Speech by Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong SC at GNSS Innovation Challenge Award Ceremony
26 January 2023 Posted in [Speeches]
Organisers (Singapore Land Authority, and Singapore Space and Technology Limited)
Judges, participants, and mentors of this year’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Innovation Challenge
- A very good afternoon to all of you. Let me start by wishing those of you who celebrate the Lunar New Year, a very happy, prosperous, and most importantly, healthy Year of the Rabbit.
- First, let me start by thanking all of you for making adjustments to your schedules to accommodate me and allow me to be present here. I am very glad that it worked out so well, for all of us and for me in particular, to be here to see the designs, and to be here for the teams. I think we understand the sense of not just what technology is about, but really, developing technology for local and everyday uses. I think that is what you want to have technology for - not for it to master us, but for us to master technology and apply it for specific purposes to help us in our daily lives.
GNSS Innovation Challenge
- I wanted to come here also because I wanted to see what is it that our students have been busy with, in response to SLA’s problem statement, which is to leverage SLA’s Singapore Satellite Positioning Reference Network Technology (or SiReNT for short), and also to see how they can develop an autonomous solution, that can deliver food and parcels, especially to the elderly, those who have mobility issues, those not so conversant in technology, and how we can use that to bridge the gap.
- For many of us, it is a simple thing, and I think we have all, especially now with the advent of COVID-19, called for food delivery and so on. We are very familiar with platforms, like Grab, Foodpanda, Deliveroo, Lazada, and Shopee. We sometimes do not think of the challenges that those who are not so technology conversant might face, especially the elderly and also those with special needs. So, I think it is great that our young people and our students are not just at the forefront of technology, but they think about the impact it has on our elderly population and those more at risk, to be able to recognise them and be mindful not to leave anyone behind, so that we can overall advance as a society.
- Before I came here, I had a short briefing of the description of the two finalists, and the prototypes that they had thought about, conceptualised and built. I had the pleasure of meeting them just a short while ago. Just listening to the team names that they have chosen, gives me a little bit of insight as to who they are.
- First, from the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), ‘Team Fawkes’. Somebody there must be a Harry Potter fan, I am pretty sure, because Fawkes is Professor Dumbledore’s very intelligent phoenix. Fawkes was instrumental, I am told, in saving Harry Potter’s life. So, very intelligent, very flexible, and as I found out, highly autonomous.
- And then, we have another team, from the National University of Singapore (NUS), ‘Team No Use Sleeping’. I had to do a double take, and wondered what they mean by no use sleeping. There is always a use to sleeping. But I think what they mean is, as they say, “success is 70% hard work, and 30% luck”, so I will say Team No Use Sleeping is already about 70% there. I am certainly impressed by their prototype, they call it “Box on Bot”, or “BoB” for short, designed to be an autonomous delivery robot, and comes in a maintainable, scalable, and cost-effective package, and I understand that one of the design principles was to ensure your 14-inch pizza does not come delivered in a crooked fashion, so BoB can accommodate a pizza box.
- If you ask me, having heard from them, having seen their products, I think both teams deserve to win, not just for the technology and invention, but really for the considerable thought given to how to use technology to improve our daily lives, because after all, that is what it is all about. But unfortunately, there can only be one winner. I am so glad that the judges are here, because I can pass the responsibility on to them, and I will listen to what they decide and present the prizes.
SLA’s Digitalisation Efforts
- The GNSS Innovation Challenge, which was introduced in 2021, is part of SLA’s vision to be at the forefront of geospatial development. I think this is a really important area. That is also part of Singapore’s vision to be a smart nation.
SLA’s geospatial efforts focus on 3Ps:
a. The Public sector: How can the public sector leverage geospatial technology to inform policies as we plan, as we think about how to provide services to businesses and individuals in Singapore? For example, it can be used to decide where the Government should build a new hospital, looking at the surrounding areas, analysing it and coming up with detailed plans, or perhaps to locate a community club that should reside at the heart of where people are in the middle of the community.
b. The Private sector: How can businesses leverage geospatial technology, to increase efficiency and to upscale their own productivity. For example, it can be used by property agents – I have seen some examples of this to really great effect – to show potential buyers the different amenities around the property, including where the sun will shine at a certain point in time, to determine the facing, and whether a certain area of your windows will catch or block the sunlight, as the case may be.It can also allow people to do delivery services, including I am sure, BoB that we have heard about, to find the right entrance and the right elevator. How often have we gone to the location of the address, but not been able to find the lift, or the entrance to the lift lobby, or the staircase? These little details go towards ensuring that the last mile is delivered.
c. The final P is the People. Training a workforce that is skilled in developing the geospatial infrastructure, adapting this geospatial technology for different needs – in the way that we have seen the teams do, and understanding and more importantly deploying that data in a considerate fashion. I am very heartened that we have far more than a few polytechnic and tertiary students who are already well-versed in this space.
- In addition to geospatial development, SLA also constantly looks for opportunities to digitalise existing processes, and create new digital experiences in its two other functions – land management and its regulatory function. For instance, it has developed various smart solutions for state assets management, such as: SmartLAMD, the app which allows officers to monitor maintenance works done on State land and buildings remotely. You can imagine how effective and efficient that will be – you do not have to go and inspect every property, every nook and corner, and they will tell you, through digital means, which ones need maintenance and when. It also has the Smart Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Enhanced (SUAVE), which allows officers to view hard-to-reach areas, such as rooftops, you have access to rooftops, some might even be dangerous to access. You have a machine learning algorithm, which automatically identifies maintenance issues so that they can then be deployed and sent on to officers to follow up.
Digital Conveyancing Portal
- SLA is now embarking on another, in my view, new and really exciting project – the Digital Conveyancing Portal (DCP).
- Most of you here - maybe not all, but some of you here might be too young to have gone through the process of buying a property, and experiencing the conveyancing process. It is essentially the legal process of transferring title in property from one person, the seller, to another, the buyer.
- The current process, as some of you know, can be quite manual, quite disintegrated, not cohesive, and slow. Based on a study commissioned by the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) in 2019, 70% of the documents handled were still in hardcopy; 77% of the payments transacted in conveyancing projects are still by cheque or cashier’s order; and 17 different stakeholders are typically involved to successfully complete a transaction. So it is still fairly manual, very old school, and sometimes that process, given that it is manual and old school, does lend itself to mistakes. Perhaps most inefficiently, it takes something like 8 to 12 weeks, to successfully complete a transaction.
- I think you would all agree that in today’s digital age, this is probably too long for us to take effect what ought to be a fairly straightforward transaction in most cases – not all, but most cases.
- So, SLA has come up with a vision, to transform the current paper-based conveyancing process, into a fully integrated, efficient, and paperless digital conveyancing process, for both private as well as public properties.
- To understand what the industry wanted as we upscale the digital process, SLA engaged multiple stakeholders to understand the different dimensions and perspectives, such as HDB, URA, CPF Board, IRAS, the Singapore Academy of Law, real estate developers, estate agents, banks, conveyancing lawyers, and law clerks, and they have been doing so extensively for the past couple of years since 2019, to understand how each of these different stakeholders along that process played a role, and the views that they had on the roles they could play, if it was on a digital platform. They did all this before the tender for the development of the DCP was launched.
- The tender has since been awarded to Tech Mahindra Limited (Singapore Branch), at the end of last year. Tech Mahindra is a US$6 billion multinational IT services and consulting company, with over 163,000 employees across 90 countries.
The DCP will apply to both private and public housing properties, and will be developed over three phases.
a. The first phase will be the Option to Purchase (OTP) stage for developer sale, resale and sub-sale transactions. This OTP stage was selected as it is the initial stage of any sale and purchase transaction. It will cover the preparation and the digital signing of OTP, title and due diligence searches, as well as the eventual exercise of OTP. This first phase is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2024.
b. The second phase will cover the pre-completion and completion stages for developer sale transactions.
c. The third phase will cover the pre-completion and completion stages for resale, as well as sub-sale transactions.
d. Throughout all three phases, SLA will continue to engage the different stakeholders, constantly take soundings and feedback to ensure that what we roll out, and what is put out in the different phases, including in Phase 1, will ensure that the feedback is taken onboard, and that the end product will meet the needs of each of these stakeholders.
- Once the new DCP is rolled out, users can then look forward to a more efficient conveyancing experience, as it will integrate critical digital services, such as e-payments and submission of digitised documents. Users can also have more convenient access to information relating to their property transactions, as they will be able to retrieve details, and check for updates via the DCP.
- Besides the buyers and sellers, the DCP is also expected to benefit other parties currently involved in the conveyancing process. Property agents can better track the progress of the property transactions under their charge through the DCP, instead of constantly having to manually check in with the seller or buyer, or perhaps with their solicitors. Solicitors in turn can also save time and effort, by seeking their clients’ signature digitally. Oftentimes, this is a chokepoint because you have to do it physically with the cheque process or the cashier’s order process. In future, this can be done over a secured platform.
- As I close my speech, I wanted to say that the event today – the GNSS Innovation Challenge and all the products that we have talked about, and the DCP – there is one thing in common. Both, as I mentioned at the start, serve as examples of how we can take advantage of technology and use technology to master the day-to-day things that we could sometimes take for granted, to improve the lives and experiences for everyone in Singapore.
- We want to harness technology, to stay ahead as a global city, smart city, to improve lives and livelihoods. That is the overall objective of our Smart Nation Initiative.
Before I end, let me just thank the people behind today’s session. A lot of hard work has been put in:
a. The organisers – SLA, and Singapore Space & Technology Limited (SSTL), for not just being here, but really spending months and a lot of hard work organising this challenge, giving thought to the problem statement, and what we want to put out there, what issues we want to solve, giving our young people a platform to showcase their own capabilities, and as I said, apply innovation to day-to-day work issues.
b. I would like to thank the teams from SIT and NUS – for explaining the product to me earlier. I could sense their passion. They told me that the product’s initial prototype initially crashed and burnt many times, so it is also a lot of persistence. But really, for being so enthusiastic, and also patiently explaining your products to a non-science student like me. You made it very clear for me to understand.
c. I would like to thank the mentors – for spending time for guiding and mentoring your teams.
d. And the judges, as I mentioned at the outset – for the really unenviable task of choosing today’s winner. I am really glad that you are doing it, and not me.
- Thank you to one and all for being here. I wish all of you again, a very happy, prosperous, healthy Lunar New Year, and may Singapore progress in leaps and bounds this year – no pun intended, and also, to really look at technology as a way which we can improve people’s lives on a day-to-day basis. In this speech, I articulated some of these things.
- Thank you very much.
Last updated on 26 January 2023