MORE ubiquitous classroom-level WiFi connectivity in all government schools, new, as well as upgraded, data centres and equipment refresh for government departments are among the things that are being budgeted for in the projected S$2.82 billion of infocomm technology (ICT) tenders that the government announced for fiscal 2016 on Monday.
These ICT tenders will comprise mainly infrastructure and ICT security bulk contracts and many of them will be amortised over a three to five year period. The tenders will also include contracts relating to agency-specific systems.
Jacqueline Poh, managing director of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), said that more than 50 per cent of the money earmarked would be spent on infrastructure projects.
"The infrastructure is something that needs to be renewed . . . We are making an effort to ensure that the refreshed infrastructure is done according to modern requirements."
She added that the focus would be on enhancing ICT infrastructure to better support the data and digital services needs of a Digital Government in a Smart Nation.
"For example, increased data centre virtualisation will allow the government to modernise its hosting of ICT applications and ensure faster time to production for new digital services.
"WiFi will be extended to more areas within government schools to support smart learning."
Ms Poh noted that modernising data centres with virtualisation, making them software defined with lights out facilities would result in requiring fewer people to run them. "Also with better virtualisation, applications can be hosted faster and this will result in productivity enhancement. We are also looking at cloud hosting as we go forward."
She added that with Smart Nation services kicking in, a lot more data centre space will be needed. "There will be capacity increase and some of the older data centres have come to the end of their lives and need to be replaced with new ones."
Explaining the data centre strategy, she said that the government was expecting an increase of at least 25 per cent from current utilisation. "However, the actual physical space increase will be minimal. This increase in demand will be met with more efficient utilisation of space, solutions as well as higher density racks."
Virtualisation improves capacity utilisation in data centres.
The government will also continue to invest in its cybersecurity efforts, with a bulk tender for IT security services to be called in this fiscal year. A major thrust in this area would be in Internet of Things (IoT) related security. It is expected that there will be an explosion of IoT devices used from sectors ranging from health care to logistics. Many of these devices would be transmitting valuable data that needs to be protected.
In fiscal 2015, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) accounted for more than half of the total contracted value of ICT tenders, which came to S$2.69 billion. This fiscal year, with 80 per cent of the government tenders being worth S$5 million or less, it is expected that SMEs will again account for a major portion of the tenders.
In order to help more local technology companies, particularly SMEs, take up ICT projects, the IDA launched its Accreditation@IDA scheme, which provides an independent third party evaluation of early-stage growth technology by promising Singapore-based companies.
This is intended to help these companies to compete for government tenders. To date, 13 companies, including Hope Technik (an unmanned aerial vehicle and automated guided vehicle solution provider), Sense Infosys (data analytics) and V-Key (mobile and web security) have been accredited. These accredited companies have also won more than 25 government contracts, worth around S$3.3 million, to date.
Giving an update of the scheme, Ms Poh said that IDA, till date, has met around 300 interested SME applicants and have engaged close to 80 of them. "Last year alone, more than 30 companies have benefited from our assistance to strengthen their products and out of which, 13 companies have been accredited and about 40 companies are currently undergoing assessment.
"While there are no fixed numbers, we expect about another 8-10 companies to be accredited by the end of this financial year."
She noted that IDA had a very rigorous system of assessment and hence not all companies can make it.
Included in this year's tenders is one by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to revamp existing disease outbreak systems to improve capabilities to meet new operational demands. Called the Integrated Disease Outbreak Management System, this contract, worth in excess of S$5 million, will help to streamline end-to-end operations and tap latest technologies for improved monitoring and faster response to potential outbreaks. MOH will also set up a new MeiNet2 Data Centre in a project worth in excess of S$50 million.
Ms Poh added that the government wanted to empower Singapore with possibilities through technology. "To do that, investment in infrastructure is necessary so that innovative citizen-centric services can be built and enhanced on a strong foundation. There will be opportunities abound for the government and industry to collaborate and build a Smart Nation together."
She added that IDA or the soon-to-be-formed Government Technology Agency (GovTech) would continue to partner the infocomm technology (ICT) industry and invest in technologies such as data analytics, ICT infrastructure and platform-as-a-service to develop citizen-centric services. This aims to enhance the quality of citizens' lives and make business transactions with the government easier.
GovTech, which will be established at the end of this year, will lead technological transformation in government. The agency will be tasked with building a more intuitive and anticipatory government through digital service delivery with technologies, nurture and attract ICT talent, and ensure that people are always at the heart of digital service transformation for the public sector.
The agency will also make use of trending methodologies and technologies, such as agile and data analytics, to create innovative services, Ms Poh said.