When it comes to dealing with customers and partners, many small businesses are still relying on paperwork in their daily operations today. Even for companies that have gone online, dealing with digital paperwork still remains as a common gripe. According to usability studies, the average online checkout form includes 14.88 fields. For an e-commerce business, this could potentially lead to cart abandonment and overall opportunity loss. Other businesses still struggle with manual data entry and lengthy back-end processing, especially when document submission is involved.

Building a Smart Nation

In 2014, the Singapore Government established the Smart Nation initiative, with a core focus on improving the lives of Singaporeans through technology. The Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) –responsible for implementing whole-of-government digital transformation – introduced initiatives to foster the development of electronic payments, digital services and secure digital identities for citizens, among others.

One of the basic tenets of building a Smart Nation is to make digital transactions user-friendly and seamless. While digital transactions become more popular and ubiquitous, it is imperative to ensure these transactions are secure, seamless, and convenient for both businesses and citizens.

This is where services like MyInfo step in. As a secure gateway for authentication and data retrieval, MyInfo, with users’ consent, promises a hassle-free experience when dealing with transactions that require personal data. The service also helps businesses to speed up processes and provide better customer experiences with automatically filled forms and instantly verified data.

Creating a National Digital Identity

MyInfo is one part of a larger government initiative to create a National Digital Identity for citizens and businesses. Launched initially in 2016 with selected government services, MyInfo later opened its doors to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In November 2017, the National Digital Identity (NDI) Developer and Partner Portal went live, allowing private companies to integrate MyInfo into their own business solutions via API access.

The use of secured, public APIs enables developers to experiment, build, and test a wide range of possible applications quickly and securely, with a range of NDI solutions at their disposal – these can range from basic services such as authentication, to additional value-added services like digital signing, identify verification via facial recognition, and more.

With this secure API, businesses can now easily acquire authenticated data on Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents, at their consent, without the need for form-filling and document submission when performing online transactions. The data is securely and automatically acquired from government agencies through a multi-tiered access model ensuring that only required information is provided.

Doing business in minutes

In practical terms, MyInfo can reduce time spent in verifying user information to a mere few seconds.

For example, opening a bank account with DBS used to require several documents (like a scanned copy of an identity card and bill). Bank employees would then manually assess and contact customers for clarifications. The back-and-forth process would have taken days. However with MyInfo, DBS is now able to streamline its processes and deliver services faster with the pre-filling of user information.

The real estate industry also benefits from MyInfo. Streetsine Technology Group, a digital property company, has already automated many of the processes involved in acquiring property, thanks to the NDI Developer and Partner Portal.

“Since MyInfo data is already in a common digital format, with permission given by the user, the information can be shared by banks to provide other relevant services, such as mortgage underwriting,” says Jeremy Lee, director and co-founder of StreetSine.

With verified information obtained from government sources, users can check their eligibility for home loans directly from any of the banks listed on the SRX site. Forms are populated automatically, and users can authorise the release of income information to apply for a loan.

The benefits of MyInfo also go beyond our Singaporean shores. Take the case of popular UK-based money transfer service TransferWise, for example. The company leveraged the NDI Developer and Partner Portal sandbox in integrating authentication and signature verification into its platform – making it easier for Singaporean citizens and residents to transfer funds to other TransferWise users across the globe.

“MyInfo solved a major pain point for TransferWise Singapore: it made verification instant and convenient for our users,” says TransferWise Senior Product Engineer Timothee Ledure. The company was able to cut verification costs for its Singaporean users by 30 percent through the platform.

The path ahead

GovTech’s main goal is to “harness the best info-communications technologies to make a difference to the everyday lives of people in Singapore.” As part of the National Digital Identity initiative, the MyInfo platform is an anchor service in the grander plan, to empower users and businesses, through collaboration and focus on delivering citizen-centric user experiences.