As part of the Singapore Government’s efforts to enhance its online presence and connect with the public more effectively, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) commissioned home-grown provider of mission-critical government infrastructure and solutions, Ecquaria Technologies Pte Ltd, to revamp their portal and develop an appropriate iPhone app.

MICA's goal is to offer a convenient platform to access and get updates on government news, initiatives and information, supported by a ‘single access serving multiple needs’ approach. The increasing ubiquity and popularity of Smartphones in Singapore, due to the excellent national broadband infrastructure, motivated MICA to improve its online presence and be accessible “on the go”.

Singapore has a mobile population penetration rate of 139.6% (as at May 2010) so the government responded quickly to the changing consumption pattern and uses the opportunity to extend its range of services to better reach out to the public that is taking up new media experiences with staggering speed. MICA’s decision to embrace advanced technology for presenting a refreshing layout of their portal and enhanced features for easy navigation is therefore more than comprehensible. The launch of the iPhone app can then be regarded as the next step to keep pace with the increasingly demanding ubiquity, connectivity and content flowing across different devices that supports ever-greater interactivity and convenience.

Commenting on the launch of the portal, Rear Admiral (NS) SIM Gim Guan, Deputy Secretary (Information and Corporate Management) MICA, said: “Over the years, with the rapid changes in infocomm technology, our people have become more sophisticated users of the internet. The government should therefore go beyond delivering electronic services and information online, to also providing a more holistic online experience. The revamp positions the portal as the electronic communications platform for the public to connect with the Singapore Government. The public can now have an integrated and seamless access to the latest news updates and services across all government agencies from a single platform.” With an increasing number of people accessing news and information using mobile devices, RADM Sim added, “We are also continuously exploring new ways to reach out to the public, particularly the increasingly mobile and younger generation. We are therefore pleased to provide this new government-centric application on the App Store. This will enable iPhone users to get the latest government news and updates anywhere, anytime.” Moving forward, MICA will work on providing similar applications to make the website accessible to more users on other mobile channels.

Ms Bhavani, Director of MICA’s Public Communications Division elaborates: “The transformed portal has a stronger focus on communicating the government news of the day to the public. Citizens will enjoy the convenience of going to just one website for their daily news dosage, or have alerts via Twitter, RSS feeds or email delivered directly to their desktops. The public can also enjoy the convenience of accessing electronic-services, calendar of government events and directory of contact information from a single platform. Another value-add feature that the public will find useful is the integrated Frequently Asked Questions, or iFAQ.” The new Website offers further an enhanced search engine that yields richer search results, as it crawls more databases, which include web pages, FAQs, directory listing and e-services related to the search keyword. This certainly saves users the hassle of having to do multiple searches. And finally the iPhone app provides another avenue for the public to access the latest government news, available free of charge from the Apple App Store through iTunes or iPod touch at

MICA’s spokespersons state further: “We are currently exploring a Java application for mobile phones which use the Android operating system, as we are seeing an increasing number of Android phones introduced in the market and hence this is going to push up demand for Android apps. This will enable more mobile users to access government news and information on the go.”

Best is that besides providing news, events, feedback and search features, MICA’s new portal is updated throughout the day. The portal offers, as mentioned, dynamic user-friendly features such as new media interactive tools to better engage and involve the users and is improved in design and usability. Users with different Internet browsers and devices can enjoy conveniently a consistent and hassle-free quality experience.

Ecquaria, an associate company of BT Frontline, supported MICA’s iPhone app project. With more than a decade of experience the company could already set benchmarks in innovative public service delivery by introducing and adopting a radical new Service-Oriented approach as an immutable forethought in the design, development and deployment of iGov infrastructures.

According to Chong Ser Wah, Director of Professional Services, Ecquaria Technologies: “Efficiency is a key consideration in rolling out the iPhone app. One challenge was to ensure that updates made on the portal can be simultaneously refreshed on the iPhone app without incurring additional steps.  The architectural design of the workflow system allows us to do just that, without having to incur additional operational effort.”

Noting the company’s relentless focus on offering innovation and creating value for customers, Dr Foong Wai Keong, President & CEO of Ecquaria Technologies added: “We are excited about the launch and are looking forward to work closely with MICA to add some of the latest ideas and innovation along with creative design to make succeed as the preferred Singapore Government online news and communications platform. The addition of the app for iPhone is one of the ways to demonstrate our commitment to our customer to help the Singapore Government reach out to more segments of the public.”

“Currently, the receives an average of 7.5 million views per month, based on Google Analytics’ tool, which provides insight on website traffic”, says Ms Bhavani, adding that within the first week of the launch itself, the iPhone app registered as the Top 3 under News/Free application category (behind The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia) on App Store and garnered 8,931 iPhone app downloads as at July 12, 2010.

Encouraged by success, Ms Bhavani brings forward that MICA will continuously explore new ways to improve the usability of the website as well as ensure that the information and e-services are up-to-date, relevant and accessible to the public. As using the Internet seems to be one of the great unifying experiences of the current era, Internet-style interactivity and access to content will continue to expand across media consumption in every segment and for sure have a stake in the future.

By Daniela La Marca