On Assignment
Data Science in the Home Team
More than the sum of its parts – three things you should know about how we’re applying Data Science to keep Singapore safe and secure.

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GRAPHIC: Home Team News

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a data-driven revolution.

Updating our social media profiles, shopping online, accessing Government e-services – there’s no aspect of modern life that isn’t touched by the Internet. And that means we’re constantly sharing data about ourselves, with a host of entities and organisations. 

Tapping on advances in how data can be collected, analysed and visualised, enforcement agencies around the world are now applying Data Science to boost their capabilities and response times. The Home Team is no exception, with new initiatives using Data Science to analyse information quicker, gain insights into operational challenges and better deploy resources.

Here are three things you should know about how the Home Team is using Data Science. 

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GRAPHIC: Home Team News

1. Using the Right Data and Techniques Helps Us Keep Singapore Safe and Secure 
Let’s start with the basics: What is Data Science? 

It’s an interdisciplinary field comprising scientific methods, processes, algorithms and systems that extract knowledge and insights from data. By discovering meaningful patterns in data, Home Team officers can get useful insights and become more effective. 

One area in which Data Science has helped to change how the Home Team operates is the field of Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Since 2013, processes and services at the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s Operations Centre have been progressively refined by reviewing factors such as a patient’s medical condition, the available EMS resources in an area, traffic patterns and so on. The result? Critical medical cases now receive medical attention faster. 

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GRAPHIC: Home Team News

2. Insight and Action: Data Science Can Be Applied to a Host of Projects
Data Analytics techniques include Data Visualisation, Predictive Analytics, Operational Research and Simulation. At the Ministry of Home Affairs  (MHA), Data Science is the domain of the Data Science Unit (DSU) of the Planning & Organisation Division, which has worked with Home Team Departments on a range of cool projects.

Among the Data Scientists on the team is Dr Huang Shisheng. Since 2017, Shisheng and his fellow officers have helped different units within the Home Team develop Dashboards to assist in their daily work. Their latest project aims to help multiple Government agencies in their enforcement efforts. 

“The visual cues expressing the data are straightforward to extract and interpret,” explained Shisheng. “This allows data to be better appreciated by users, which helps in decision-making. The projects can also be continually expanded by adding relevant data sets and layers to it.” 

Another powerful Data Analytics technique is Simulation. In 2017, the DSU team developed a Simulation Model for medium-term forecasts of our inmate population. 

“There are many ways that forecasting can be done, from simple linear projections to more advanced techniques such as Simulation,” explained Chen Zhi Yun, Assistant Director (Data Science), DSU. “The method we used allows for different ‘what if’ scenarios to be modelled. This allows the Home Team Department to make better decisions related to resource management.”

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GRAPHIC: Home Team News

3. The Big Picture: It’s About Enabling All Our Officers
But Data Analytics isn’t solely the province of our Data Scientists; knowing how to find meaningful patterns in data helps all Home Team officers – operational or otherwise – generate useful insights for themselves, and to become more effective. That’s critical as officers increasingly access and synthesise data from multiple sources. 

That’s why Home Team officers are now learning how Data Analytics can complement their instincts and tradecraft. Through new courses and programmes, officers get a back-to-basics understanding of the field – how every piece of information matters, and that data must be accurately captured, processed and safeguarded. 

For both new and seasoned practitioners of Data Analytics, the benefits are obvious and gratifying. “It gives me great satisfaction to know that the results of my work contribute to making the Home Team more effective,” said Zhi Yun. 

This sentiment was echoed by Shisheng. “Data isn’t scary,” he said. “It can be really accessible, and we have many tools to use it properly. Applying Data Science helps us to see the big picture across the board; we’re no longer constrained by single layers – or points – of data.”

  1. by Mike Tan
  2. 15 November 2018
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