DIY – the solution to long queues - Alvinology

DIY – the solution to long queues

Do you remember the old office of the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) of Singapore? By “old”, I mean way before it was formed in 2003, when people who needed passports in the 1980s would go to the passport office located in Joo Chiat Complex and queue for a good part of the day just to submit an application or make a collection.

Joo Chiat Complex back in 1985. (Credit: National Archives of Singapore)
Joo Chiat Complex back in 1985. (Credit: National Archives of Singapore)

I do. (Now you know how old I am, haha.) As a little girl, having to apply for, or renew a passport, meant a half a day’s excursion to Joo Chiat. And then, when the family used the passports for the journey across the Causeway (and back), it meant more interminable queues at the checkpoints on both sides of the border.

How things have changed today.

ICA Building in Kallang Road. (Credit:
ICA Building in Kallang Road. (Credit:

Before setting off on a recent holiday to Japan, I received two notifications from ICA, about two soon-to-expire passports – my son’s and my own. Would we be able to submit our passport applications and collect the new ones in time? I needn’t have worried. With the help of a nifty app called “IC Photo” (download it!!), I could take a selfie which qualified as a proper passport photo, submit the applications online, and the passports were done in three working days!

Collection was hassle-free, even if I had to go down to the ICA building in Lavender personally with Asher and his birth certificate. Thanks to a fantastic automated system in place, I could make an appointment for collection and didn’t even need to queue at ICA. A friend marvelled at ICA’s efficiency as well – she managed to collect her son’s passport before reporting for work and was even 10 minutes early.

This is undoubtedly one of the best examples of Singapore’s efforts at employing DIY systems to increase productivity and efficiency. Today, at checkpoints, which the Alvinology Media LLP team frequents as we often need to travel for work, the automated gantries for Singapore passport holders ensure that crossing borders is a breeze.

It’s not just ICA that’s revolutionary. At Golden Village cinemas, innovations like Quick Tix allow you to check into the auditorium by just scanning a QR code on your smartphone, without a physical ticket. At many FairPrice, Cold Storage and Giant supermarket outlets, self-checkout counters help beat traditional queues. And more and more food centres have tray return collection points, where patrons can help make things easier for cleaners by returning their used crockery and utensils.

Embracing DIY is the way to go, apparently, and we can’t wait to see the whole of Singapore eventually embrace this culture.


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