Govt tie-ups with tech companies thriving: Janil – The Straits Times

Tech companies are continuing to invest in Singapore and public-private partnerships (PPP) with the Government are thriving, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary said yesterday.

This is despite recent high-profile hiccups here for the PPP model, most notably with local water treatment firm Hyflux.

Dr Janil, who is also Senior Minister of State for Transport, drew attention to various initiatives that demonstrate tech companies’ willingness to work alongside the Government to develop products and train talent.

In a Smart Nation collaboration, software engineers from GovTech and United States technology consultancy ThoughtWorks worked together on the Moments of Life (Families) mobile app.

The app, which was launched in June last year, is a digital platform for services and information needed by parents and caregivers of young children.

“The Government and tech companies are effectively building products together. In the past, this was different, but today, it’s a true partnership between the public and private sectors,” said Dr Janil during a dialogue at ThoughtWorks’ Singapore office in Cross Street.

“There are lots of opportunities being created because tech companies are coming here, investing here, developing talent here. They’re partnering with local businesses and with us in government as well,” he said.

The PPP model has come under scrutiny here in recent months.

Earlier this month, national water agency PUB took over the Tuaspring desalination plant from Hyflux, after the latter’s repeated failures to resolve various operational issues.

In February, Singapore Sports Hub chief executive Oon Jin Teik unexpectedly resigned after a disagreement over the Sports Hub’s direction, illustrating the delicate balancing act between the private consortium that runs the Sports Hub and national sports agency Sport Singapore.

ThoughtWorks chief executive Guo Xiao said working with government agencies in any country presents challenges in the form of red tape, but he was surprised to find that GovTech was “forward-thinking”.

“The private sector is very open and risk-tolerant when it comes to choosing a software platform to develop a product,” said Mr Guo, who is based in Chicago.

“In the public sector, and we see this a lot in different countries, often you have to use certain (platforms) because of conflicting interests,” he added.

Such constraints are gradually falling away in Singapore, he said, pointing to the Government’s plans to move its IT systems to a commercial cloud structure as an example.

Dr Janil was also asked what impact the ongoing US-China trade war and Huawei ban might have on potential partnerships with Chinese tech firms.

“We have always got to pay close attention to what is going on outside,” he said.

“But I think if we can provide a value proposition, either to companies which are building or purchasing here, or getting involved in the tech industry, we will be OK.”


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