TALK IS CHEAP

Facebook has signed up Singapore’s entire civil service to its Workplace chat platform

Obsession
Messaging
Obsession
Messaging

Facebook’s Workplace chat platform for businesses just got a huge boost.

Singapore’s civil service is adopting the platform for all 143,000 of its public servants by March 2017. It’s the first civil service in the world to use Facebook’s business-focused chat platform, according to Peter Ong, the head of Singapore’s civil service.

To get an idea of how big this is, if Singapore’s entire civil service indeed starts using Workplace, it would represent about 11% of Slack’s paid user base. That’s rapid progress for Facebook’s product that was just launched a month ago.

Workplace charges $1 per user per month for groups larger than 10,000 people, which suggests $1.7 million in revenue for Facebook each year from the Singapore deal. What’s more, the city-state’s civil service grows at a rate of 2.5% annually, according to the government, which means an additional 2,860 accounts per year for Workplace.

Ong said in a speech at an awards ceremony that 5,300 civil servants already use Facebook’s messaging app as part of its first phase of adoption, which started in October. The platform is apparently a hit: Some 82% of civil servants who activated their accounts are active weekly users, Ong said. The number of emails has gone down—replaced by Workplace posts—and there is an “explosion of activity” as workers collaborate more actively than before, he said.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing,” Ong noted, “that 143,000 people can form sub-groups, go onto one, whole-of-government platform to share ideas, collaborate, and find out about one another?”

Singapore’s civil service is in the midst of another sweeping technology change: it’s removing internet access from workers’ computers to reduce hacking risks. Over 100,000 computers used by the civil service will not have direct internet access by next May. It’s unclear, then, whether Workplace will be accessed solely on workers’ mobile devices, which are allowed to connect to the internet. We’ve asked the civil service to clarify this point.

The work-messaging scene is hot right now. Microsoft entered the market with its Teams product earlier this month, and Slack duly played the role of the rebellious upstart by taunting it with a full-page ad in the New York Times.

Nabbing Singapore’s government as a Workplace customer is a coup for Facebook, and it puts Microsoft, with its prowess in selling enterprise software to governments and corporations, on notice. And Slack, which first made enterprise chat cool, certainly has its work cut out for it.

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