What Public Officers Want In The Public Service, As Citizens

Officers of the Singapore Public Service put on the citizens’ hat to share what they want to see in a Public Service that’s ready for the future.
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Winning Entry

This probably sounds quite out of the world, but it would be amazing if each citizen had a “personal virtual butler” (like an exclusive virtual bot) with access to the individual’s records, from housing, medical and CPF to employment. The virtual butler bot can then assist with queries any time and provide timely prompts on what needs to be done (e.g. “time to top up your CPF”, “remember to use the Baby Bonus”, “reminder to collect your passport”). It would be fun if citizens could even customise their bot with a name and a personalised design.

Grace Leow, SEAB

Congratulations, Grace! You win vouchers to OWNDAYS so you can pick up some snazzy new eyewear – all the better to keep seeing from different points of view.


With the advancement of technology and ease of access to information, there is now a trend towards shared goods and services. Examples include the sharing of bikes, cars, umbrellas and mobile chargers. There are many perks to this for the economy and the environment. The initiatives from private organisations also help to take a load off the government in meeting the needs of society. However, these shared goods are not categorised as entirely public or entirely private, and hence are neither exclusive like private goods nor have the protection available for public goods. A Public Service of the future would provide sufficient support to such services, and protect shared goods as much as public goods (i.e., taking vandalism cases seriously). This will create a healthier environment for shared goods and services to continue to exist.

Chia Yilun, WSHC


Public officers are able to not only help to improve Singapore through our own work, but can also be active citizens who participate in policymaking by other departments or agencies. Some may already get invited to panels to give feedback on new policies, but we could really push the boundaries: make it part of every officer’s job to attend other agencies’ consultation sessions. I am in one such group but find it hard to tell my boss that I want to go give feedback to policies outside my job scope. I suggest that officers be able to sign up for topics that interest them and attend relevant sessions to contribute to the policymaking. This will reinforce that we each have a role to play in being whole-of-government/nation. We get to validate new policies with more citizens, and in the process learn about the importance of public engagement and how to do it well.

Flora Ow, MOF


I envision a Public Service that says “Why not?” more often than “No, because…”; has time for people, not just for papers; and constantly looks at itself in the mirror to ask how it can do better.

Chay Pui San, MCI


I would like the Public Service to work with a smarter form of cybersecurity. I agree that Internet Separation is a good way to protect confidential and sensitive information. But not everything needs that level of protection. Applied to the inappropriate channels, it instead impedes workflow and productivity. It is getting increasingly difficult and counterproductive to continuously look for workarounds to get things done beyond our internet-separated hardware, as the world moves towards more immersive uses of technology and the Internet. To be ready for an even more tech-dependent future, I firmly believe that a nimble, agile solution should be considered – one that can harness the power of smart tools for productivity and cohesive management, and cater to the strengths and scope of the public officers who have a need to work in the realms of the open, public internet.

Darren Chia, NLB


A future-ready Public Service has the right mentality to not only be resilient to change but to also seek out how best to ride the waves of change. In my vocation, I see many officers complaining about the constant tech refreshes, the inconvenience, the hassle… this, despite our main aim being to upgrade technology to aid officers and increase their work potential. This mentality holds us back and ought to be put aside. What we need is to not only accept the changes to come, but to whole-heartedly embrace it so that officers can work towards a similar aim of betterment.

Samuel Yip, SPF


To encourage sustainability best practices, we ought to do more. While the Health Promotion Board has encouraged healthier food choices in our catering arrangements, we can do more by insisting that caterers only use environmentally friendly (biodegradable) utensils. Canteens and food court operators in the various Ministries/Stat Board buildings, and even military camps, must only use proper reusable utensils or environmentally friendly types. The Public Service should stop the use of plastic bottled water; we can consider a personal issue item of a glass or aluminium bottle to all public officers, just like our security pass. For public service events, do away with plastic event bags and use reusable ones instead – again perhaps another personal issue item. These personal issue items can be used for public messaging as well of the public service sustainability movement.

We have always prided ourselves as planning for the future. That's why it is imperative to embrace more sustainability practices. Government contracts should have sustainability considerations in the tender specifications whenever practicable. Greater weightage should be given for vendors that propose more sustainability best practices in their tender proposals instead of just lower bids. Special grades and consideration should be given if a vendor proposes pioneering sustainability ideas – we can then publicise it as the Public Service encouraging such ideas. The construction industry together with Ministry of National Development has been active on these but the rest of the Public Service can and should do more.

Tay Swee Yee, CSA

How would you explain the importance of your work to a five-year-old child?

Send your entry to psd_challenge@psd.gov.sg.

The most exciting entry will receive a prize worth $100. All other entries published in print will win vouchers worth $30 each. Entries may be edited. Please include your name, agency email address, agency and contact number.

All entries should reach us by November 14, 2018.

  • POSTED ON
    Nov 5, 2018
  • ILLUSTRATION BY
    Mushroomhead
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