06 Aug 2019

Second Reading Speech of the Home Team Science and Technology Agency Bill - Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs

INTRODUCTION


1.           Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move, that the Bill now be read a second time.


2.           I will cover two main points –

a.               The role of the new Home Team Science and Technology Agency; and

b.               How the Agency will be established.


HTX AND HOME TEAM TRANSFORMATION


3.                   Mr Speaker, I have previously spoken in this House about the Home Team Transformation.  In gist, it is about fundamentally transforming the way the Home Team operates, in policing, emergency response, drug control, corrections, and checkpoint security.


4.                Home Team Transformation is an ambitious, multi-year plan, requiring significant investments. Why is it necessary?



5.                Our challenges are mounting, and threats are evolving. The work of the Home Team continues to rise, in volume and complexity.



6.                 A vibrant economy attracts more travellers and cargo moving through our checkpoints. In the past ten years, traveler volumes through our checkpoints have risen by 42%, from 149 million people in 2008 to 212 million in 2018. Cargo volumes went up by 25% over the same period.



7.                 The threat of terrorism remains high. Attacks are still happening around the world in the name of ISIS, including those by self-radicalised lone wolves.  While ISIS has suffered heavy territorial losses, its ideology continues to attract supporters, not least in our region.

 

8.               Technological advancements have also brought about new security challenges. According to the US Center for Strategic and International Studies, the cost of cybercrime around the world may be as much as US$600 billion annually, or nearly one percent of global GDP. 


9.                  I have previously spoken about how greater use of science and technology (S&T) is key to meeting these challenges. That is why the Home Team will almost double its investments in S&T from $979M in FY2019 to $1.9B in FY2025.


10.              The new Home Team Science and Technology Agency will play a central role in ensuring that our investment achieves maximum operational impact.


11.              It will be called “HTX” in short. “HT” stands for the Home Team while the “X” symbolizes the Agency’s role as a Force Multiplier for the Home Team.


12.              HTX will build cutting-edge and transformative capabilities that will augment the Home Team far beyond our 27,000 regular and 54,000 NS and volunteer officers.


HTX - A FORCE MULTIPLIER FOR THE HOME TEAM


13.              Let me now go into the specific ways in which HTX will support the Home Team.


Enhancing operational effectiveness and efficiency


14.              First, HTX will build systems and solutions that will enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the Home Team.


15.             One example is ICA’s New Clearance Concept (NCC).  We have been used to large teams of officers manning rows of physical counters and clear travelers manually.  That will be a thing of the past. The NCC imagines “breeze-through” clearance for citizens, who can walk through immigration channels without even taking out their passports. Foreign visitors can perform self-clearance at automated immigration gates.  The NCC will bring about greater convenience to travelers, without compromising security.


16.              The NCC will need to incorporate several different domains of technology, which HTX will put together. These include:



a.                  Biometrics solutions that will accurately capture a person’s biometric information. The BioScreen-Multi Modal Biometrics System (MMBS), which takes iris, photo and fingerprint data is one example.



b.                  Smart sensors, like cameras, can identify persons of interest, including those who have run afoul of the law.


c.                Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms will be used to analyse advance information integrated from various sources, including the Electronic Arrival Card and advance passenger information from Airlines. The analysis will then be used to assess the risk profile of travelers before they arrive at our checkpoints.


17.              Emergency response is another area that will be transformed through S&T.



a.                 Data analytics can be used to dynamically identify where emergency resources should be deployed in advance, so that they can respond to the incidents faster when they occur.


b.                 When an emergency call comes in, AI can be used to assist emergency call dispatchers in their work. The system is able to not only recognise speech, but also transcribe and log emergency calls.  With almost 200,000 emergency calls each year, such technology will significantly reduce the time needed to process calls.


c.                  And when SCDF officers respond to the incidents, robotics and unmanned systems can help to reduce their risk exposure and enhance safety. SCDF has already started to put on trial an exoskeleton which enables firefighters to carry heavy loads and improve their performance. Another example is the Pumper Firefighting Machine.  It is a firefighting robot that can be controlled remotely, and which has already been successfully deployed for operations at the frontline.


18.               Besides S&T capabilities, HTX will also strengthen our ability to procure and execute projects on time and on budget.  Thereafter, we must ensure that our capabilities are refreshed and updated to benefit from new advances.


Enabling a One Home Team approach


19.              Second, beyond systems and solutions, HTX will better enable the Home Team Departments (HTDs) to adopt a One Home Team approach, for example, in joint operations to respond to a terror incident.


20.              HTX will support the development of a Home Team Operations Centre. This will bring together all Operations Centres across the Home Team under one roof.


21.              Enabled by technology, there can be faster communication and stronger co-ordination between responders from different HTDs. A common sense-making platform will allow HTDs to have a common situational picture, drawing feeds from Home Team officers responding to the incident, data from the island-wide sensors on the ground, media reports, and so on.


22.              A One Home Team approach will also extend to coordinating intelligence sharing and investigations across HTDs.


23.              Having a single agency in the Home Team to develop systems and solutions will ensure coherent technical architecture and interoperability across our many systems.  This will also enable greater synergies to be reaped.


ESTABLISHING HTX


24.              Mr Speaker, I have spoken on how HTX will support the Home Team. I will now briefly touch on how the Agency will be established and why this is significant.


25.               We aim to set up this new agency by December 2019.


26.             In establishing HTX, scientific and technological resources across the Home Team will be consolidated within a single agency.


27.              By centralising our S&T resources, there will be greater career progression and development opportunities for S&T personnel. As a start, HTX will bring together about 1,300 officers from the HTDs.  


28.              HTX will also recruit scientists and engineers for new positions. With the Home Team’s increased demand for S&T capabilities, HTX will need to grow its capacity in the coming years. This will create exciting new STEM job opportunities for Singaporeans.


29.             HTX will also add to the whole-of-government push towards building up engineering expertise in the public service. By enhancing partnerships with counterparts such as DSTA, DSO, GovTech and HSA, HTX will enrich the public service eco-system of science and engineering talent.


30.              Beyond the public service, HTX will be closely partnering with industry and academia in its efforts to translate cutting edge research into effective security solutions. 


31.             These collaborations will serve to further boost the innovation eco-system in Singapore.


KEY PROVISIONS OF THE BILL


32.              Having explained the mission and functions of HTX, I will now describe the significant elements of the Bill. The Bill comprises nine parts.


33.              Part 2 of the Bill establishes the functions and powers of the agency. The functions are broadly aligned to HTX’s mission as a force multiplier for the Home Team. Adopting a whole-of-government perspective, HTX will also be able to build new capabilities for other government agencies that have similar technological needs as the HTDs.


34.             Parts 3 to 6 pertain to the formation of HTX’s Board, the decision-making procedures, personnel and financial matters. These are similar to that of other major statutory boards and is consistent with the Public Sector Governance Act 2018.


35.               Part 8 provides for the transfer of property, assets, liabilities and employees from MHA to HTX. Employees will be transferred on terms no worse off than what they enjoyed on the eve of transfer.


36.              Finally, Part 9 covers the consequential amendments to other acts. Chiefly, it includes an amendment to the First Schedule of the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act. As HTX will support the Home Team’s 24/7 operations, its services will be deemed an Essential Service under the CLTPA.


CONCLUSION

 

37.              Mr Speaker, the Bill presented before the house today sets out   the legislative framework to establish the Home Team Science and Technology Agency, or HTX.


38.             The formation of this agency will not only build mission-critical capabilities within the Home Team, but create important synergies within the larger S&T eco-system in Singapore.


39.             Sir, I beg to move.

Back to top