SupplyAlly — A journey down memory lane
An attempt to document the last 1.5 years of our journey in supporting our partners in various community distribution programmes.
Time does seem to slip by quickly when you are not paying much attention. We are now at the 1.5-year mark since the launch of SupplyAlly, also known as Sally, an ally that helps to digitalise the distribution process.
Sally was birthed in an unprecedented time where the pandemic was at its peak and where the distribution of reusable face masks to residents was a priority of the Singapore government. At that time, solving logistical challenges to manage a flexible pool of volunteers distributing masks at each collection point and keeping track of collection quotas was the primary ask.
This group of GovTechies then came together to work on Sally to enable hundreds of volunteers to distribute masks to the residents. That distribution alone recorded millions of collections over one weekend. Read more about their story: No short supply of good ideas
As with many new initiatives, Sally was started by a group of passionate people who took time out of their project to work on it. After the completion of the mask distribution exercise, many of its founding members had to return to their projects. To keep the product going, a new team was set up and that’s when I was introduced to Sally in May 2020. And 1.5 years later, we have worked with 11 partners to support 13 distribution campaigns and have onboarded more than 8,000 users onto the Sally app.
Community Development Council (CDC) Vouchers
At that time, we were just kickstarting our engagement with the CDC to discuss the digitalisation of their CDC voucher distribution exercise. We needed to refine our product before we could support this distribution.
Firstly, the entitlements were allotted to the household instead of the individual’s identity. That meant redefining the redemption policy to ensure that the collection is tracked based on household. Secondly, only specific households were allowed to make a redemption. That meant the need to develop a feature that allows such eligibility checks.
I fondly remember the chats the Sally team had, to work towards the end goal in a relatively short time. Those days, there weren’t so much of a structure in the team, we worked through the requirements and refined the way we worked as a team as we went along.
We launched the distribution exercise in June and completed it in December 2020, recording more than 330,000 household collections. We learnt a great deal in this collaboration and it showed us many areas of opportunities to improve our app and how we could provide better support to our partners in their distribution operations.
A couple of improvements identified during our visits to the Community Clubs and speaking to the staff and volunteers were:
- Staff could not understand what went wrong after reading some of our error messages and subsequently breeds apathy towards the messages.
- Obtaining statistics was a key consideration of our partners. They needed to tabulate the redemption statistics at the end of each day to account for the stock balance.
These findings kept us informed of the features we should focus to develop. Today, we have a statistics feature on the app that tabulates the total number of items distributed each day. We have also made changes to ensure error and alert prompts are clear and are able to guide the users on the next course of action.
📌 Error messages were updated in July 2020 and redemption statistics on Sally app was made available in October 2020
Food from the Heart: Project Belanja! & Community Food Pack
Food from the Heart was the second non-profit organisation we partnered with after Engineering Good. The Project Belanja! is a cooked food programme for more than 100 residents in Mountbatten. Stallholders use the Sally app to scan the beneficiary’s card to complete a redemption process. Each beneficiary is given 15 meals a month and with this, they can be given a choice of the food stalls in their neighbourhoods and when they would like to redeem their meals.
The community food pack programme distributes 9,000 food packs to needy households every month. To better serve the charity’s beneficiaries and aid its partners, the volunteers use the Sally app for distribution. It helps the charity pick up on preferences and trends among its beneficiaries, and also helps relevant parties follow up with beneficiaries who have not collected their rations.
Sally saved us hundreds of man-hours: ordering the printing, cutting, putting into sets for the beneficiaries, signing/stamping them for validity, distributing them to the beneficiaries, then the constituency staff have to collect the coupons from the stalls, count the coupons, manually pay them cash on the spot, and then repeat every month. Now, the only manual task after onboarding the stalls and whitelisting the beneficiaries is writing the cheques and dropping them into the stallholders’ banks’ cheque deposit boxes… the stallholders don’t have to do anything else aside from operating the app.
— Tim, Food from the Heart
Just as with our earlier distribution, we learn to become better with this too. In Project Belanja!, the main concern was that many of the food stallholders read only Chinese. To enable them to operate the Sally app, we included the Chinese language in our app. Though it can be quite a daunting task for most of us, we were having so much fun as we worked on the translations. I am glad our Chinese was put to really good use at that time.
📌 Chinese translation on Sally app was made available in August 2020
To many who didn’t know, TraceTogether Tokens distribution did not begin in September 2020. It actually started earlier in June 2020 where the staff and volunteers of the Silver Generation Office went door-to-door to distribute TraceTogether tokens to the elderlies using the Sally app. Only subsequently, it started ramping up for nationwide distribution from 14 September 2020, starting in the Jalan Besar and Tanjong Pagar districts to over 100 locations island-wide.
Recently in July 2021, Sally backend was deployed on TraceTogether vending machines to allow citizens to self-help TraceTogether tokens replacement at the vending machines.
The TraceTogether Token distribution exercise was a lot more complex as compared to the other distributions because of the various points of distribution and the varying scenarios e.g. Sally had to provide a way for operators to track returned TraceTogether tokens and ensure that the last drawn TraceTogether token returned belongs to the resident.
TraceTogether tokens are also distributed to short-term visitors who are not able to download the TraceTogether app on their mobile phones. Redesigning Customs’ operations require cross-agency and departmental collaboration.
We ran cross-agency design thinking workshops and performed site observations for the land, sea and air checkpoints to understand the ground situation before any attempt to resolve the problems faced. Space constraints and existing processes were considerations that needed to be assessed, along with where the issuance and return counters should be. We subsequently started the support of customs distribution in May 2021.
To date, at least 1.8 million residents and travellers have collected a TraceTogether token.
We realised through the TraceTogether Token distribution exercise that one volunteer at the Community Club may be performing overlapping distribution exercises. To allow them to switch between various distribution initiatives, we added a feature on the Sally app for campaign switching.
📌 Allowing passport as an identifier input and campaign switching feature was made available on Sally app in October 2020
Yuhua Pioneer & Mederka Generation Gift & Rice Distribution
With the ability to allow the user to switch campaigns easily, we supported the Yuhua constituency in November 2020 for their 2 distribution campaigns: Pioneer and Merdeka Generation appreciation gift distribution and prosperity rice distribution, recording more than 6,000 items being distributed.
Amidst the ongoing physical items distribution projects, the Sally backend was used for the S$100 SingapoRediscovers Vouchers scheme, commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board. We leveraged existing policy configurations and entitlement limits on Sally to ensure that each citizen utilises their entitlements within given their available balance.
To help the less tech-savvy and the elderly to redeem their vouchers, the Singapore Tourism Board designed a way to allow these citizens to use their NRIC to redeem SingapoRediscovers Vouchers at 34 Community Clubs and Residents Committees. The system queries the Sally backend to retrieve the remaining balance to perform exchanges.
By August 2021, more than one million adult Singapore citizens used the voucher at least once, making over 1.4 million transactions that amounted to over $168 million in vouchers and cash payments on tourism bookings.
Together with SportSG, we supported the distribution of Play Mat, a multi-purpose mat that allows one to assess, step and play for fitness, anytime, anywhere. For wave 1 distributions, we have recorded 52,000 households collections.
Due to the popular demand, 28,000 more households can receive the Play Mat if they have not signed up for it. If you wish to collect yours, do visit the Active Health website for more details: https://www.activehealth.sg/resources/playmat
COVID-19 Test Kits
The latest partnership was with the Ministry of Health (MOH) to provide an added layer of ring-fencing to prevent further COVID-19 transmissions. We started the distribution of free DIY Covid-19 test kits to the Bukit Merah and Redhill residents in June 2021. The runway was short but we managed to set up the distribution campaign in 3 days. This was subsequently rolled out to the residents in other areas. We ended the free test kits distribution in August 2021. More than 106,000 free test kits were given out to the residents during this period.
We also began working with the Ministry of Manpower in the distribution of test kits at the workers’ dormitories in August 2021. To date, more than 560,000 test kits were issued.
My closing paragraph
Finally, this would not have been possible without…
- all our partners who entrusted us with your initiatives. It is a joy working with you.
- Jason and Steven, our leaders who believed in us.
- Dalson, Immanuella, Sebastian and Zui Young, the pioneer members of Sally who stayed on and worked through all of it.
- Andy, Chee Wei, Eric, Gabriel, Hock Kay, Joshua, Justin, Ryan and Shiau Hui, the other GovTechies and friends who lent a helping hand 🤝
- the whole Sally team 🤩 ️who supported every step of the way, from onboarding to supporting our partners’ operations. You’ve made a difference! ❤️