OGP’s Hack for Public Good: Changing how the Singapore government builds tech

It’s that time of year again! With the holiday season upon us, it means that it’s almost time for Open Government Products’ annual Hack for Public Good, a month-long event held every January.

Instead of traditional top-down product development, where leaders dictate product strategy and direction for tech teams to implement, OGP’s Hack for Public Good strives to take a citizen-centric approach, empowering our tech teams to go into the community themselves to discover what public good problems there are in Singapore, and brainstorm and build ways to solve them.

Not just a fun theoretical exercise, Hack for Public Good is really how OGP develops new products that end up serving the nation and often becoming critical government tech infrastructure. These include:

  • Postman.gov.sg — a mass messaging tool that allows public officers to quickly send messages to citizens. Used to power the Gov.sg WhatsApp, Postman has sent over 1 billion messages.
  • RedeemSG — a voucher system and redemption tracking tool used to distribute over 11 million face masks to Singapore residents and that will be used for the upcoming CDC voucher programme
  • ScamShield — a mobile app that helps block scam calls and messages, downloaded over 221,000 times and blocking over 850,000 SMSes
  • CheckFirst — a tool that enables public officers to quickly create eligibility checkers and calculators. CheckFirst has been used by MOH to help citizens understand what COVID-19 protocols to follow, by ICA to help travellers calculate their SHN end dates, and more.
  • AskGov — a platform to provide official answers to citizens’ government questions, used by MOH, ParkingSG, AGO, among others.

Through our annual Hack for Public Good we ensure that we are constantly grounded in the real problems faced by citizens and public officers, and therefore better prioritise what to work on to best serve Singapore.

How does Hack for Public Good work?

Every year for the entire month of January, our officers pause non-core projects to work on a public good problem that interests them. Throughout the month, our officers go through the iterative process of generating new ideas for products, conducting user research, and prototyping, with the end goal of showcasing working prototypes by the end of the month. Hack for Public Good also provides an opportunity for OGP officers to learn and develop new skills as they work to build new products.

The RedeemSG team conducting a user trial for the CDC voucher programme at a hawker centre.

Learning Journeys

Hack for Public Good starts with officers embarking on learning journeys within the community, attending sharings from public officers on the ground to better understand the nuances and challenges of their work. The invited speakers come from all areas of public service so that our officers are exposed to a wide set of experiences, constraints and opportunities. Having our officers understand what the ground is feeling and facing allows us to align the solutions we build to actual experiences, and deliver public good.

Ideation and Prototyping

Mixers and ideation workshops also allow our officers to exchange ideas and identify areas that they want to tackle. Once teams identify a problem they want to work on, they then spend the rest of the month building and prototyping solutions. Coming up with a meaningful solution to a problem is often a non-stop iterative process of research, building, testing, and refining. During this process, our engineers, designers and product managers work very closely together so that the feedback loop can be kept closed and tightly moving.

Designers taking members of the team through an ideation workshop.

Finale

Hack for Public Good culminates at the end of the month with groups presenting their final working prototypes at the finale to other OGP officers and invited government leaders. After the finale presentations, many prototypes that have shown potential to create value for the public then get converted to fully-fledged OGP products.

Officers listening to an MOH sharing on tech problems in healthcare.

Open Government Products’ Hack for Public Good will commence on 5 January 2022. Check out our past projects and keep a look out on our social media handles for more updates. If you would like to work on public good problems full time, we are hiring!

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We are Open Government Products, a division of the Government Technology Agency of Singapore. We build technology for the public good.

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Open Government Products

Open Government Products

We are Open Government Products, an experimental division of the Government Technology Agency of Singapore. We build technology for the public good.

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