Singapore on track to reach cloud migration goals – asks suppliers to re-apply

Renewed SaaS push and purchase of 100,000 PCs in the offing

Singapore will ask its current IT panel vendors to reapply for their positions, digital agency GovTech revealed on Wednesday.

Speaking at an event staged to reveal a refresh of government IT strategy, Govtech CEO Kok Ping Soon revealed that 66 percent of non-classified information has been migrated to the cloud as part of the October 2018 "Cloud First" plan. The CEO expects GovTech to meet its goal of moving 70 percent of services and apps to the cloud by the end of 2023.

Meeting that goal will mean Singapore enters a new phase of its tech strategy.

Mr Kok therefore referred to the upcoming bulk tenders for places on Singapore's IT vendor panel as a "refresh" and an "opportunity" to bring more vendors onboard.

It may seem harsh to make vendors reapply for the jobs they are already performing, but in Singapore that's how it's done. These refreshes occur every one to three years, depending on the length of the contract.

When a vendor is replaced, it's not necessarily a sign of poor performance or being beaten on price. Instead it can simply be a vendor backing out, or vendors with new tech or approaches winning a place.

Singapore's bulk tenders – which total $1.85 billion in FY23 and account for 76 percent of all projected ICT spending for the year – don't guarantee any spending, but do mean vendors are listed as approved suppliers to government agencies.

"Aggregating demand for ICT products and services across government agencies actually allows us to generate savings and makes it easier for companies to participate in tenders," Kok told reporters yesterday. He said "more importantly" it allows the government to work with qualified vendors to "raise the overall standards of development for the industry while working on some central platforms."

Almost half of the year's $2.5 billion budget will go to co-developed projects that leverage government platforms. In the these projects, the vendor works with government employed engineers and developers to build out systems. There are currently 27 vendors qualified to co-develop projects using Singapore's tech stack – all of which will be faced with the refresh.

Of the $1.85 billion worth of bulk tenders up for bid, $444 million will go toward new purchases of enterprise software-as-a-service – providing government agencies with products like customer relationship management (CRM) software or low-code platforms. A further $629 million will go towards hosting – both cloud and on-prem. And $296 million will go toward replacing over 100,000 personal computers and printers.

The rest of the money goes towards robotics and agile co-development.

For the first time, the government will make sustainability a criterion to consider, weighted at five percent. Vendors will need to prove they comply with industry standards and incorporate some sort of material reuse. Other parts of the supply chain received vague sustainability directives – such as datacenters, clouds, network services and software vendors "exploring relevant standards" and code reuse optimization in software engineering.

The refresh all feeds into Singapore's wider smart nation goals, which envision a city full of digitally connected citizens, buildings and systems. Geospatial data is a part of the picture, too, as is a vision of daily life's many aspects being measured and monitored to produce data that enables better management.

The strategy continues to embrace cloud computing.

"Deploying application on the cloud allows us to scale in a much faster manner," Kok told reporters on Wednesday. He said deploying applications in the cloud cut costs by 30 to 40 percent over having them on-prem. The CEO said the cloud also allows for faster rollout of services.

Singapore stores its data domestically as a security requirement, and works with Azure, AWS and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

"Because there's enough volume, I think the cost parity between what's deployed in Singapore and the rest of the cloud environment has moved to kind of reach parity – so we don't see any cost increase as far as the prices are concerned," explained Kok. "But more importantly, hosting in Singapore allows us to have sovereignty over the data and to ensure some of the processing actually does something." ®

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