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Through SMU-X projects, SMU undergrads suggest creative and implementable solutions to Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Two teams of students from an SMU-X course have come up with ideas to help Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) increase Singaporean's eRegistration rate, as well as enhance the Ministry's crisis management resource management.  In an interview with Lianhe Zaobao and MediaCorp Channel 8, the students shared their ideas and insights, and also their experience partnering MFA on the projects.  Below is a full translation of the news article published in Lianhe Zaobao on 25 May 2017.

(Translated article)

SMU students suggest speedier and more streamlined processes to eRegister with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

By Deng Weiting

Calling out to the Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) on your phone, then reporting your travel date, destination and duration, and your eRegistration process is completed, all in less than a minute! 

A team of five students taking an SMU-X course has suggested a more streamlined process through the use of a Virtual Personal Assistant (VPA) to encourage more Singaporeans to eRegister with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) before departing the country.  That way, the authorities would be able to offer timely assistance in times of emergency.

Currently only 6 to 7 in 100 Singaporeans eRegister

Presently, in every 100 Singaporeans only six to seven eRegister with the Ministry via the official website or the mobile phone before heading overseas.  MFA's Director General for Consular Directorate Mr Lee Chong Hock said, "That's a rather small number."

CONSULAR DIRECTORATE

SMU-X courses were introduced in 2015 to provide students with hands-on, experiential, project-based learning where students recommend solutions to help companies tackle actual challenges that they encounter in their business or operations. This is the first time that MFA is participating in SMU-X and collaborating with students to look into ways to refine and enhance its existing platforms.

Third-year SMU School of Information Systems student Bong Jun Hao who as involved in the project, shared that his team found through a survey that the three key reasons why Singaporeans do not eRegister with MFA include: ‘not aware’, ‘no necessary’ and ‘process is too complicated’.  As there are already many VPAs with voice recognition capabilities available in the market, such as Siri and Google Assistant, he felt that “if MFA can utilise this technology to simplify the process, I believe more Singaporeans will be willing to e-register.”

[Photo: Yvonne Liew, Roy Lee, Janet Sim and Eugene Sng developed a chatbot prototype for their 'clients' at MFA.]

Another team suggested the use of a Chatbot to address simple enquiries from family members in times of crisis, so that MFA can more effectively channel their resources into helping Singaporean overseas.

MFA's Mr Lee said that the Ministry saw a lot of potential in the students' recommendations, and may considering implementing some of their ideas in future.  He also revealed that MFA will be rolling out a new platform to replace mfa@sg.  A tender will be called before the end of this year.

[Featured photo: Thomas Thio, Bong Jun Hao and Claudia Foong are confident that the use of VPA will encourage more Singaporeans to eRegister.]

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