With a Master of Science specialising in Social Data Science from University of Oxford and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from University College London, Christopher Lee Yi Shao is putting his knowledge to good use as a Manager, Policy & Planning at the Municipal Services Office (MSO). The MND EDGE scholar analyses municipal feedback and survey data to develop up-to-date solutions to streamline municipal operations, and thus improve residents' quality of life.
The Ministry of National Development (MND)'s vision is for Singapore to become “An Endearing Home and a Distinctive Global City”. This means providing the best living environment for all who are staying in this city state.
Singapore might be small in physical size, but MND's scope is large. It includes land use planning, urban redevelopment and building conservation, affordable and quality public housing, as well as park and nature conservation. The real estate industry and construction industry also come under the purview of MND and its statutory boards.
With a Master of Science specialising in Social Data Science from University of Oxford and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from University College London, Christopher Lee Yi Shao applies his knowledge of economics and data science to a wide- array of assignments. In his capacity as Manager, Policy & Planning at the Municipal Services Office (MSO), he analyses municipal feedback and survey data. He then makes policy recommendations and develops predictive models to facilitate municipal operations, thus using data to improve Singaporeans' quality of life.
“MND oversees issues that range from macro topics such as urban planning, down to the day-to-day municipal concerns such as faulty lifts and cleanliness issues,” the 26-year-old enthused.
“All these synergise with the larger issues of economy, digitalisation and sustainability. It's a broad and diverse portfolio.”
The Economics of Scale
Christopher believes that his individual contributions have made a positive and tangible impact on Singaporeans' everyday lives. This is the exact reason he chose the MND EDGE Scholarship rather than enter the private sector like many of his peers.
“My decision to take a Government scholarship was ultimately driven by my desire to contribute to a larger purpose – to serve the public, to serve Singaporeans,” he said with conviction.
“I want a meaningful career that will be exciting and motivating in the long term. A career in the public service has a positive and tangible impact on people's lives, and this was a good reason in helping me decide on my career choice.”
His area of specialisation, economics, also matched the skills that MND needed to analyse resource optimisation problems, such as manpower and land, on a macro scale. MND introduced him to developmental programmes and networking events to further his knowledge in the field.
He summed up his work: “We are the residents' advocate, surfacing day-to-day municipal issues that we face to improve the situation on the ground.”
The simple explanation belies the complex nature of his day-to-day work, which includes processing resident feedback, analysing survey data and developing prediction models to make informed policy recommendations. Christopher also works with other agencies to see how best to improve their operations, for example, developing a dashboard that charts safe distancing-related feedback that his colleagues are using today.
Another project has him and his team developing an AI-powered chatbot for residents to submit feedback and complaints, which is where his educational background in social data science comes into play. “I'm part of a team set up by the MSO and Government Technology Agency (GovTech) to develop a chatbot allowing residents to report issues seamlessly without needing to worry which agency to report to or how to describe the issue.”
The chatbot will predict the nature of the feedback and instantly route it to the correct agency, thus cutting down on manpower and work time.
Christopher added: “It's a meaningful experience because I get to work with very talented developers and programmers from GovTech on this project, which will have a positive and direct impact on residents' lives.”
“It's a privilege that my first deployment was at MSO, as it is a fairly new division with more 'uncharted ground' to try new things and be more collaborative. The speed and dynamism of the work is definitely there!”
The Principles of Public Service
Speaking of his work, Christopher highlighted that those who are interested and committed to serve Singaporeans should consider a career in the public service.
He directed his advice to students “on the fence” amidst such uncertain times: “COVID-19 has changed the fundamentals of the society, economy and government. I believe the coming years will be exciting, as the public service values new ideas and fresh perspectives.”
“I believe prospective applicants can look forward to playing a part in transforming Singapore for the next era.”