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EXCLUSIVE: E-wallet to Facilitate Government Transaction 

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GovTech has been recognised by OpenGov Asia for its innovative use of digital technology in transforming the public sector. Through the GovWallet initiative, GovTech has simplified government operations and unlocked new opportunities.

This effort forms part of GovTech’s ongoing work to develop a digital wallet module that enables government entities to securely and promptly distribute funds and credits to citizens and beneficiaries. Agencies no longer must build their own payment systems, and people can get their government payments quickly through apps they already use.

GovWallet facilitates payment tracking for government agencies while providing payment recipients with multiple options to monitor their payment and spending records. Notably, one of its key features empowers agencies to select authorised merchants and regulate payout usage.

GovWallet serves as a backend service module that seamlessly integrates with any government mobile application, including LifeSG and Singpass. This allows users to utilise their credits at PayNow and NETS accepting stores and withdraw cash from ATMs, facilitating financial access for individuals without bank accounts.

Essential insight to build digital payment

While working on SupplyAlly, a system that coordinates the distribution of tangible items like food packs, TT Tokens, and reusable masks during the pandemic, the GovWallet team initiated the Know Your Customer (KYC) research.

Through their collaboration with government agencies, the GovWallet team found that agencies are not only interested in managing the distribution of physical goods but also in disbursing government benefits to eligible recipients. The team discovered that there were limited locations where recipients could utilise their payouts, the widespread acceptance of digital vouchers in the commercial sector.

GovWallet was created to enable citizens to access the widely used SGQR and well-established payment ecosystems, such as PayNow and NETS, without the need for a bank account to complete the transactions. The aim was to expand the range of retailers where beneficiaries could utilise their payouts.

They recognised that a comprehensive approach to addressing security, fraud, compliance and monitoring concerns necessitates a risk assessment. The team engaged with various stakeholders to validate their strategy and output, encompassing both the technical implementation and policy framework.

As part of their pre-rollout plan, they used a separate team to conduct vulnerability analyses and penetration tests simultaneously. These assessments proved valuable in gauging risks, and their insights would inform the future rollout and expansion of GovWallet.

GovWallet is hosted on the Government on Commercial Cloud (GCC) platform and is deployed on Amazon Web Services (AWS). A typical disbursement campaign may require up to 1,600 man-hours to complete.

Their architecture, which is based on AWS’ Serverless framework, allowed them to scale up and down as needed, reducing the amount of manpower required to monitor, maintain and operate the system. Adopting a serverless architecture allowed them to concentrate on making GovWallet more cost-effective, high-performing and responsive to traffic vagaries.

GovWallet has been gaining popularity among both government agencies and citizens. However, as with any other product that requires integration with multiple parties, the GovWallet team needed to maintain close communication with agencies to avoid a drop in collaboration.

They have scheduled regular meetings with various parties, such as government agencies and banks, to keep track of progress and address issues as they arise. They have also worked on numerous disbursement campaigns with multiple agencies.

A noteworthy application of GovWallet was its collaboration with the Ministries of Defence and Home Affairs to disburse S$100 digital credits to over 1 million past and present national servicemen. The system successfully processed up to 1.1 million disbursements and payments, with minimal lag or disruption.

According to the team, communication is critical to the success of any project, regardless of its size. Onboarding a government agency onto GovWallet typically entails the agency, the GovWallet team and a frontend interface for citizens to access payouts, such as LifeSG or a commercial bank.

To be able to move and adapt quickly, all teams must be on the same page in terms of objectives and changes. This allows them to remain agile, quickly adapt to user needs, and benefit more citizens.

When designing the infrastructure or developing the code, the GovWallet team draws on market best practices. Additionally, they conduct routine security reviews of their products to ensure that they remain current with the latest security practices and vulnerabilities.

GovWallet is currently developing a self-service dashboard for agencies onboarding its platform. This provides greater flexibility in administering government disbursement schemes without necessitating a system-to-system integration with the backend.

They are not restricting their expansion to support digital currency transactions on GovWallet and will continue to collaborate with banks to provide such services as needed.

About the team

GovWallet was originally created as a solution to the issues of higher costs, administrative workload and carbon emissions associated with the issuance of cheques and physical vouchers. As the team resolved these challenges, they partnered with industry players to integrate PayNow and NETS payment gateways into the platform, providing GovWallet beneficiaries access to around 200,000 merchants.

While the product team needs to be aligned with the mission and objectives of the initiative, it is equally critical for senior leadership within each organisation to support the initiative. This support enables the product team to reduce or eliminate potential roadblocks and achieve success.

When it comes to product roadmap planning and the development of user-centric solutions, GovTech collaborates closely with the Smart Nation Digital Government Office (SNDGO).

The GovWallet team places a strong emphasis on close collaboration and maintains open lines of communication with all functional roles involved in the initiative. For example, a developer can communicate directly with the product owner without the need for any intermediaries. This approach reduces the potential for misunderstandings and accelerates the feedback loop.

Regular dedicated checkpoints such as scrum and sprint retrospectives are held by the GovWallet team. During these meetings, the team members are given dedicated and safe time to reflect on and inspect the features they liked and areas for improvement. This practice encourages open communication and helps the team identify ways to improve their workflow and product development process.

In the same vein, the GovWallet team promotes effective interaction by establishing direct communication channels with other teams or departments. They also share their scrum cadence for keeping track of and aligning dependent activities. This enables everyone involved to stay on the same page, fosters collaboration and helps in delivering the project efficiently.

Scrum aided the team by dividing the delivery into two-week sprints. This resulted in a shorter feedback loop, allowing the team to adapt to changes more quickly, especially when deconflicting with other teams.

GovTech fosters an environment where all team members are urged to share their ideas for improving the way things are done or launching new initiatives. They have open communication channels with senior management, who are receptive to feedback and suggestions.

During the planning of their subsequent project phases, the team regularly carries out user research. Team members are encouraged to share any discoveries, improvements or trends they observed with the rest of the team.

The team values one another’s suggestions and takes them seriously, incorporating them into the work backlog when applicable. GovTech provides funding resources for its teams to test their ideas. This fosters an environment of transparency and openness where everyone is seen as a peer and can explore genuine possibilities.

GovTech encourages all employees to be agile, bold, and collaborative. By encouraging a culture of innovation and creativity, they have been able to tap into the diverse perspectives and experiences of its employees, resulting in new and effective solutions.

Through regular forums and open communication, the organisation has created an environment where everyone is empowered to contribute to its mission of using technology to improve the lives of citizens.  This approach has not only improved the quality of the organisation’s work but also increased employee engagement and satisfaction.

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