Meet Bill Bannear: Our new Singapore General Manager
Bill Bannear has built an impressive record, working with governments in Australia and around the world to improve the lives of people using principles of human-centred design.
But he’s always had Singapore in his blood.
Now, as the newly-appointed head of ThinkPlace’s Singapore design studio, Bannear arrives with a head full of family history but with both eyes firmly on the future.
Bannear’s grandfather Henry Wardlaw played a key role in the design of modern Singapore. A brilliant urban planner, he was Project Director of the first Singapore Concept Plan from 1967 to 1971.
The Concept Plan was the blueprint for the structure of modern Singapore; a network of roads, infrastructure, public spaces and gardens that is regarded as a planning triumph and a model for the thriving, modern Asian city.
Almost 50 years later, Singapore is changing again. And ThinkPlace is excited to be in the middle of this transformation.
‘’To be taking on this challenge is so exciting for me,” Bannear says. “Whether it’s digital transformation, designing the smart city, or improving government policies and services, there is so much enthusiasm for innovation in this place.”
This new change also involves a bold plan. The Singapore Government recently announced its Digital Government Blueprint. It’s a document that carries an ambitious goal: that up to 95 per cent of all government transactions and services will be fully digital by 2023.
Bannear is arriving at the right time. A career public servant before joining ThinkPlace four years ago, he is committed to reshaping how government organisations work and deliver services. He has led major organisational design projects with prominent government agencies in Australia, introducing agile, collaborative ways of working, empowered by new technology and culture.
“I’m passionate about helping clients to apply a digital mindset and collaborative culture to allow their organisations to transform for the future,” he says. Bill has worked closely with ThinkPlace’s digital specialists and technology partners to realise the benefits of technology.
“As strategic designers we can envision new blueprints for working and service delivery, and collaborate to get it made – combining technology, space, culture, process, governance and training to drive true change.
Digital transformation is not just about getting the technical solution right. It’s about people. It requires leaders to drive the process, and sophisticated codesign with stakeholders. We can help coach them through that.”
The Digital Blueprint will require extensive training in skills such as data science and visualisation for 20,000 Singaporean civil servants as it digitises many of the processes of daily interaction between citizens and government services.
ThinkPlace has driven similar transformations in Australia, including taking the lead in designing a landmark national system for digital health records.
Bannear takes over from Erin McAuliffe – ThinkPlace’s founding studio lead in Singapore. Under McAuliffe’s stewardship, the studio has built an enduring presence and reputation for working with government to improve services through design.
Bannear says the challenges now are very different from those his grandfather faced. An impressive modern city has been constructed. And a dynamic economy has been built, offering opportunity and prosperity for many.
“I think Singapore is fascinating,” he says. “It is pushing up against what it means to be a city in the 21st century. In that way – as much of the world turns to discussing a smart cities agenda - Singapore is ahead of the curve.”
But Singapore is also doing something else, which goes beyond buildings and infrastructure.
“The government is showing a real desire to look at things more broadly. To be more than just a strong economy. To look at social questions and social effects. What is Singapore like for the people who live, work and visit here? And how can their lives be made better?”
Bannear brings both depth and breadth when it comes to these public policy challenges, with experience ranging from economic development, regulation and law enforcement, cyber security, environmental management and smart cities policy. It's this diversity of expertise that helps him take on the challenge of designing for complex public systems, with stakeholders from across government, industry and civil society.
"I'm excited about what's possible in Singapore, with its commitment to excellence and innovation. And as a human-centred designer, I'm looking forward to getting to know the different people that make up Singapore, and their lives.
The ThinkPlace team here in Singapore is part of a growing network of global studios. We will not just be drawing on international experience and expertise, but contributing to it, too."