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Singapore Data Innovation Programme Office to facilitate data-driven innovation projects

Singapore plans to set up a Data Innovation Programme Office (DIPO) to boost data-driven projects, with a data sandbox providing a platform for companies to share data securely.07 Mar 2017

Singaporean companies complain of a lack of good data, as well as a lack of awareness and a lack of expertise, together with some concerns about regulatory clarity, minister of state for the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) Janil Puthucheary has said.

The DIPO will be set up by Singapore's Infocomm Media Development Authority, Puthucheary said. It will aim to address industry concerns by helping data driven projects and developing a "data ecosystem" in Singapore.

"One of the ways DIPO will do this is to introduce a data sandbox, which will provide a neutral and trusted platform for companies to share data securely, without threatening their individual interests. The data sandbox will also provide data analytics tools to help companies build expertise in data science," he said.

Singapore launched a fintech sandbox in June 2016, saying that it would enable businesses to "experiment with financial technology (fintech) solutions".

The Government Technology Agency (GovTech), an agency launched in October 2016 to improve Singapore's online government services, has been improving the data.gov.sg website to focus on quality rather than quantity of data, Puthucheary said.

"For example, a developers’ portal was introduced last year to provide data users and developers easier access to real-time data via APIs (application programming interfaces). DIPO will also work with government agencies to release more economically-useful data through data.gov.sg. I encourage members to investigate that URL as well," he said.

If the project is to work, Singapore's citizens need to trust how their data is used, Puthucheary said

"The Personal Data Protection Commission (PDPC) [will] be reviewing the Personal Data Protection Act implemented two years ago, while putting in place additional measures to ensure businesses know how to use personal data responsibly," he said.

"The PDPC will develop data protection starter kits to help SMEs kick-start data protection practices within their companies; engage SMEs through trade associations and chambers, and sector-specific forums; and provide more affirmative guidance to give certainty and clarity on what is permissible," he said.

Technology law expert Bryan Tan of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "From a data protection point of view, the evolving conversation on data protection standards and the counterpoint of data analytics is one to keep everyone on their toes and to spur further innovation within the economy."