Friday, June 21, 2024

Singapore budgets $2.4B to boost ICT infrastructures and digital services

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Singapore is setting aside SG$3.3 billion ($2.44 billion) this year for its ICT infrastructures and digital services, including plans for streamlining compliance to ease and improve delivery.

At least 60% of this figure, which is budgeted for ICT procurements in Singapore’s fiscal 2024, will go toward modernizing and improving the country’s digital infrastructures. At SG$2.1 billion, the amount is up from SG$1.3 billion in the previous year, said GovTech, which is responsible for driving the public sector’s ICT strategy. 

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“With the public increasingly relying on digital services to interact with the government, strengthening the resilience of digital infrastructure is crucial for the government to minimize disruptions and uphold public trust,” the government agency said in a statement Tuesday. “Existing infrastructure must be re-engineered to reduce the complexities of ICT systems, modernize aging systems, and bolster defenses against evolving cybersecurity threats.”

It added that efforts will continue to focus on driving the adoption of reusable development tools. Apart from cutting costs with “build once, use often” tools, the government will look to streamline security compliance and encourage interoperability, GovTech said. 

Collaboration between public and private sectors can be smoother with compliance and procurement frameworks that have less complexity and friction, GovTech said. Such streamlining of processes can further improve service quality, it noted, adding that the government has begun trialing such efforts in response to industry feedback. 

These include reviewing some stringent security requirements that apply to low-risk government systems, according to GovTech. “This helps vendors work in a more agile, cost-effective manner with the government, while ensuring requirements for critical systems remain robust,” it said. 

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These are outlined on the GovTech’s website and will be regularly updated alongside policy reviews, it noted. The site lists recommended controls for low-risk systems that have no disruptive impact on a government agency’s core functions. These use Open Security Controls Assessment Language, which GovTech said will enable future automation to monitor and assess the effectiveness of technical controls. 

The streamlined requirements are included in government ICT procurements such as the Cybersecurity and Audit Services bulk tender, which encompasses cybersecurity risk assessments, testing, and audit services.

GovTech also noted that dynamic and perpetual contracting will be introduced for selected bulk tenders in the latest fiscal year. To provide flexibility for adding new vendors, contracts under this model will not have a stated end date, thereby ensuring that these contracts remain competitive. Any vendor previously awarded a bulk tender and still meeting the government’s requirements also will not need to spend time and effort re-applying when their contract expires.

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“The dynamic nature of today’s technological and social landscape requires the government to be more agile,” said GovTech CEO Goh Wei Boon. “Engaging our industry partners allows us to tap the complementary strengths of the public and private sectors and I hope this close partnership will ensure a smooth journey together on [Singapore’s] smart nation [plan].”

Singapore in February announced plans to invest upward of SG$1 billion ($738.65 million) to accelerate artificial intelligence (AI) development, including securing access to the necessary compute power and skillsets. The country also plans to upgrade its national broadband network and build a new cybersecurity command hub. The investments aim to support the government’s efforts to tap technology across key sectors and are part of its fiscal 2024 budget, running through March 2025.

Singapore’s decade-long Digital Connectivity Blueprint roadmap outlines priorities for the nation’s digital infrastructure and ensures it is ready to tap emerging technologies, such as generative AI, autonomous systems, and immersive multi-party interactions

The government’s ICT budget last year was focused on moving its systems to the cloud, with more than 30% of its fiscal spending allocated to cloud applications. 

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