Powering National Day Parade Ticket Applications

written by
Leonard Loo, Product Manager
Yuanruo Liang, Software Engineer

*Update: Ticket applications for NDP 2019 have closed. Do read on to learn how FormSG powered NDP applications this year.

Here at the Open Government Products (OGP) division in GovTech, we are committed to building technology for the public good in support of Smart Nation. Two of our department’s products are powering this year’s National Day Parade ticket applications.

The first is FormSG, our solution for digitising paper forms across the government. Built with open source technologies, FormSG is a form builder tool that empowers public officers to digitise their forms in minutes.

To prepare for this year’s NDP ticket applications, the FormSG team built in stronger security safeguards. All ticket applications are first encrypted before being sent to the FormSG server, which is similar to the end-to-end encryption being used in messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram Secret Chat. What this means is that the ticket application will never go through our server unencrypted, and even if our server were to be completely compromised by a malicious actor, there is no sensitive data to leak. Let us explain how this is done for the NDP application form.

When the NDP application form was created, the form administrator received a browser-generated password that is kept safe. FormSG’s server never sees this password, so there is no “forget password” functionality. When an application is submitted, it gets encrypted on your browser before being sent to FormSG to be stored. This means your application is turned to “gibberish” before being sent to us, thus our server does not know whether you had applied for 2, 4 or 6 tickets. When it is time for the form administrator to process the applications, he will download the encrypted responses stored on FormSG’s server, and use the password to decrypt the responses on his browser.

Apart from the NDP application form, chances are you have filled in other FormSG forms too. Today, FormSG is used by 10,000 public officers across more than 80 government agencies. More than 6,000 forms are currently in use across the government. If you are a student or a parent, you might have filled in a Travel Declaration Form, a Direct School Admission application, an Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) Form or even the ‘O’ Level Music Course Application on FormSG. You might also have filled in multiple surveys by People’s Association (PA), SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore (WSG), Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), Sport Singapore (SportSG) and Health Promotion Board (HPB). If you are a business owner, you might have visited the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) e-services, out of which a number of forms are hosted on FormSG. And if you needed to provide feedback to an agency, you might have visited a FormSG-hosted feedback form, such as those on the websites of Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) or the Singapore Medical Council (SMC).

FormSG was not an idea that was centrally envisioned or mandated top-down. On the contrary, it was a ground-up initiative that was thought up by the Open Government Products team in late 2017.

We immediately started looking for users after launching a minimum viable prototype. Our earliest users were from the Municipal Services Office (MSO). This first use case wasn’t something grand or particularly ground-breaking — we were digitising a pigeon inspection form. Before FormSG, officers were spending hours after each inspection exercise manually entering data into an Excel spreadsheet. With FormSG, the turnaround time was reduced from hours to mere minutes.

Initially, we thought that FormSG was a short-term side project. Little did we know that in just 1.5 years, FormSG would be used by many parts of the Singapore government to digitise forms filled by over a million Singaporeans. It was a combination of luck, hard work, and conscious planning to get to where we are today. Looking back, we never once took FormSG offline and said we needed to have a “build phase”. We launched from Week 2, and have stayed online ever since.

Our second product supporting NDP ticket applications this year is GoGovSG, the official Singapore government link shortener. Once applications are open, you may visit go.gov.sg/ndp19, which will automatically link you back to the NDP ticket application. A URL ending with “.gov.sg” makes it clear to you and other citizens that it is a legitimate government resource, and protects you from potentially being phished at a non-government link by a malicious actor, such as bit.ly/ndp19 or tinyurl.com/ndp19. Public officers have to login via their official government email before being able to shorten links at go.gov.sg.

Similarly, this link shortener was not built as part of a mandated digitalisation plan. Instead, it was built ground-up during an internal hackathon by a small group of passionate public officers who wanted to safeguard the online browsing experience of the general public.

At Open Government Products, our goal is to build technology for the public good. We do so by solving real problems, building for the end user, and pushing for change. We consistently have a bias for action, and make the most of the resources we have at each step of the way.

If you’re keen to learn more about our other products or want to join us, check us out on open.gov.sg.

Wishing you an early Happy National Day!

The FormSG Team

Acknowledgments

Jean Tan, Software Engineer
Arshad Ali, Software Engineer
Alwyn Tan, Senior Software Engineer
Sarah Salim, UX Designer
Fiza Husin, UX Designer
Gary Ang, Product Support
Pearly Ong, UX Intern

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