Did MOM just think people should work for free?!

TL;DR – It’s a partnership, not a contract for work apparently. 

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We saw something rather alarming on MOM’s website. Apparently, MOM wants companies to work for free. It came in the form of a “Call for partners to develop a mobile app for foreign workers”. Why does MOM want to look for partners to develop an app for foreign workers?

These are MOM’s objectives:

“The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has been reaching out to foreign workers (FWs) and educating them on their employment rights and responsibilities, as well as social norms in Singapore through roadshows, newsletters and posters.

As a large number of FWs have smartphones, developing a mobile app strategy will provide us with a more direct channel to engage and disseminate important and up-to-date information to workers.”

And, presumably, MOM doesn’t have the expertise to develop this app themselves and thus the need for partners. The document highlighted that “all funding necessary for the mobile application will be borne by the partner”. That partner is also responsible for operating, maintaining and marketing the app to the foreign workers.

On first reading, one would be forgiven for thinking that MOM expected that there are companies who would be willing to do MOM’s work for free.

That being said…

MOM have clarified that whoever develops the app still owns the app. They said:

“Partners would have full flexibility to continue to provide a suite of other services, including retail services, advertorials and promotions, that can be monetised. In addition, the rights, as well as Foreground and Background IP of the mobile app, continue to be owned by the partners, not by MOM.”

MOM just requires the developer to publish MOM’s content. The partners can do anything else with that app. It is, after all, theirs. So, if the partners can develop an app that provides content and services that foreign workers are willing to pay for, the partners could possibly find a viable way to monetise the app. In other words, for the partners, the resources they invest into developing the app could potentially yield a healthy return.

Is there sufficient market potential to make this a viable venture for potential partners? Perhaps. According to the survey MOM attached to their document, there are more than 770,000 foreign workers. The mobile penetration amongst these foreign workers is high. More importantly, usage is increasing. As such, there is perhaps a potential source of revenue.

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Even then, why partner MOM?

If there is indeed such a huge market potential, then entrepreneurs would definitely move into that space on their own, right? Why would they want to partner MOM? How will they benefit from the partnership with MOM?

There are two things MOM could provide that might be of value to their potential partners.

Firstly, MOM can provide publicity platforms for the partners to promote the mobile application to foreign workers. Secondly, MOM will also share valuable findings from an in-depth study conducted with foreign workers on their experiences working and living in Singapore. This includes their feedback on a mobile app prototype, from which partners can glean design principles and preferences.

Are these two things enough to attract companies to want to partner with MOM?

Apparently so.

MOM has already signed memoranda of understanding with two partners in June.

Could things have been better?

Notwithstanding that, MOM’s document reeks of bureaucracy. It was centred on MOM and what they want to achieve. It was short on what’s in it for the partners. It should have started out stating the market potential. It could have talked about some of the services that the foreign workers are looking for in a mobile app.

But MOM’s document did none of that. Instead, it was all about MOM – what they want to achieve, what they required of the app, pushing their content, etc. Worse, the document came across as if MOM is asking companies to do its work for free.

Could it really be a win-win partnership? Maybe.

Could MOM make that partnership clearer, and better? Definitely.



Author: CRC

Working on a startup is a scary crazy process. To destress, I write random stuff.


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