Co-creation of creative solutions through eGov initiatives
National Environment Agency

The Problem

Over the past decade, Singapore has been able to transform itself into a modern city that many see as a place to work, live and play. This can be attributed to Singapore’s robust economic policies and its government’s long term planning strategies. However, such achievements are not without its challenges. Besides having to manage competing land uses in land-scare Singapore, the government too has had to manage the pressures on Singapore’s environment over the years. This is largely due to the rapid pace of urbanisation coupled with high population growth.

As such, to better manage these environmental pressures, Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) has leveraged on technology to safeguard the environment. One initiative is the provision of real time environmental related information to the public, businesses as well as other government agencies. Catering to these audiences, such environmental data has been customised to suit their needs. These data sharing initiatives will be elaborated at the next section of this document. Environmental information includes public health and environment protection data.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The NEA has partnered with the People, Public and Private communities to engage and promote greater environment ownership in Singapore. One effort is the use of smart technologies to share environmental data (e.g air quality, public health and weather) with government agencies and public. Some key results are :

a. Government Agencies - NEA contributed to the development of 86 environment datasets and 17 spatial datasets to the Singapore Government datahub, SG-Data/GeoSpace, for inter-agency sharing. These datasets include weather information such as air quality, weather forecast, heavy rain warning, climate change, location of recycling bins.

b. General Public /Community - NEA contributed 75 datasets and 8 map layers to the Singapore Government’s one-stop portal service,, for public use. These datasets have resulted in the creation of applications (e.g. weatherlah, sg@weather) and the enrichment of OneMap (the Singapore Government map portal) data points from the Singapore Land Authority. NEA has also collaborated with the Public Utilities Board to provide integrated environmental information (e.g. water level information, sms alerts for flash flood and heavy rain warnings) to the public via mobile applications.

c. Schools/Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) - NEA has contributed much to nurture the youth to protect and cherish the environment through education programmes and partnerships with schools and IHLs. For example, NEA works with several IHLs to develop a gaming platform, Operation MACE (, to create awareness among the youths on how they can better fight dengue. This initiative has won the Distinguished Award at the International Convention of Quality Control Circles (ICQCC) held in October 2011 at Yokohama, Japan.

d. Application Developers - Using smart phone technologies, NEA has co-created several mobile applications with private sector partners through crowd sourcing ideas from the public to promote greater environment ownership and provide real time information on environmental conditions. For example, X-Dengue provides real time sms alerts on the formation of new dengue clusters using data points. A point & shoot app, Clean-Lah, is another example where public can report lapses in public cleanliness and hygiene matters. This application is integrated with the NEA’s feedback system so that these environmental lapses can be addressed efficiently.

e. Research Communities - NEA has been able to bolster its climate change capabilities which have positioned Singapore as one of the Data Collection or Product Centres (DCPC) in the region under the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) umbrella. Such information includes the sharing of meteorological datasets (such as rain, haze, tsunami warnings) to aid countries in the region to better handle environmental crisis or issues. To safeguard Singapore and the region from the impact of climate change, NEA has also established partnerships and linkages with local and international research institutes to enhance its capabilities in climate and weather research.

To further engage the people and private sectors, NEA is organising a Hackathon event, as part of the Clean and Green Singapore campaign. The Hackathon aims to bring mobile app developers, users and NGOs to co-create applications that can further promote environmental ownership among communities.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The NEA is the leading public organisation responsible for improving and sustaining a clean and green environment in Singapore. NEA develops and spearheads the environmental initiatives and programmes through its partnership with the following stakeholders:
a) People sector: General Public / Community and Green/Environmental NGOs/Activists
b) Public sector: Government agencies, Schools / Institutes of Higher Learning
c) Private sector: Application Developers and Research Communities
NEA’s objective in partnering the above stakeholders is to motivate individuals and communities to take up environmental ownership, care for the environment and adopt a environmentally friendly lifestyle.
NEA achieves the above in many ways. One of way is by sharing environmental data and co-creating solutions with its stakeholders. The co-creation of solutions with our stakeholders aims to engage the community to take ownership for their environment, cultivate behavioural norms and strengthen civic responsibilities to adopt eco-friendly lifestyle. NEA also aims to proactively facilitate research and analysis so as to better protect the environment.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
To ensure the quality of data and assessment of data requests were well assessed, NEA has put in place an internal structure named Data Admin Group (DAG) in May 2009 that provides oversight of data management so as to ensure timeliness, consistency and granularity of the datasets shared with our stakeholders. The roles of the DAG are to:
a) oversee data administration and usage within NEA
b) manage all agency-specific data management, including Data Protection Principles
c) establish the data management SOPs and facilitates adherence through the Division Data Manager’s network. The SOPs includes the validation of datasets before publishing and the frequency which the datasets are to be published.

The DAG is chaired by a Chief Data Officer (CDO) whom manages cross-agency data management issues and represents NEA in the Data Management Network (DMN).

To be effective and relevant to the targeted users, NEA adopts the following strategies for the publishing of datasets:

a) High Frequency Datasets
For datasets with frequent changes, updates are done, in real time or daily. Examples of such datasets include weather, heavy rain warnings, Pollutants Standard Index (PSI) etc. These datasets are shared in machine readable formats via Digital Media Platforms such as RSS, social media tweets and/or APIs.

b) Static Datasets
For datasets with less frequent changes, updates are done on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. Examples of such datasets include locations of hawker centers, lists of caterers, track records of food operators, etc. These datasets are also shared via machine readable formats such as xml, xls, csv, kml, txt in websites, mobile and

NEA is currently building a Data Sharing Hub to operationalise the above strategies with the aim to integrate datasets directly via API suites for ease of access to the public and also to architect the standards for data formats for sharing with the public.

NEA has adopted the following guidelines in the sharing of environmental related data with the public:
a) Wider reach-out - unclassified data will be published across the 6 different platforms (web, mobile, RSS, social media, digital map and data exchange hub)

b) Aggregation - data that are classified “Restricted” and above are dealt with on case-by-case basis with appropriate data aggregation rules employed, and

c) Ease of use - the published datasets must be in machine readable format

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
2002 to 2010: Setup of a total of 15 websites (corporate websites and micro-sites) for the sharing of environmental data and information

2009 – Setup of DAG to govern a more structured process for the sharing of datasets

2010 – Setup mobile website, Weather@Sg ( to target mobile users

2010 – Published 8 API sets to share with software developers (

2010 – Commenced the uploading of datasets to the Singapore Government intranet portal and to for public

2011 to 2012 – Participated in co-creation activities spearheaded by the Ministry of Finance in the creative use of government datasets with IT companies

2012 – Collaborated with IT companies/ developers in co-creation of applications on the use of NEA datasets and extracted more data-points for the public to enhance public service delivery. One such outcome is the development of mobile application to report lapses in cleanliness or environmental issues. The application provides ease of reporting in 3 steps and provides NEA with the data points (with geo tagging) on the cluster of lapses within a single view on a map. Another application that benefited NEA’s public service delivery is X-dengue which provided sms alerts on the formation of dengue cluster on user’s subscribed region.

2012- 2016 – NEA is putting in place a backend support infrastructure to simplify the ease of access to NEA’s datasets via an exchange hub.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
There are 3 main challenges encountered:
1. the comprehensibility in the granularity of datasets to be shared
2. the ease of access without compromising security and approval process
3. the means of attracting and sustaining the creative use of environmental datasets

The first challenge in the sharing of the datasets is the level of granularity and converting these datasets to make it comprehensible to users when they use or access such information, for example, the general public or the Government Agencies. Most of the environmental datasets are technical in nature and may not be easily comprehensible by the general public. For example, releasing of lightning risks information entails data collected in the lighting risks formation such as air-to-air, air-to-ground phenomenon which are complex. NEA has since able to provide the level of granularity of such data to the public and also created a mobile application to warn users on the impending lighting strike area.

The second challenge faced is the provision of easy access to the datasets for users, and also for NEA to publish such information in an acceptable timeframe. There are security implications to be addressed in releasing such datasets from a secured intranet segment to a less secured internet segment each time data is published. To overcome this, NEA has embarked on building a data exchange hub that is accessed by APIs sets to facilitate the ease of extracting / discovering datasets from NEA servers. This process addresses both the security concerns and improves the turnaround time on the current sequential approval workflow.

The third challenge is to create platforms to sustain and encourage the co-creation of ideas between NEA and partners. (see section “Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?”).

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
Data sharing and crowd sourcing initiatives follows NEA’s vision to inculcate environmental ownerships and active participation amongst individuals to foster change in behaviours towards a more sustainable and clean environment for future generations.

The above initiatives are also cost-effective, as it uses current data sets already available in NEA’s systems.

NEA has a total of 30 department data managers who supports all data requests and implement the SOPs published by the DAG. These managers are responsible for the managing of these data sets at their respective units

Although, there are no costs for generating these datasets, there are however, costs incurred for IT infrastructure, hiring of project managers, and development of the exchange hub to handle datasets generated from the systems. The estimated cost of building and maintaining the exchange hub for a 5 year period is between S$2M to S$3M.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
To strengthen NEA’s efforts to promote environmental ownership across the 3P sectors, NEA will continue to leverage on smart technology to do this. In order to support such efforts NEA is developing a data exchange hub to facilitate not only to share more datasets but also develop a coherent platform for easy exchange /access of shared datasets to the public/ app developers/ research communities.

Some examples have been detailed below: :

a) NEA hosted an Industry Networking session in 2012 to enable the IT industry to have a better understanding of the Environment domain.
b) Provides data on suite of mobile apps to promote the use and access to NEA’s data, such as myENV, weather@sg, Life Cycle Cost Calculator, Energy Auditor, X-dengue and CleanLah for all smart phone users
c) Engages the App developer community to actively crowd source solutions for promoting active citizenry and inculcating environmental responsibility. This lead to the first Hackathon to be launched by NEA as the first Singapore public agency. The Hackathon aims to engage the community to identify suitable apps to solve community problems.
d) Engages Institutes of Higher Learning to promote education and awareness about the environment. For example, partnerships with these institutes resulted in the development of a gaming platform, Operation MACE (, which created the much needed awareness on dengue amongst students.
e) Leverages on the major exhibitions and community events such as World Water Week, CommunicAsia2012, Clean and Green Singapore (CGS) and Youth for the Environment Day (YED) to create the awareness of such environmental data sharing services Data sharing efforts have positioned Singapore as the one of the Data Collection or Product Centres (DCPC) in the region under World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

NEA also participates in inter-organisations initiatives to actively promote the use of environment data such as :
a) InfoComm Development Authority’s (IDA) ideas4apps challenge (Jan – Apr 2012) – this is a public challenge organised by IDA to crowdsource ideas from public on the use of government datasets to develop applications useful for the public.
b) IDA’s Call for Collaboration (May – Oct 2012), a co-creation effort for the creative use of government datasets in collaboration with the IT industry to develop applications that are useful for the public and private sector.
c) UP! Singapore Hackathons (Jun 2012), an Economic Developemnt Board led community-based app development to provide timely information to the general public to make informed decision on environmental related events. One such example is the hourly release of air pollution index PM2.5 and PM10 when severe haze starts to affect outdoor activities.
d) Participated in the Singapore Land Authority’s Spatial Challenge 2012 to encourage the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology in Schools, and the co-creation of applications with private organisations for public information. This resulted in creation of IOS and Android apps featuring locality of dengue clusters, recycling bins and games to educate public on recycling.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
One of the areas in which NEA looks into is the study on how data from government agencies can be used meaningfully and one way is to work with application developers to co-create solutions. NEA’s role in such partnerships is to provide the developer with domain expertise, access to environmental datasets, and promote the access of the environmental info among users. The developer’s role is to provide a platform for the public to use easily and efficiently, and provide NEA with the data-points to deploy operational resources for better public service delivery.

One example is the creation of the ‘CleanLah’ mobile application (IOS and Android) which allows the public to feedback on cleanliness lapses through their mobile phones. Launched in September 2012, this application provided NEA a better sensing of cleaning lapses on the ground level so that the lapses can addressed more productively and efficiently. Prior to this, feedback about public cleanliness were reported through standard feedback channels (e.g. phone, emails). However, at times such feedback were incomplete and time was required to investigate into the problems to ascertain the situation before officers were deployed. With the mobile application, the public can now submit such complaints (with the ability to attach photos) through the CleanLah application in four clicks. This enhances the user’s experience significantly by removing the hassles of entering detail user information on traditional feedback channels. Other benefits are :

a) The app creatively uses location services and camera functionality within the mobile device to enable the user to submit the cleanliness lapses with geo-tagging of its location. The app also provides an overview of all other geo-tagged pics on cleaning lapses reported by other members of public so as to reduce reporting of similar cleaning lapses.

b) Any interim status or resolution on any reported lapses will be sent back to the user in the form of a ‘chat’ like format. The application uses features of crowd sourcing to promote more environmental ownership towards their environment. NEA believes that it is with the whole of community efforts that a sustainable, clean and green environment can be achieved.

The key lessons learnt from the co-creation of creative IT smart solutions through eGov initiatives are:
a) the value of (government) data is enhanced when mashed up with information contributed by public through crowdsourcing. NEA has worked with private sector to develop smartphone application such as “CleanLah”, this application empowers the public to snap photo on cleaning lapses in public areas.. This provides a ‘bigger’ perspective in analysing the root cause for environmental lapses
b) the data points grew exponentially when we are able to rally the communities to be the eyes and ears of the organisation, resulting in better delivery of public services.

The key success factor of this initiative is to create communities (people, public, private sectors) to actively attract environment champions to use/make sense of the environment datasets and co-create solutions to achieve “The One Environment” for everyone.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   National Environment Agency
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Joelyn Chung
Title:   Management Executive, Corporate Excellence  
Telephone/ Fax:   +65 67319184/+65 62352611
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   40 Scotts Road #13-00, Environment Building
Postal Code:   Singapore 228231
City:   Singapore
State/Province:   N.A.
Country:   Singapore

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