Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry Setting up New Science and Technology Agency

Aug 2019

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in Singapore introduced the Home Team Science and Technology Agency Bill for first reading in Parliament on 8 July, 2019. MHA plans to increase its investment in Science and Technology (S&T) from SGD 979 million (USD 707 million) in FY2019 to SGD 1.9 billion (USD 1.4 billion) in FY2025, and a key initiative supporting this will be the setting up of a dedicated S&T agency. 

Over the years, MHA has partnered with other government agencies and industry partners to develop capabilities for the Home Team. The Home Team is headed by the MHA and is responsible for national security, public safety, civil defense, border control, and immigration in Singapore. The Home Team includes the following organizations: Casino Regulatory Authority, Central Narcotics Bureau, Home Team Academy, Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Internal Security Department, Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises, Singapore Civil Defense Force, Singapore Police Force, and Singapore Prison Service.

As the MHA looks to keep pace with changes in the operating environment and further leverage technology, it states that it will require a dedicated agency to more effectively develop and harness the Home Team’s in-house S&T capabilities, focusing on those which are unique and critical to the Home Team’s operations. 

The dedicated S&T agency will lead S&T research and development for the Home Team. It will focus on scientific domains critical to the Home Team’s operations, such as sense-making & surveillance (e.g. POLCAM), forensics (for investigations into crimes, drugs, document fraud and fires), digital forensics, CBRNE (Chemicals, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives) threats, biometrics, command-and-control systems, data analytics & artificial intelligence as well as robotics & unmanned systems.

The Automated Biometrics & Behavioral Screening Suite (ABBSS) designed to meet the needs of the ICA is an example of the kind of technology which is of interest to the Home Team. The ABBSS comprises a network of cameras with facial recognition capabilities. This analytics tool lets officers process high volumes of data quickly in order to identify Persons of Interest. ABBSS can also be deployed as body-worn-cameras for officers on patrol. Another tech initiative that’s currently undergoing trials is the Singapore Civil Defense Force’s (SCDF) exoskeleton. Firefighters often have to carry loads of 60kg comprising breathing apparatus and other specialized equipment. The exoskeleton is engineered to increase the load-bearing capacity of firefighters so that they can carry equipment or convey casualties out of a danger zone, with less fatigue. 

The agency will also oversee procurement for the Home Team, and consolidate and streamline the procurement processes. In addition, it will centrally recruit, develop and manage S&T manpower for the Home Team. As a start, it will bring together more than 1,000 research scientists, engineers, and technical staff from the Home Team departments.

(Sources: Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore; Channel NewsAsia)

(Image credit: Home Team News)

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