Clean and Green Hackathon
National Environment Agency

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Around the world, citizens’ trust in governments has fallen in recent years. This is evident in the Edelman Barometer of Trust survey (on 26 markets) conducted in 2013, where it was revealed that majority of the population in more than half the countries surveyed no longer trust their governments to do what is right. While citizens’ trust in government and government leaders has remained significantly higher in Singapore than the global average in this survey, there is a need for us to continue to maintain the trust that has been built up over the years. No government can function effectively without the trust of the citizens. As a small nation with limited resources, citizens’ trust in the government matters even more to Singapore. Failure to manage public trust and deep scepticism about the government will reduce our space for manoeuvre, both in domestic policy decision making and in managing our external relations. Singapore has come a long way to gain citizens’ trust in government since its gain independence in 1965. Hence, it is important to continue to gain and maintain this trust through a variety of engagement activities and policy.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The National Environment Agency (NEA) of Singapore was formed on 1 July 2002 as the leading public organisation responsible for improving and sustaining a clean and green environment in Singapore. The NEA aims to inculcate a strong environmental ownership among its citizens and encourage them to adopt environmentally-friendly lifestyle regardless of societal and economic differences. To achieve this, NEA develops and spearheads environmental initiatives and programmes through partnerships with the 3P (People, Public & Private) sectors and constantly explores innovative ways to effectively engage the citizens and solicit feedback. Over the years, NEA has been exploring innovative concepts to interest members of the public in environmental issues and to inculcate a greater sense of ownership for the environment. The NEA has developed various programmes to engage specific target audience. For instance, the Operation MACE (Mosquito Annihilation & Control Enforcement) engages children aged 8 to 12 through interactive digital game plays. By becoming the MACE agent and helping to destroy potential breeding spots, the children learn about the dengue prevention tips and transfer the knowledge to their family and friends. The Eco Music Challenge was an online songwriting competition that aims to engage talented and passionate individuals to express their appreciation and support for the environment through music. While hackathons are a more commonly used tool to crowdsource ideas in countries such as the United States of America, it is still considered a relatively new concept in Asia Pacifica, particularly Singapore as it was only introduced recently. In April 2013, NEA experimented with this new concept and organised the Clean & Green Hackathon, the first-ever public agency-led hackathon in Singapore. Through the Clean & Green Hackathon, a common platform was created for different stakeholders to come together to collaborate and co-create solutions for the environment. Targeted at the app developer community, tertiary institutions, corporate organisations and environmental advocacy groups, the Clean & Green Hackathon also allows NEA to harness the strengths of the different stakeholder groups to generate solutions that are by the community, and for the community. The Clean & Green Hackathon enabled us to bring participants through new perspectives of the environmental challenges, and involved them actively in the problem-solving from a user-centric approach. Such active collaboration and involvement between NEA and the different stakeholder groups in working together to generate solutions helps foster stronger ties between the government and the community. The sharing of datasets had improved citizens’ trust towards the public agencies/organisations, particularly NEA.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
As part of NEA’s strategy to adopt a stakeholder-centric approach in engaging citizens, the Clean & Green Hackathon offers the 3P (People, Public & Private) sectors a vibrant and creative platform to cooperate, and be actively involved in the development of environmental solutions. Citizens are now part of the problem solving process and this helps to create stronger understanding and better buy in of government policies and programmes. The Clean & Green Hackathon also allows NEA to tap into the strengths of each of the 3P sectors, where the community, volunteers and the civil society contribute creativity, feedback and participation; the government facilitates the ideation process and supplies the expert information, datasets and funding; and the corporate sector provides the technology tools, technical expertise and market experience. The collaboration not only allows NEA to leverage the strengths of the different sectors, it also helps NEA foster stronger ties with the community.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The Clean & Green Hackathon was a three-day event where different segments of the community work together to generate ideas and solutions for the environment. The idea was to provide a conducive environment for participants to generate innovative ideas that could potentially help tackle the environmental challenges that Singapore faces and improve our municipal services. This was achieved through bringing in different partners into the hackathon to enhance the whole hackathon experience. Industry partners were brought in to provide participants the use of their state-of-the-art technology and technological training. Subject matter experts in the environmental, technology and ideation fields were invited to the hackathon as speakers and mentors to inspire and guide participants in developing their ideas, while NEA provides the datasets and facilitates the idea generation process. The granular datasets provided to the participants also demonstrated NEA’s sincerity in wanting to work with the community to resolve issues through open data and innovation. The level of transparency and openness shown through the sharing of granular datasets and the close partnership between public officers and the community helped build mutual trust and warmed the relationship between citizens and the government. The Clean & Green Hackathon offers a unique platform for the different stakeholder groups to cooperate and work together to develop ideas and solutions for the environment. It also presented NEA the opportunity to tap into the strengths of the different groups, where the community and the civil society contribute creativity, feedback and participation; the government facilitates the ideation process and supplies the expert information, datasets and funding; and the corporate sector provides the technology tools, technical expertise and market experience. Such intimate collaboration allows NEA to foster closer ties with the community and also ensure that the municipal services provided by the government correspond with the needs and expectations of the community. This would lead to better public services and deepening of understanding between citizens and the government.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Clean & Green Hackathon provided the opportunity for NEA to reach out to more than 20 new partners in the IT industry, commercial entities and environmental groups. Through identifying the right partners and tapping into partners’ strengths and network, we were able put together best of class technology tools, mentors and industry experience for the participants. Some of our key partners and their contribution are listed as follows: Amazon Web Services • Provision of a secured data sandbox to host datasets • Training to participants on technology tools Google Developer Group Singapore • Training on the latest Google technology and developer tools • Mentorship guidance to participants • Publicity support to encourage participation Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) • Sponsored an “IDA Prize” to encourage mash-up data in prototypes • Publicity support to encourage participation Samsung • Technology tools for participants to try out and test prototype • Coach selected teams to incubate and develop their ideas into fully functional apps • Publicity support to encourage participation SAP • Provided the use of business analytics tools to participants in generating prototypes • Training and mentorship guidance to participants Singapore Land Authority (SLA) • Sponsored an “SLA Prize” to encourage the use of geospatial technology in prototypes • Provided datasets support to participants StarHub (a local telco) • Tap into its online community to market the hackathon • Sponsored a “StarHub Prize” to encourage solutions to reduce electronic waste WWF Singapore • Publicity support to encourage participation
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The organising of the Clean & Green Hackathon was funded by NEA. However through partnerships with different stakeholder groups, we were able to generate sponsorship value that was more than the S$70,000 put forth by NEA to organise the three-day event. The goodwill afforded by partners helped in keeping the cost of running a hackathon to a minimum. Various environmental groups and organisations had helped in publicising the event to their network to encourage participation. Similarly partners like *SCAPE and NUS Enterprise also helped in providing partial venue sponsorship to keep the cost low. Industry partners contributed in terms of technology and technical expertise to the hackathon. Through working with key industry partners like Samsung and StarHub, we were able to obtain sponsorship of prizes of technology products to the participants. More importantly, industry partners provided mentorship guidance and marketing advices to help selected teams develop their ideas and prototypes into fully functional mobile apps after the hackathon. In addition, the brand association gained through partnership with these leading industry partners also helped in attracting participation at the Clean & Green Hackathon as the exposure could mean that participants may get a chance to work with these industry big names.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Three mobile applications were developed as a result of the first Clean & Green Hackathon and have been made available for download at Google Play platform. To promote creativity beyond the held hackathons, the ownership of the developed mobile apps lied with the developers. Appended below are details of the mobile applications that have been developed and are now available to the public on Google Play: Mobile Application #1 – Clear It ! This game app aims to bring across the message that everyone has a part to play in keeping Singapore clean. Players can play in three different scenarios, based on the topics of anti-littering, toilet hygiene and tray return at food centres. Clear It! is a simple drag and drop game, and challenges players to clean up as much mess as they could within the time limit. They can then earn points, gain levels and unlock new achievements as they progress in the game. The game aims to encourage players to take action and keep our living environment clean, through a fun and interactive manner. In addition, the game has the potential of reaching out to a larger audience outside of Singapore It can be downloaded and used as educational materials to encourage a clean and litter-free environment to members of public from other countries This app is available for download at Mobile Application #2 – Parent Pool This app enables parents in the same neighbourhood, with children attending the same schools, to form a community and make carpool arrangements. The Parent Pool app also provides useful information such as NEA weather data, and sends alerts to remind parents of carpooling arrangements. Overall, it aims to streamline car usage and reduce fuel consumption, which can lead to decreased air pollution and lesser resources used. Parent Pool can be expanded globally to include schools in other countries. It can also be further enhanced to provide car pool service for shopping, commuting to work etc. This app is available for download at Mobile Application #3 - SimpleFlyer Commercial establishments use large amounts of paper to print flyers for business publicity purposes (especially during trade shows). These flyers could also lead to a littering problem, if not binned properly. The SimpleFlyer app is an easily usable way by tapping into the capabilities of a smart phone and near-field communication (NFC) technology. It helps to reduce paper flyers and conserve resources and reduce waste. It is developed by a group of polytechnic students and the app is currently being used within the institution. However, it has the potential to be used for large trade shows and commercial exhibitions which traditionally use hard copy flyers massively. This app is available for download at These mobile applications were showcased at the Clean and Green Singapore Carnival held in November 2013 where the teams presented their project to the Guest of Honour, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. We will continue to profile the apps and their developers when opportunities arise in the future so as to encourage more members of the community to work with us. Currently, NEA is working with other teams from the second Clean & Green Hackathon to explore the feasibility of developing their app prototypes into fully working apps. The empowering of the community to develop solutions to tackle environmental challenges will deliver enduring results as we are able to obtain better policy buy-in and reinforce environmental ownership.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Working closely with different partners helped in making sure that all angles of the programme are well covered and hoslitic. In addition, appointing a project manager with the technical know-how and the experience of organising hackathons to help oversee the running of the Clean & Green Hackathon had helped to smooth the process as they were able to advise and prepare us for the unexpected. The partnership with the hackathon partners continues beyond the hackathon. We continue our engagement with these partners, involving them in other programmes to promote environmental practices. For example, we were able to involve StarHub in our Corporate Environment Champions Programme where we groom and train a pool of environment champions in the corporate sector to promote and implement environmental initiatives within and outside their organisation.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
As using hackathons as an avenue to engage citizens is a new concept, many internal and external partners were initially apprehensive about supporting this initiative. This is especially so for the data owners as NEA datasets that were released to public had been aggregated. Releasing granular datasets to the public presented uncertainty to the data owners as they were unsure of how a hackathon functions and how datasets were given to participants in a secured manner. Through breaking down the programme in bite size, explaining the potential benefits of the hackathon, and assuring the data owners of the safeguards in place to ensure that the datasets provided would not be misused, we were able to obtain the buy in from the data owners to support the initiative.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Historically, the NEA datasets that were shared with the public have been aggregated, for example, a monthly average reading as opposed to an hourly average one. Organising the Clean & Green Hackathon has opened the doors for NEA to release more granular datasets to the public. In the process, public officers have also become more open-minded and better prepared to sharing granular data with the public. The unlocking of granular datasets to the public communicated the government’s sincerity in wanting to work with the community to resolve issues and not just paying lip service to open data and open collaboration. As Mr Niko Tan, a participant of the 2nd Clean & Green Hackathon, in his interview with Challenge Magazine (May/Jun 2014) summed up: “The government is not as distant as before. After the hackathon, we managed to reach many public officers and developed our idea further. I now see the government more as a partner that offers citizens the opportunity to make a difference and create something for the community through hackathons”. The level of transparency and openness demonstrated through the sharing of granular datasets and the close partnership between public officers and community have helped to build mutual trust and warmed up the relationship between the public and the government. In addition to the opportunity to work with the People and Private sectors, hackathons also offer a platform for different public agencies to work together to put out data which could be mashed up and used by the participants to derive innovative ways to improve public service and foster closer public engagement. For the Clean & Green Hackathon, we were able to obtain geospatial data from the Singapore Land Authority, and energy consumption data from the Energy Market Authority and Singapore Power. This helps to form partnership with other public agencies and also to widen the data pool provided to the hackathon participants.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The overarching goal of the Clean & Green Hackathon was to seed the creation of a vibrant eco-system of idea generators where the community feels open and motivated to be an active change agent and proactively contribute innovative ideas and solutions for the betterment of our environment. The Clean & Green Hackathon concept can also be easily replicated by another public agency by simply customising the problem statements or challenges to fit its theme. For example, the Health Promotion Board (HPB), Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), the Energy Market Authority (EMA) and Maritime Port Authority (MPA) of Singapore had organised the Health Up Hackathon, Data in the City Hackathon, E3 Hackathon and Smart Port Hackathon respectively, following the success of the Clean & Green Hackathon. NEA also leveraged these hackathons by offering a Clean and Green Prize to encourage solution on environmental challenges. The open innovation model of citizen engagement where the community come together to prototype and brainstorm ideas to generate innovating solutions using datasets provided by the organisers and partners remain unchanged.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The Clean & Green Hackathon paved the way for a more stakeholder-centric way of engaging the community. It gives the public a stake in the situation and their opinions are heard. Through the diverse profile of the participants (50% professionals and 50% youth and students), the Clean & Green Hackathon allowed diverse viewpoints and ideas to be surfaced to the government. Citizens also feel inspired and empowered to take ownership of both the problems and possible solutions, as well as play an increasingly active role of generating solutions with the government facilitating the process. This will lead to a flourishing of innovative ideas, a deeper understanding between citizens and the government, and stronger community ownership of the environment. We also recognised that having good speakers and established industry partners are integral to the success of the Clean & Green Hackathon. The presence of good speakers helps to inspire and guide the developers in their prototyping while having established industry partners mean that the participating developers may stand a chance to work with these leading industry players. In addition, we also forged working partnerships with other public agencies at their hackathons to continuously engage the app developer community and businesses. This is achieved through collaborating closely with other public agencies such as providing datasets to their hackathon, sharing our success story, and offering a Clean & Green Challenge and Prize at their hackathon to encourage the creation of environmental mobile applications. Through such collaborations, we were able to amplify our engagement efforts and be constantly in touch with the community even if the hackathon is organised by other public agencies.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   National Environment Agency
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Teck Choon Choon
Title:   Assistant Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   67319355
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   40 Scotts Road, Environment Building
Postal Code:   228231
City:   Singapore

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