SINGAPORE – When the pandemic hit last year, many social challenges surfaced, such as vulnerable groups of people not getting help directly or fast enough.
While many people and organisations stepped up to help, the National Volunteer And Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) realised it did not have full visibility of the people that needed assistance, or how to effectively connect those in need with those who could help.
So, the centre decided to turn to a government crowdsourcing initiative called the Open Innovation Platform (OIP), which matches public and private sector organisations with technology companies that can develop solutions to their problems.
“We decided to leverage digital innovation to grow a culture of giving and create greater social impact because technology has the power to (bring) people together and create a better future,” an NVPC spokesman told The Straits Times.
Since then, the centre has been matched with companies to develop solutions or improve existing ones.
This includes developing a new multilingual online portal for NVPC catering to migrant workers of different nationalities to provide them with timely access to accurate information and connect them with credible avenues of help from the community, such as on healthcare, worker rights and mental health support.
NVPC is also working with another company to expand an existing app to pair volunteers with senior citizens who live alone and need help with errands.
OIP, which is managed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), has also helped organisations with pandemic-specific issues such as preventing and mitigating Covid-19 transmission on flights.
The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) tapped OIP to come up with systems to manage coronavirus screening and contact tracing at construction sites.
Construction firms had to work on resuming operations safely after these were suspended during the two-month circuit breaker that ended last June.
Firms have to, among other things, adhere to safe distancing measures and conduct health monitoring, but there were no existing digital solutions to enable this for construction environments.
So BCA, together with construction firms Kajima Overseas Asia and Boustead Singapore, put out a challenge on OIP last July on how to better manage contact tracing and safe distancing at construction sites. The proposals from three firms were eventually selected.
They have since been testing prototypes such as a health screening app and contact tracing tags and fine-tuning them so that they are ready for mass deployment.
Other organisations have found solutions to various challenges through OIP. These include finding ways to improve the information extraction and analysis process for financial analysis, and helping licensed moneylenders to go digital.
More than 190 challenges have been put up on the platform since it launched in 2018, with over 60 solutions developed. OIP now has more than 10,000 companies on board that can offer tech solutions.
Mr Lew Chuen Hong, IMDA’s chief executive, said that the Government sees potential for OIP “to be the leading digital innovation platform in our digital economy”.
“OIP can cater to a wide spectrum of innovation needs, from a broad-based innovation marketplace to a platform for complex challenges with a transformative impact at a sectoral or national level,” said Mr Lew.
It is with this in mind that the Government wants to continue to invest in OIP to enhance its capabilities for speed and scale, he said.
Last month, the Government announced that OIP will get a $50 million boost over the next five years to co-fund more projects under the platform and deliver new features that can make it easier and faster for organisations to find tech solutions to their problems.
“Ultimately, it is about helping our start-ups and enterprises capture new business opportunities, in Singapore and globally,” said Mr Lew.