Making digital services more accessible for all — Part 1

National Digital Identity (Singapore)
Published in
5 min readJan 31, 2019

Part 1 of 4 of this series features how we designed SingPass Mobile in a citizen-centred way.

The challenge

Technology is supposed to make life easier, but it may create more problems for us to solve. For example, we need to continuously safeguard our personal data and manage more user IDs, passwords and credentials. Cybersecurity threats are growing in number and sophistication. There are also concerns about those who are less tech-savvy being left behind. Aware of these, we are continuously looking at ways to improve security, while ensuring usability, for our digital products.

Taking a citizen-centred approach to build the case for change

Our journey started in January 2017, with a small team initiating a design research project into how people wanted to interact with the government and the digital relationship they would like to have. We listened to people’s stories, observed their behaviours and role-played real and imaginary scenarios with them. From this, we got a close-up view of the problems they faced, their concerns for the future and some insights into what could make a positive difference.

Interview with Mr. P — semi-retired and just starting to use e-commerce

We learnt that citizens don’t just interact with the government as individuals. Sometimes, they need to act on behalf of others — for elderly parents or family members overseas. Some families had elaborate and time-consuming workarounds. Others would just pass their physical tokens to one family member to act as “tech support” for the whole family. In many of these cases, people worry about whether what they were doing could get them in trouble, especially if something went wrong. Hence, an opportunity emerged to make ‘digital delegation’ more convenient, official and secure.

With an understanding of the many pain points we could help citizens overcome and some early hypotheses of what the possible solutions could be, we adopted the ‘design sprints’ method made popular by Google Ventures and customised it to our needs.

Through exploring, testing and iterating possible solutions in rapid cycles, we quickly collected the user feedback and data needed to refine our ideas further.

Making sense of what we learned from our interviews and forming hypotheses

We put low-fidelity prototypes into people’s hands and asked them to give us feedback. We used techniques, such as concept sketching, clickable screen flows, bodystorming and even hacked existing products to approximate new digital experiences. Prototyping helps people ‘experience’ ideas, which elicits a more real and observable human response than asking people for their feedback on an idea.

We want to see if people use something in the way it is intended to be used; if they are hesitant or confused at specific points of an experience; what tells their body language is giving us, so we can probe further.

Sketching prototypes together with members of the public

To prototype the concept of digital delegation, we got families who were currently passing their OneKey tokens around, to role-play what it would be like to use ‘digital delegation’. We created physical props and supporting digital screens to make the experience feel real, such as going through the process of setting up delegation and then to complete a government transaction on behalf of a family member. From this, we got even richer insights — both about how to make the experience itself clearer and easier to use, and more importantly, whether the overall concept of ‘digital delegation’ was valuable. We discovered where people had concerns, and identified the use cases where it could offer the most benefit.

Joining the dots between the problem, opportunities and possible solutions

The outcome of this discovery phase was a compelling case that digital services needed to be easier to access. And that the government could play a leading role by radically simplifying the experience people have.

The proposed solution

Our first step was to evolve the SingPass experience to become more seamless and more inclusive. Integrating biometric authentication would mean that citizens no longer need to remember long passwords, or enter one-time passcodes delivered by SMS or physical tokens. This would just be the beginning.

Government could play a meaningful role to enable citizens to access digital services with greater convenience, trust and confidence. We want to streamline how people initiate and authenticate digital transactions, and how they manage their personal data, both for themselves and for those in their care.

The team identified further opportunities to simplify and facilitate the many different types of digital transactions. This includes filling in forms, registration, digital signing, consent of data sharing, making payments or receiving benefits from the government. In the future, we want to enable citizens to securely delegate their trusted family members to transact digitally on their behalf.

Design mockups for the alpha release of SingPass Mobile

The first release of SingPass Mobile was launched on 22 October 2018. Within two days of launch, we had over 20,000 active users.

Needless to say, the design of SingPass Mobile evolved dramatically from our early prototypes. Nonetheless, the overall product vision, roadmap and the team’s belief that they were solving a meaningful problem were solidified during the initial discovery phase of work back in early 2017.

SingPass Mobile is now available for download. Find out more

For a more in-depth look at how we turned our vision into reality, check out Part 2 of the SingPass Mobile product design journey.