Next year, bank customers may no longer have to print and fill in physical documents. Instead, a digital vault of their personal data will do all the tedious work for them. Also on the cards is a self-driving wheelchair which, if developed successfully, will help manpower- strapped hospitals channel resources elsewhere. These are part of the cutting-edge plans of a new government agency, which aims to harness the latest technology to make life easier for residents.

The Government Technology Agency, or GovTech, was launched yesterday. Its brain bank includes 1,800 data scientists, technologists and engineers. Said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim: « Singapore must remain forward-looking and embrace technological change to realise our vision of becoming a smart nation. »

The self-driving wheelchair, for instance, will be among the first of its kind in the world. It follows a pre-mapped route to take patients safely from one part of a hospital to another. Another project is a smart walking stick that can send an alert to the caregiver if the user falls.

GovTech was formed after the official merger of the Infocomm Development Authority and the Media Development Authority. It will drive change mainly in the public sector; the merged entity – the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) launched last Friday – will work mainly with the private sector on the digital front.

GovTech will focus on six key areas: application development, data science, government infrastructure, geospatial technology, cyber security and smart sensors.

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