Singapore is set to inject substantial government spending on information and communications technology (ICT) this financial year as technology becomes increasingly important in people’s lives amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a media release on Monday, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) said an estimated S$3.5 billion (US$2.5 billion) will be spent this financial year, up from S$2.7 billion in the previous financial year.

GovTech is a statutory board under the Ministry of Communications and Information formed in October 2016 after the restructuring of the Info-communications Development Authority.

Some of the projected spending for this year will be on ICT projects brought forward because of the pandemic, such as in the development of tech solutions to respond to Covid-19.

Investment in digitalisation has been instrumental in the government’s technological response to the coronavirus which causes the disease, said the release.

For example, GovTech engineers managed to put together the TraceTogether application and national digital check-in system SafeEntry to aid contact tracing.

They also set up the Mask Go Where website to guide citizens on where to collect their free masks, as well as the Support Go Where website on how to get funds or other benefits.

The government will also continue to invest in technology to accelerate Singapore’s digitalisation push on a whole-of-nation level, added the release.

This includes the development of digital services for citizens and businesses, the continual migration of eligible ICT systems onto commercial cloud, as well as developing more applications within the government and across the industry for sensors and artificial intelligence (AI).

More details about these projects are expected to be released soon.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be eligible to participate in 80 per cent of the potential ICT procurement opportunities. In the previous financial year, nearly 70 per cent of the total ICT contracts were awarded to SMEs.

To improve SMEs’ access to these opportunities, GovTech has worked with the Ministry of Finance to streamline and introduce new procurement methods, said the release. These include incorporating more bulk tenders and dynamic contracting to shorten the procurement process.

Usually, the government’s ICT and digitalisation road map is announced at the annual Smart Nation and Digital Government industry briefing.

In the light of restrictions due to Covid-19, GovTech will be rolling out the information online, including more details of the focus of the government’s digitalisation programme and areas of projected spending. This is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

To help with the overall digital push, GovTech is also actively recruiting fresh graduates as well as experienced tech professionals.

There are more than 400 vacancies for, among others, software engineers, digital business analysts, cybersecurity specialists, data scientists, AI engineers and infrastructure specialists.

GovTech CEO Kok Ping Soon said: “As we take on the new normal of Covid-19, we are re-engineering our back-end digital infrastructure, which underpins the delivery of front-end government digital services to citizens, businesses and public officers.”

Noting that the pandemic has illustrated the importance of digitalisation, he added: “We hope that businesses, especially SMEs, will benefit from the larger pool and higher value of ICT procurement opportunities, work with us to build a smart nation and digital government, and emerge stronger from this crisis together.”