Ng Siau Yong, Director of the Geospatial Division at the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), shares how their hackathons are helping them promote a spatial thinking mindset in the country.
Not all knowledge resides within the government. As such, we are looking at ways to promote civic innovation through partnerships with various agencies and the private sector in apps prototyping weekends or hackathons.
Through these hackathons, members of the public form teams and collaborate over a 48 hour period to develop innovative solutions for a variety of urban challenges related to mobility, social and public safety, clean environment and smart cities.
In the recent “Clean and Green” Hackathon organised by the National Environmental Agency and UP Singapore, we saw 10 out of 15 prototypes created using location data or maps. One interesting app, which won the OneMap Challenge Prize, used location services to facilitate the exchange of electronic items and in turn, reduce “e-waste”.
Another notable mention was the SingCity app which was developed during the “Data in the City” hackathon organised by the Infocomm Development Authority. This app used OneMap’s tools and data services (such as demographics data) to allow members of the public to identify gaps in amenities in their neighbourhood and recommend suitable locations to provide those amenities and services.
The innovation surrounding the use of geospatial information tomorrow will be shaped and determined by the creativity of our youths today. Hence, it is critical for us to help develop the spatial thinking mindset from young; to get them ready for the “Future Singapore”.
In August last year, SLA organised the Singapore Geospatial Challenge (SGC) which introduced gamification components to make GIST more fun and accessible to over 350 Secondary and Junior College students from 40 schools. Armed with a smart phone installed with a specially designed geospatial application, students competed in a geocaching game around the civic district to learn more about heritage trees and buildings in the shortest time possible. Through SGC, students applied their critical thinking about GIST and explored how wielding geospatial technology could help them make more strategic decisions and plan better.
Through the hackathons and the various competitions and challenges we have organized over the years, we are getting remarkable geospatial innovations from our citizens and students. We wish to turn some of these ideas into reality or scale them up for wider implementation. In this regard, we launched the GeoInnovation Fund in October last year, where students and apps developers can apply for up to SG$50,000 (US$ 40,000 ) in funding to develop their geospatial apps.
Furthermore, to underscore the government’s commitment to the development of GIST, we will be introducing the Singapore Geospatial Scholarship for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. This scholarship, jointly conferred by several public agencies, will allow recipients to develop a geospatial career with exposure in various public agencies. More details on this scholarship will be announced at a later date.