smart-nation infrastructure."
Speaking at the Work Plan Seminar 2015 of the Ministry of Communication and Information, he also unveiled more details about the newly formed Cyber Security Agency (CSA), which started operations on April 1.
Dr Yaacob said that, as Singapore moves towards becoming a well-connected, tech-fuelled smart nation, it is inevitable that cyber risks would rise. "We need to be able to manage these risks if we are to reap the full benefits that technology promises. The CSA aims to do just that."
The brief given to the fledgling agency is to develop the country's cyber-security strategy and policies, coordinate cyber-related operations, give focus to industry and manpower development in the area of cyber-security, and to build international partnerships.
The CSA will also work with private and public-sector agencies to beef up Singapore's defences against cyber threats.
Dr Yaacob stressed, however, that the responsibility for cyber security extended beyond the CSA. "We need individuals to practise good cyber hygiene and to adopt safe surfing habits at work and at home, and we need all organisations to take ownership of their systems' cyber security and play their part."
He urged organisations to be aware of the consequences of poorly designed or poorly implemented cyber-security systems, which create opportunities for data theft and compromise organisational functions. "It is the same in the government: IT managers and vendors must be mindful of security risks and exercise professionalism in making cyber-security decisions, or face disciplinary action for negligence in implementing security controls."
He added that as cyber threats multiply and become increasingly complex, the demand for cyber-security professionals will only rise. Plans have already been put in place to build up local research capability, groom research leaders and retain cyber-security talent.
The National Cybersecurity Post-graduate Scholarship, for example, is a joint effort between the IDA and the National Research Foundation; the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Economic Development Board (EDB) of Singapore have set up the Safety and Security Industry Programme Office (SSIPO), which is working with IDA to build capacity in the cyber-security industry.
Cyber security is neither a cost driver nor a dampener on the opportunities that technology can open up, said Dr Yaacob. "We should instead see cyber-security as an enabler."
He said that the government was pulling out all the stops to close the digital divide in Singapore society. In the year since the Digital Inclusion Fund was announced, the IDA has reached out to more than 2,400 low-income households eligible for the Home Access package paid for by the fund. Families on the programme receive a tablet and four years of broadband connectivity at a subsidised price of S$6 per month.
Local telco M1 announced on Thursday that it was collaborating with the IDA as its Home Access programme partner, to deliver high-speed fibre broadband Internet access to up to 8,000 low-income households without school-going children but which have at least one Singapore citizen. M1 added that eligible households will enjoy its fibre broadband service at 100Mbps (mega bits per second), and receive an Internet router and a seven-inch Alcatel tablet at the cost of only S$6 a month for two years.
Dr Yaacob said that, in pursuing the vision of becoming a smart nation, Singapore must remain constantly vigilant and strengthen its cyber systems so Singaporeans can go digital, secure in the knowledge that their information will stay safe. "However, let us not forget the opportunities available amid these challenges. We will continue to ensure citizens are digitally enabled to reap benefits of technology and ensure government services are well-designed to meet citizens' needs in our smart-nation future."
This article was first published on April 10, 2015.
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