GovTech clarifies govt no longer pursuing petition platform idea from hackathon

It also said that while the Government seeks out views and concerns of citizens, they do not make decisions on the basis of petitions.

Belmont Lay | May 05, 2022, 02:50 PM

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Editor's note, May 5, 5:55pm: This article has been updated to include the latest response from GovTech.

The Singapore government is no longer testing PetitionsSG, a new platform to formalise the process of petitioning here, where petitions will be submitted to the relevant ministries for review once they attract 10,000 signatures.

The Straits Times reported that the prototype of PetitionSG has been up and running since January 2022.

Petitions could reportedly be put up but none will be sent to the government at the moment as the website is undergoing testing.

A spokesperson for the platform's developer, Open Government Products, which is within GovTech, told ST that PetitionsSG was created by a five-person team to empower citizens to push for change and to connect sentiments on the ground to ministries.

However, it has never been made available for public use.

The platform has since been disabled.

A GovTech spokesperson told "PetitionsSG was an exploratory prototype created during Open Government Products’ annual Hack for Public Good as part of an ideation process. It has never been live."

"The website quoted in the article was built for internal user testing during the hackathon, but has not accepted any live petitions or signatures."

"The government actively seeks out views and concerns of citizens through various channels but we do not make decisions on the basis of petitions. The team has decided to no longer pursue the idea."

How to start a petition on PetitionSG

The prototype for PetitionSG was publicly accessible but has been taken down.

For a petition to be published on the site, it must be endorsed by three other people after it is started.

Sign in using Singpass

The petitioner and the three endorsers must submit their names to ensure accountability and transparency, the website stated.

Users log into the platform to sign petitions using their Singpass accounts to ensure the legitimacy of opinions and to prevent trolling.

However, data such as a user's NRIC number or address will not be stored.

Users who choose to sign anonymously will not have their names recorded by the platform.

Ministry to respond to petitions

A petition that is published will be open for the public to read and sign.

Those who sign the petition can do so publicly or anonymously.

And if it receives 10,000 signatures within 180 days, the plan was for it to be submitted to the ministry that oversees the issue.

The ministry will have 90 days to respond.

Petitions that fail to reach 10,000 signatures within 180 days, as well as those that are rejected because they received significant reports against them, for example, will be archived and made available for public discourse.

Anonymity assured

The website previously stated: "PetitionsSG offers the option to sign a petition anonymously, because we understand public civic participation in Singapore on certain topics could come with some social stigma attached."

It added that "significant protections for anonymity on PetitionsSG" have been put in place, "even in the event of a complete data breach of the platform".

Government cannot identify user who signed petition anonymously

PetitionSG had also assured users of the platform that the government is unable to identify a user who has signed a petition anonymously.

The platform was created as part of the Open Government Products' annual Hack for Public Good 2022 initiative.

No petitions existed on the platform for the public to sign when the site was still up.

Other countries' petition system

Similar petition systems have been in place in other countries with slightly lower barriers to entry in their creation and endorsement.

In the UK, a petitioning platform was started in 2015.

To create a petition, users must be a UK citizen or resident, with five supporters providing their e-mail addresses.

Petitions that reach 10,000 signatures will receive a response from the government.

Those with 100,000 signatures will be considered for debate in Parliament.

So far, 657 petitions have been responded to and 126 have been debated in the UK's House of Commons.

In Canada, petitions that receive 500 signatures are presented to the House of Commons.

Top photo via PetitionSG