Singapore built its COVID-19 vaccination app in 14 days. Here’s how they did it.


How do you design a system capable of supporting a nationwide vaccination programme?

Solution? Cue the best team from Open Government Products (OGP); an experimental unit from GovTech akin to the Navy Seals of Singapore tech.

The catch? They had to do it in two weeks!

Source: OGP

Last Friday, we had the privilege of attending a sharing session from the team that created Singapore’s Covid-19 Vaccination Booking System. Read on below to find out the nuggets of information from the talk!

The team from OGP needed a quick and efficient way for people in Singapore to access Covid-19 vaccinations. The overarching goal shared during the session was for Singapore to achieve Herd Immunity by vaccinating at least 80% of its population.

This meant that OGP had 2 weeks to create a system reliable enough to vaccinate 10 million people!

Source: Giphy

A few problems come to mind when you’re tasked with such a project. How do you start and how do you keep the system running smoothly?

Creating Singapore’s Covid-19 Vaccination System

Firstly, they had to have a clear set of objectives for the project. This ensured that they focused on what was ‘necessary’ and not on what was ‘nice to have’ given the time crunch.

Project objectives:

  1. Get people vaccinated safely
  2. Minimize wasting vaccines given limited supply
  3. Prioritize those most at risk
  4. Ensure smooth traffic at clinics and avoid crowd chokes

Site Visits

As a team, they visited all the clinics, hospitals, and vaccination centres in Singapore to seek out the on-ground requirements. Once they had a clear understanding of the on-ground processes, they moved on to the ideation phase.

Ideation & Collaborative spirit

We think that one of the main reasons for success was that the OGP team collaborated and worked efficiently on the project as a unit. Christabel mentioned that they ideated and mapped out the flow of the system together. 

The designers collaborated closely with engineers to plan out the overview of the project and what the interface would look like before executing the UI. This ensured that everyone was in sync with every step of the process for quick implementation.

One of the key factors in the success of this project boils down to the team culture within OGP itself. Here are some of the best practices when building an engineering culture within an organization!

System Design

Throughout the presentation, a common theme was the need to build the MVP, aka Minimum Viable Product; getting a system out with basic features that gets the job done.

To do this, they started with the high level system design and broke down the process into different parts, ensuring that they addressed only the basic requirements of each part and nothing more given the tight deadline.

Source: OGP

Waterfall vs Agile

Traditionally, working in the Government would mean that the development process would adopt a Waterfall approach; a top down, step-by-step approach that meant working in silos with heavy documentation and planning. But this approach simply didn't make sense for this project. 

The OGP team opted for an Agile development approach with a Lean UX, which enabled them to have all hands on deck and focus on collaboration, allowing for faster iterations while ensuring a seamless user experience when booking for vaccinations.

Source: LambdaTest

Modular Design

At the peak of the project, Jean noted that they had 7-8 engineers working on the project with 6 main systems needing to be built.

Source: OGP

A modular systems approach was used because they anticipated that each of the systems would have varying amounts of traffic depending on the circumstances.

For example, the Forms site will get a spike in traffic whenever an announcement is made to encourage people to to get vaccinated. This approach also ensures that different engineers are made accountable for each system, which means less conflict and faster development.

Jean mentioned that they went against the natural instinct of an engineer which was to automate everything as they needed to be fluid given the changing requirements. An important point to note was that users sometimes do not use the system as it was intended to be used, and they had to run daily scripts to solve these inconsistencies.

To save time, OGP repurposed existing designs and built their iteration of it so that they wouldn't be subjected to limitations from other systems.

Tech savvy vs Non-Tech savvy users

When your target audience is literally the whole country, it means that you have to account for the non-tech savvy portion of the population which consists mainly of seniors. 

To do this, the team visited community centres and got the help of volunteers to help in going door-to-door and helping seniors to book their vaccination appointments.

At the community centres, they did usability testing with the seniors and observed how they were using the system.  

When working with such a diverse group of stakeholders, it was important to design a system that was user friendly and efficient at the same time.

Source: OGP

The results of their initiative? More than 50% of seniors booked their appointments online (kudos to those of us that helped our seniors book their appointments).

Reasons for success

While it definitely was a daunting task to create a system with such a broad target audience, we think that the team from OGP managed to pull this off because of these factors:

  • Collaboration
  • Breaking down the process into smaller steps
  • On-ground visits to understand how users were using the system
  • Adopting an agile approach to optimize for collaboration and speed
  • Focusing on the MVP

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