Reimagining Digital Services For Citizens

Mr Dominic Chan, Director (Moments of Life) at the Government Technology Agency (GovTech), seeks to revolutionise the way citizens interact with the government in the digital sphere.

At GovTech, Mr Dominic Chan helms LifeSG, GoBusiness and VICA (Virtual Intelligent Chat Assistant), digital platforms that consolidate and simplify digital services for citizens and businesses.
At GovTech, Mr Dominic Chan helms LifeSG, GoBusiness and VICA (Virtual Intelligent Chat Assistant), digital platforms that consolidate and simplify digital services for citizens and businesses.

From the way Mr Dominic Chan talks about his work, it’s apparent that the public officer is a visionary at heart.

Throughout our conversation, he speaks passionately and purposefully about LifeSG, a platform developed by GovTech to deliver more integrated, omnichannel services for citizens.

As Dominic explains, LifeSG has gone through several iterations. It was first launched in mid-2018 as Moments of Life (Families), an app for parents to register their child’s birth, apply for Baby Bonus benefits and search for childcare centres.

Since then, the app has progressively had new features added to serve citizens in other aspects of their life in Singapore. This includes an Active Ageing module for the Merdeka Generation and more recently, an Employment Support Guide for jobseekers.

Fast forward to August 2020, it's now rebranded as LifeSG − integrating more than 70 government services.

These include skills upgrading opportunities, public housing applications, checking on a child’s medical appointments and staying updated with the latest government schemes.

The GoBusiness platform was launched in 2019 to connect business owners to various Government e-services and resources. This includes registering a business, applying for licences and grants, and more.

“And this is just the tip of the iceberg, because the whole government has about 500 services,” says Dominic. “We’ve onboarded more than 100 so far on LifeSG and GoBusiness so it is still a work-in-progress.”

quote

“With Singaporeans now experiencing some of the best digital services offered by private tech companies, we can certainly raise the bar further.”

An Intriguing Opportunity

Growing up, Dominic’s father was a public officer and spent a significant amount of time participating in grassroots activities. “My dad believes we need to serve the community, and his influence led me to be active in student-leader activities,” Dominic says.

However, his own experience as a staff officer during National Service in the ’90s gave him the impression that public service wasn't for him. “I felt that things could be moving a lot quicker, and wanted a job that was fast-paced,” he says.

So he began his career at a start-up, then anchored himself in the high-tech manufacturing space for 15 years, becoming Senior Vice President of Operations at electronics manufacturer PCI Limited.

In 2018, he was introduced by a friend working in GovTech to Mr Chan Cheow Hoe, now the agency’s Chief Digital Technology Officer. Intrigued by the way Cheow Hoe expressed GovTech’s mission, he decided to jump on board.

“Cheow Hoe shared his personal experiences in dealing with various government services, and explained how GovTech is trying to simplify services with platforms such as GoBusiness and LifeSG,” he says.

This resonated with Dominic, as he recalled welcoming his newborn in 2007. Having just returned from working overseas, he was clueless about applying for the Baby Bonus. A one-stop app like LifeSG, he says, would have been extremely helpful.

“Working with GovTech was an opportunity to see things from a systems and design thinking point of view, and make meaningful changes to serve citizens’ needs,” says Dominic.

Pushing Digital Frontiers

Though joining the public sector was a big career move, Dominic’s past work experience and skillset helped him adjust quickly.

“I did a lot of business transformation work and honed my skills in product management and ICT,” he explains. “My work also required me to empathise with the needs of staff, customers and supply partners, which has helped me in my current role.”

He appreciates how GovTech is always challenging the status quo − never resting on its laurels. It has been a far cry from his initial image of the Public Service as bureaucratic and slow-moving.

Besides driving the Moments of Life initiative, the organisation is working hard to expand the breadth of services available on GoBusiness and LifeSG by getting more government agencies on board.

There are also plans for GoBusiness and LifeSG to feature greater personalisation.

“One of our major goals is personalising the services offered for every citizen, and weaving related services from different agencies,” says Dominic.

These Moments of Life platforms are starting to converge to offer a more seamless, omnichannel experience. Dominic envisions a future state where users of LifeSG and GoBusiness can escalate their interactions to the chatbot service offered by VICA (Virtual Intelligence Chat Assistant) when they require further clarifications.

From there, the conversation may be further triaged to the appropriate live agent or frontline counter staff who can provide further assistance.

Ultimately, Dominic’s team has a simple goal: Making government services and processes uncomplicated for Singaporeans.

“Government agencies here are extremely efficient and I’m grateful for that,” he says. “But with Singaporeans now experiencing some of the best digital services offered by private tech companies, we can certainly raise the bar further. In this regard, user-centricity is the way to go.”

Dominic advises those looking to join the public sector to keep an open mind.

A Risk Worth Taking

Reflecting on his role and journey at GovTech, Dominic shares that it has been particularly exciting to see the fruits of his labour and the possibilities that LifeSG, GoBusiness and VICA will offer.

For those thinking of joining the public sector, whether as a mid-career change or a young professional, his advice is to keep an open mind.

“Don't be clouded by all the stereotypes, or feel that you need a ‘calling’ to join public service,” he says. “In my experience, this comes naturally after you join.”

He continues: “Once you immerse yourself in the environment and start to see the outcome of what you're doing, the work becomes extremely rewarding.”

To get updates of more stories like this, subscribe to the Challenge newsletter or follow the Challenge Telegram channel.

The Takeaway

  1. User-Centricity Is the Way To Go
    With more citizens experiencing the convenience of private sector services, there is still more to achieve for government digital services.

  2. Personalise and Integrate Services
    Putting various government services on an all-in-one, the multi-channel platform makes transacting digital services easier for citizens and businesses.

  3. Keep an Open-Mind
    You don’t need a “calling” to join the Public Service – this will come to you after you see the outcome of what you’re doing.
  • POSTED ON
    May 28, 2021
  • TEXT BY
    Rebecca Wong
  • PHOTOS BY
    Teck Lim
  • link facebook
  • link twitter
  • link whatsapp
  • link email