Singapore’s Internet cutoff (and the resounding silence from the industry)
By Benjamin Cher June 16, 2016
- Singapore to cut off Internet access to all public servants’ computers
- Reaction from industry and mobility advocates strangely muted
THE Singapore blogosphere went wild last week after the Straits Times reported on a government memo announcing it was cutting off Internet access from all public servants’ computers beginning in May next year, citing security and data confidentiality concerns.
The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) released an infographic to defuse some of the more alarmist reactions, but the question still remains: Is cutting off the Internet a feasible measure in today’s hyper-connected world?
In response to Digital News Asia (DNA) queries, the IDA issued the statement below.
“There will be a one-year transition for public agencies to adjust to the new workflow and co-create alternative solutions,” said its managing director Jacqueline Poh.
“During the transition, IDA will collaborate with various agencies to conduct workshops, elicit feedback, and share work experiences with public officers.
“Besides the currently available collaboration tools and alternatives such as Internet computers provided by agencies and WiFi, IDA will also assist agencies to facilitate discussions on additional resources that are required for public officers to continue to work productively,” she added.
Still, the move seems counterproductive to the island-republic’s Smart Nation initiative, in which connectivity is key.
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Singapore is the hub for many tech multinationals’ regional operations, most of which have expressed excitement over the promise and potential of the Smart Nation. With most also having actively advocated greater connectivity and engagement, the reaction to the Singapore Government’s seemingly archaic move has been strangely muted.
DNA reached out to a number of technology companies which have been advocating mobility and connectivity as part of the digital workplace. Most hunkered down into ‘the better part of valour’ mode.
Network vendor Cisco Systems Inc and virtualised workspace provider Citrix Systems Inc declined to comment, despite their strong advocacy for mobility.
Enterprise storage vendor EMC Corp was unable to comment because its spokesperson was travelling and thus unavailable (mobility, anyone?).
Others, however, had a thing or two to say, even as they tread carefully.
Communication technology vendor Avaya Inc noted that there was technology that can secure online communications.
“In today’s highly connected digital era, total engagement throughout any organisation is a business imperative,” its Asean managing director Richard Spence told DNA via email.
“To remain competitive and responsive to customers, people and teams need to communicate with enough contextual knowledge to make decisions in real time.
“Avaya advocates breaking down communication silos that hinder organisations from acting in the best interests of their customers and the organisations themselves. This includes communication barriers – internal as well as external.
“That said, we also advocate doing so in the most secure possible way, by harnessing advances already available to organisations today,” he added.
Enterprise resource planning vendor SAP SE appeared to concur with the Singapore Government’s move, citing the availability of personal devices for Internet access, and also debunked one major misconception.
“In a nation with more mobile phones than people, most workers in Singapore have smartphones and the mobile Internet,” SAP Singapore managing director Darren Rushworth (pic) said via email.
“In fact, according to the Google Consumer Barometer 2015 report, the average Singaporean has at least 3.3 connected devices – one of the highest rates in the world – so they’ll remain connected throughout the day via their personal devices.
“In addition, the Government also stated that there would be dedicated Internet terminals. As such, this really isn’t ‘cutting off’ Internet access, but rather, the segregation of secure systems from activities like browsing,” he noted.
As for productivity gains or losses, SAP had a mixed view.
“Some functions will need the Internet more than others, so the productivity impact will be role-dependent,” said Rushworth.
“Productivity might improve for roles that do not require the Web as this allows them to be more focused on their work.
“The use of intranet email can also continue to exist, facilitating communications between employees,” he added.
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