INTERNET AND COMMUNICATIONS IN SINGAPORE

INTERNET IN SINGAPORE

The Singapore government has pushed the economic possibilities offered by the Internet while it has tried to restrict the political opportunities offered by it. Internet users: 3.235 million (2009), country comparison to the world: 65. Internet hosts: 1.96 million (2012), country comparison to the world: 39. Internet country code: .sg. [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Singapore came along way very quickly in the Internet world. In 1995 it had licensed only two providers while Hong Kong had 16. By 1998, all secondary and primarily students had access to the Internet. By the early 2000s, nearly all citizens had access to high-speed Internet. Proportion of the population that used the Internet in 2001: 45 percent, compared to 59 percent in the United States and 0.1 percent in Nigeria.

Surveys have found that Singaporean women use the Internet almost as much as men. Singapore’s Minister State for Home Affairs warned that addiction to the Internet was a serious problem in Singapore. “Behavioral addictions like Internet addiction can destroy the user’s health, relationships, happiness, and ultimately, his spirit,” he said.

Mark Jacobson wrote in National Geographic, The great engine of cultural change, of course, is the Internet, that cyber fly in the authoritarian ointment. Lee acknowledges the threat. "We banned Playboy in the sixties, and it is still banned, that's true, but now, with the Internet, you get much more than you ever could from Playboy." Allowing pornography sites while banning magazines may seem contradictory. But attempting to censor the Internet, as has been tried in China, would be pointless, Lee says. It is an exquisitely pragmatic reply. [Source: Mark Jacobson, National Geographic, January 2010 /+\]

And so bloggers, like the satirist Mr. Brown and the urbanely pugnacious Yawning Bread, are free to broadcast opinions unlikely to be found in the pages of the government-linked Straits Times. As a result, more and more young people are questioning the trade-off between freedom and security—and even calling for freer politics and fewer social controls.” In August 2009, “a wide-ranging speech by new NMP Viswa Sadasivan created a lot of buzz on the blogosphere: "I do lament our lack of freedom to express ourselves, and the government's seemingly unmitigated grip on power and what appears to be an inconsistent willingness to listen to public sentiment that does not suit it," Viswa said before parliament. "Accountability requires the government to go beyond lip-service in addressing the call for greater democracy?… If not, people are likely to feel increasingly alienated." /+\

Computers in Singapore

In the 1990s Singapore was regarded as the second most computer literate society in Asia after Japan. According to data by the International Data Corporation from 1999 Singapore ranked No. 1 in the use of computers and the Internet and No. 4 in overall information technology. Singapore has held Miss Internet Singapore beauty pageants.

As of 1999, Internet technology spending was $623 per person and 2.2 percent of GDP. E-Business Readiness Ranking (The Economist Intelligence Unit 2000): 1) the United States; 2) Sweden; 3) Finland; 4) Norway; 5) the Netherlands; 6) Britain; 7) Canada; 8) Singapore; 9) Hong Kong; 10) Switzerland.

In the mid 1990s, the Tradenet approach was adopted for a nationwide network in a plan called IT2000. It envisioned a cyberport in every home and computers and the Internet used for a wide variety of things. In the late 1990s, Singapore introduced an ambitious Electronic Commerce masterplan (ECM) to stimulate e-commerce and make Singapore a major e-business hub. Among its aims were to develop an internationally-linked e-commerce infrastructure, creating business-friendly cross border e-business laws and encouraging businesses it use e-commerce.

Broad Ban and Smart Singapore

In 2004, 99 percent of the households in Singapore had access to broadband infrastructure and Singapore had broadband penetration of 40 percent, one of the world’s highest rates. ONE (One Network for Everyone) was a project that linked all schools, households and offices to high-speed, fiber optic Internet lines that were 1,000 time faster than conventional telephone lines. The project cost hundreds of millions of dollars and brought broad band service to virtually everyone.

In Singapore you can obtain a fully wired house that allows you turn on the microwave, start air conditioners, stereos, televisions and other appliances using the Internet from anywhere in the world. Such houses also have touch screens in every room which allows they operate the same appliances as well as send messages to stores that they need something such as milk or noodles and this items will be delivered to them.

A study in September 2004 found that Singapore leads the United States in providing government services online. Among other things the government offers online are listings of civil service jobs, online vehicle registration; will registry, which allows citizens to check if their relatives or friends left them any money. The government also runs sites that can help people get a new phone, check their pension balance, apply for a scholarship, or buy a house, and register a birth.

Singapore Wired for Speed

in 2010, Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop wrote in the New York Times, “Thanks to its small size and a big public investment, Singapore could soon be the first country blanketed with a fiber optic infrastructure so fast that it would enable the contents of a DVD to be downloaded in only a few seconds. The new network is expected to give a strong boost to the growth of services like online video and Internet telephony. Pyramid Research, which analyzes the telecommunications business, expects the revenue of Singapore telecommunication operators to rise to $5.1 billion by 2014 from $3.8 billion in 2009. [Source: Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, New York Times, June 14, 2010 *~*]

“The new network, stimulated by an investment of 1 billion Singapore dollars, or about $700 million, from the government, will help the country leap ahead in an international race to roll out faster broadband speeds, a competition in which several Asian countries are in leading positions. While policy makers in many places are still debating their high-speed broadband strategies, considering, for example, whether development should be led by the public or private sector, broadband users in some parts of Asia already have access to the next generation of high-speed networks. *~*

“Japan and Hong Kong have been leading the way, with private companies already offering speeds as high as one gigabit per second, or 1,000 megabits per second— many times as fast as the 35 megabits per second required for streaming high-definition video. But these networks do not cover every home. South Korea, one of the world’s most wired places, has also announced plans to complete a new broadband network offering one gigabit per second in all major cities by 2013. *~*

“For the development of its network, Singapore is relying on a mixture of public subsidies and private-sector participation and separating three main functions: the building of the infrastructure, the operation of the network and the provision of retail services. OpenNet, the infrastructure builder is owned by a consortium formed by Axia of Canada and three Singaporean companies ‹ SingTel, Singapore Press Holdings and SP Telecommunications ‹ using existing parts of SingTel’s network. As part of the agreement, SingTel has agreed to transfer certain infrastructure assets to a separate entity, owned by SingTel, by 2011. It has agreed to reduce its stake in that entity to less than 25 percent by April 2014. *~*

“The infrastructure operator, which received a grant of 750 million Singapore dollars from the government, is required to have the new network operating in Singapore by the end of 2012. So far, it has laid fiber optic connections to about 30 percent of all the buildings; it is aiming for 60 percent coverage by the end of this year. Khoong Hock Yun, an official in the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, said the government had seen an opportunity to introduce a next-generation fixed-line network, as well as to restructure its telecommunications sector. *~*

“If you look at history across many developed countries, after years of liberalizing their telecom sector, the essential part of their fixed-line network is still owned substantially by the incumbent,” he said, referring to former monopoly providers like SingTel. “Those who have the physical infrastructure have a huge competitive advantage, and every service company remains dependent on the incumbent for their fixed line network needs. “As a result, much of the pace of development, in terms of pricing and services offered, really depends on the investment decision of that incumbent and whether they want to partner with other people to create solutions they may not be prepared to offer at that point in time themselves. By separating the infrastructure building from the running of the network, the authority believes it can create a more competitive environment with more effective open access to downstream operators, Mr. Khoong said. *~*

“The Singaporean model draws its inspiration from several community broadband networks that can be found at the local level in countries like Britain, France, the Netherlands and Sweden. “We noticed that in many of these cities that had rolled out their own network and made it open access, they had a huge growth in telecom service providers at the retail level,” Mr. Khoong said. “For small communities you have 20 to 30 retail service providers. This creates real competition.” Nucleus Connect, which will operate the network, has announced monthly wholesale prices starting at 21 Singapore dollars for speeds of 100 megabits per second for residential connections, and Malcolm Rodrigues, general manager of commercial services at the company, said about 90 companies had expressed interest in providing a retail service. He expects about 12 companies to sign up for the services. *~*

“But analysts and market observers doubt whether new competition will really develop within the Singapore context, and whether prices of bandwidth for consumers will go down significantly for consumers as a result. Consumers now pay about 40 Singapore dollars per month for broadband access of six megabits per second, which is relatively high compared with Hong Kong, where some consumers pay about 200 Hong Kong dollars, or about 36 Singapore dollars, a month for service of one gigabit per second. “I don’t think it’s going to introduce new competition, at least in terms of delivering the basic service,” said Bryan Wang, an analyst at Springboard Research. “It’s a very small market. It’s still going to be the same game between the main three current players ‹ SingTel, StarHub and Referred,” He said retail service providers who were unable to offer the bundling of other services like television, mobile or fixed-line phone services, would have an uphill struggle to offer lower prices. “There is a very limited room for new players,” Mr. Wang said. “It’s very likely the fixed broadband business will only attract those customers that need the bandwidth. A lot of consumers don’t need one Gbps, especially when you’re getting cheaper wireless broadband access.” *~*

Undesirable Social Impacts of the Internet in Singapore

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “Tech-savvy youths, particularly women, are creating ripples by airing in public their sexual escapades in a blatant way that was unimaginable a few years ago. It shows how this much the social mores of this once tightly controlled city, among the world’s most Internet-wired, have changed under global influences. To traditionalists, the transformation is an unwelcome trend that requires closer supervision of their children, but to the liberal minded, it makes life a lot less boring. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, December 13, 2008 |~|]

“Browse the chat-sites, the meeting place of the young – and you could read accounts of one-night stands and workplace adultery; one can also watch videos of smooching students in trains or in the parks captured and posted by passers-by. In recent weeks, several postings provoked public repercussions: a school teacher creates a furore among parents when she posed online in a G-string; a nurse talks of her sexual encounters in a government hospital (including the operating theatre) and poses semi-nude in Friendster; a young gay youth does a striptease dance, defends himself in a blog and talks of his problems as a homosexual. These may be normal happenings in cities like Los Angeles or Tokyo – but this is Singapore, which not too long ago had banned bar-top dancing and chewing gum. Yesterday, I read about 20-year-old Marienne expressing hurt because her boyfriend dumped her after finding out she was HIV-positive. She had hated using the condom “because it spoilt the mood”. She had to tell her six previous boyfriends to undergo HIV tests. There are, of course, many Mariennes in Singapore 2008. |~|

“Other recent promiscuous tales that caused dismay in this still largely conservative city: 1) A college gay student performed a seductive striptease dance in an annual dance contest, which was uploaded on YouTube and raised harsh pubic criticisms. He defended himself by appealing for people to accept homosexuals. 2) A nurse writes on her sexual escapades in a public hospital, once in the operating theatre, and posts semi-clad for pictures on Friendster. Irked Singaporeans question her work ethics and call on the Health Ministry to take action. 3) A primary school teacher posts photos of herself in a G-string and tattoos. Parents want her removed for being “a bad influence” on students, but her defenders say that she is entitled to her own life outside work. 4) “Representing the views of a segment of today’s better educated ladies is a 22-year-old girl, who wrote in Stomp, Asia One’s social network: “As for me I like doing new fun things all the time. I’ll go if you invite me to another country!” |~|

“There is a growing backlash to this behaviour. An elderly women allegedly muttered “prostitute” at a mini-skirted lady for what she considered unseemly dressing, provoking a violent reaction. Both were filmed fighting in a train. Blogger Jerrie says there has been a moral erosion of young women here. Some as young as 14 or 15 are preoccupied only with partying and looking good, which means wearing as little as possible. |~|

Online Bullying in Singapore

In 2008, The Strait Times reported: “Another worrying trend is cyber bullying among girls, abetted by the Internet and mobile phones today. Many hide behind computer screens to bully their victims, instead of confronting them in person. On blogs, they abuse their victims using expletives, deface their pictures and spread vicious rumours about them. Since polytechnic student Esther Chia, 18, set up a blog documenting her daily life last May, she has seen mocking photographs of a boy imitating her 'doe-eyed innocent look'. Others have left jeers like 'you are ugly' and 'you suck' on her blog. 'When I have had a hard day, seeing such comments when I get home makes me feel worse,' says the teen who receives about 3,000 hits on her blog daily and is now hardened to the routine abuse. [Source: Joan Chew, Chia Mei Liang, He Xingying and Ong Dai, The Straits Times, March 22, 2008 ==]

“According to Ms Esther Ng, who founded Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youths in 2005 to stamp out such behaviour, female cyber bullies choose to assault others online because they can stay comfortably anonymous. 'The Internet is one of the simplest tools to use. It is easily available and the bully doesn't have to face the victim. It also spreads faster and the bullies think they will not get caught,' she adds. Increasingly too, girls are using their cellphones to record acts of bullying and aggression. They then post the video clips on free video-sharing websites like YouTube to humiliate their victims. For extra bragging rights, they also circulate the clips among their friends using Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) or Bluetooth technology. ==

“A widely circulated and disturbing four-minute video posted online was brought up in Parliament in January by Jalan Besar GRC MP Lily Neo. It showed four girls laughing gleefully as they punched, slapped and stripped their 13-year-old victim at an HDB staircase landing. They stopped only when onlookers gathered. The victim hung her head in shame throughout. But like many other bullying clips posted online, it spread like wildfire. Ms Ng observes: 'There are schools where almost everybody has seen the video.' Singapore has gradually moved up human resources firm Mercer's global rankings of the world's most expensive cities, moving to sixth place in 2012 from eighth in 2011 and eleventh in 2010. ==

Online Racial and Religious Taunting in Singapore

In November 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported: “Singapore prides itself as being a harmonious multiracial metropolis, but a spate of controversial Internet postings hints at simmering tensions beneath its rosy façade. Police are currently investigating three offensive Facebook posts, all of which are directed against the island nation’s minority Malay Muslim community. The complaints have stirred public hand-wringing on the character of racial and religious relations in the city-state. [Source: Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2011 >>>]

“The former UK (British) colony, home to a broad historical migrant mix mainly from China, the Malay archipelago and India, retains bitter memories of racial turmoil in 1950s and ’60s, when deadly riots contributed to Singapore’s exit from Muslim-majority Malaysia in 1965 to become an independent state. Its current resident population of 3.79 million citizens and permanent residents is about 74 percent ethnic Chinese, 13 percent Malay and 9 percent Indian. >>>

“While no major ethnic violence has occurred here since 1969, discord has surfaced intermittently. Some incidents have even drawn the use of colonial-era anti-sedition laws, most recently in 2009, when a couple was jailed for eight weeks for distributing Christian tracts that portrayed the Prophet Mohammed negatively to a number of Muslim Singaporeans. Singapore law broadly defines sedition as acts agitating against the government and the administration of justice, fostering discontent among citizens, and promoting hostility between ethnic groups. Formal charges have yet to be brought in the latest complaints, which aren’t the first allegations leveled against offensive online postings. Nonetheless they have drawn attention to official policy on race and religious relations, and the travails of policing a fast-evolving social media landscape. >>>

“The first involved Jason Neo, a 30-year-old member of the ruling People’s Action Party’s youth wing, who posted on Facebook a photograph of Malay Muslim schoolchildren captioned: “Bus filled with young terrorist trainees?” The second involved a conscript in Singapore’s military, Christian Eliab Ratnam, who posted on Facebook an image criticizing Islam, including claims that it is an “authoritarian, political doctrine.” Blogger Donaldson Tan, 28, became subject to police inquiries last week after re-posting an image of a pig — pork is taboo in Islam — superimposed on the Kaaba, a sacred Islamic building in Mecca, prompting even the Ministry of Home Affairs to release a rare statement on the issue. In a similar case early last year, two teenagers were detained and issued warnings for malicious remarks made against Indians on a Facebook group. >>>

On similar posting In 2012, Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “A senior executive of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Amy Cheong made a racially-insensitive rant on Facebook against Malays holding long, noisy weddings at public void decks. One posting was laden with expletives that have become all too familiar online these days. The Malaysian-born Australian was fired a day later as NTUC assistant director in the membership department despite her public apology. It drew criticism from ministers, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who called on Netizens to show respect to each other. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, November 3, 2012]

“The right to free speech does not extend to making remarks that incite racial and religious friction and conflict. The authorities take a very serious view of all instances of racial and religious incitement,” a government statement on the matter said. “The public should let the investigations take their course and refrain from adding comments that may further inflame the situation.” >>>

Mr. Neo, who posted the photograph in February before he joined the Young PAP, has since apologized and quit the party, while Mr Ratnam offered a mea culpa and has deactivated his Facebook account. Mr Tan, however, denied wrongdoing, saying he re-posted the image to warn against such deliberately provocative acts. >>>

But some observers argue social media had less to do with the latest incidents than the government’s own paternalistic and restrictive approach to race and religious relations. “The real reason true harmony in Singapore has remained superficial is because the state does not permit mature discourse to address the reality of racism, choosing instead avoidance of any remarks on race- and religion-related issues,” sociopolitical blog the Online Citizen said last week in an editorial. >>>

Michael Barr, an academic and Singapore expert at Australia’s Flinders University, said official policies like the establishment of Chinese schools and the focus on ethnicity in public administration have undermined the government’s genuine efforts to promote harmony. “Through ignorance and lack of interaction, many young people in the Chinese majority actually don’t know any non-Chinese…the only way that many of them know anything about Malays and Muslims is through what they read and hear – and it isn’t a pretty picture,” Mr Barr said. >>>

In 2012, Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, “A senior executive of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Amy Cheong made a racially-insensitive rant on Facebook against Malays holding long, noisy weddings at public void decks. One posting was laden with expletives that have become all too familiar online these days. The Malaysian-born Australian was fired a day later as NTUC assistant director in the membership department despite her public apology. It drew criticism from ministers, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who called on Netizens to show respect to each other. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, November 3, 2012 ==]

Government Control of the Internet in Singapore

Singapore has extended its strict libel and anti-pornography laws to the Internet. A special unit was set up to crack down on users who downloading pornographic material. The Internet is regualted through licensing and proxy servers. The “Internet Code of Practice” in the Singapore Broadcasting Authority Act was set up to ensure that “nothing is included in any broadcasting service which is against public interest or order, national harmony or which offends against good taste or decency.”

In the late 1990s the government claimed that fewer than 100 websites were blocked and most had a pornographic or violent content. At that time websites such as Playboy.com were blocked. When asked about censorship of the Internet, the Minister of Information and Arts told Time, "We refuse to accept in Singapore that the free flow of information means allowing an environment for crime, pornography and sleaze to flourish."

Government control has gone far beyond pornography. Government internal security officials have secretly inspected the computers of some users, in their search for hackers. Parliament has passed laws that 1) restrict websites that endorse opposition parties and 2) give the government the right to regulate sites that promote candidates during campaigns. The Link Cnter, a civil rights group, pulled a site that allowed users to debate political issues out of concern of breaking these laws.

In 2013, Reuters reported: “Singapore has long maintained strict controls on the media, saying that was necessary to maintain stability in a small, multi-racial country and that media must be held accountable for what they publish. In 2011, the city-state's tiny opposition made big gains against the long-ruling People's Action Party in parliamentary elections, partly by using the Internet to reach voters. A survey by the Straits Times newspaper shortly before the vote found 36.3 percent of people between the ages of 21 and 34 cited the Internet as their top source of domestic political news compared with 35.3 percent who preferred newspapers. [Source: Kevin Lim, Reuters. May 29, 2013

Seah Chiang Nee wrote in The Star, In 2012, “a study by independent Blackbox Research found that 48 percent of Singaporeans felt that news websites critical of the government should be allowed to continue operating. However, a third felt these alternate sites should be properly regulated alongside other news providers – while one percent felt they should be banned. Some 72 percent felt that people should be able to post material anonymously. [Source: Seah Chiang Nee, The Star, November 3, 2012 ==]

Alex Au wrote in Asia Times, amendments proposed in 2006 “would hold Internet users liable for statements the government deemed to "cause public mischief" or "wound racial feelings". If passed, the legislation would appear to institutionalize the ban on posting inflammatory political content the government enforced temporarily in the run-up to this year's polls and would give it broad new powers to curtail freedom of expression. [Source: Alex Au, Asia Times, November 23, 2006]

Despite all the talk about Internet controls, the online scene in Singapore is surprisingly feisty, political and varied. There are a number of chat lines and forums like talkingcock.com where users can voice their opinions. Controlling what is written in newspapers and shown on cable and network television is one thing but controlling the Internet is another matter. There are too many sites to monitor and many sites that have sex and nudity get through.

Singapore Regulates Yahoo, Other Online News Sites

In 2013, Reuters reported: “Websites that regularly report on Singapore including Yahoo News will have to get a license from June 1, putting them on par with newspapers and television news outlets, in a move seen by some as a bid to rein in free-wheeling Internet news. "Online news sites that report regularly on issues relating to Singapore and have significant reach among readers here will require an individual license," Singapore's Media Development Authority (MDA) said in a statement. "This will place them on a more consistent regulatory framework with traditional news platforms which are already individually licensed," the media regulator said. [Source: Kevin Lim, Reuters. May 29, 2013 ++]

“The MDA identified sg.news.yahoo.com, a service run by Internet giant Yahoo Inc, as among 10 sites that would be affected by the new requirement, based on criteria such as having 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore a month over a period of two months. Of the remaining nine sites, seven are run by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd, whose publications tend to maintain a pro-government stance. The other two are operated by state-owned broadcaster Mediacorp. Conditions for the sites that require individual licenses, which have to be reviewed annually, include a performance bond of S$50,000 (US$39,700) and a requirement that objectionable content be removed within 24 hours when directed by the MDA. ++

“The MDA said the new regulation did not apply to blogs, though adding: "If they take on the nature of news sites, we will take a closer look and evaluate them accordingly". The regulation drew criticism from some Internet users who saw it as an attempt to stifle online news not affiliated with the government. On state-owned Channel NewsAsia's Facebook page, a person named Jeremy Tan likened the development to what goes on in China or North Korea. "You can try to shut us up. We will find a way around it," another internet user, Sushikin Ky, said on the Facebook page.” ++

Singapore’s Colonial-era Sedition Law Used on Internet Racists

In 2005, Gillian Wong of Associated Press wrote: “A British colonial law which helped fight a communist insurgency is now being used to prosecute three ethnic Chinese accused of writing racist remarks about ethnic Malays on the Internet, as authorities attempt to crack down on racial intolerance and regulate online expression. Animal shelter worker Benjamin Koh Song Huat, 27, and Nicholas Lim Yew, an unemployed 25-year-old, will plead guilty Oct. 7 to sedition for racist remarks against the minority Malay community, their lawyers said. They face up to three years' in prison and a maximum fine of S$5000. [Source: Gillian Wong, Associated Press, October 1, 2005 <<<]

“Experts said the Sedition Act has not been used in Singapore since it broke off from Malaysia and became independent in 1965. But analysts say the government may be using the Act to raise the case's profile in an effort to stamp out racial intolerance in a country where social cohesion has been a chief concern since Chinese-Malay riots in the 1960s left scores dead. Lim posted disparaging comments about Malays and Islam on an Internet forum for dog lovers in a discussion about whether taxis should refuse to carry uncaged pets out of consideration for Muslims, whose religion considers dogs unclean. In his online journal, Koh advocated desecrating Islam's holy site of Mecca. <<<

“Lim and Koh are accused of committing acts "with a seditious tendency to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of the population of Singapore," according to court documents. Koh's lawyer Irving Choh said it was the first time that modern Singapore, which places tight control on expression, has used the Sedition Act. A spokesperson from the Attorney General's Chambers said it could not immediately verify when the act was last used. In a separate case, a 17-year-old student is due in court on Oct. 7 to face sedition charges for allegedly making racist comments about Malays on the Internet. <<<

“The Sedition Act was first introduced in Malaya, which later became known as Malaysia, by British colonialists for use against communist insurgents there in 1948, and incorporated into Singaporean law just ahead of independence, said Michael Hor, a law professor at the National University of Singapore. Analysts say Singapore's Sedition Act is broad in that it includes provisions against inciting hostility among races and classes. Hor said the government might not have used the Sedition Act in the past because it did not want trials to be used as platforms for promoting racist views. "There is also the risk of an acquittal which would have adverse repercussions in a matter as sensitive as this," Hor said. Singapore, which had been plagued by communist strikes in the 1940s, kept the law after independence because it was concerned with left-wing activists, Hor said. "Now, the Sedition Act is being used for something completely different." Singapore has previously used the Internal Security Act--another colonial-era law, but one which allows for detention without trial--to deal with people who made racist comments. In 1987, four ethnic Malays were arrested under the act for saying publicly that racial clashes were impending. <<<

“Censorship is usually handled by Singapore's regulatory Media Development Authority, or MDA, which requires web sites that discuss race, religion or domestic politics to be registered and imposes fines on site owners if it deems the content on their sites as "objectionable." "One possible reason why the Sedition Act is being used this time is that there may be a desire to have the spectacle of a trial, because it would be a more effective way of making an example of these guys than if it were left to the MDA to handle," said Mark Cenite, an American media law expert in Singapore. Cenite said even if the accused did not claim trial, as in the case of Koh and Lim, being arrested, charged and later sentenced in court would be enough to send a strong signal against racist expression. Singaporean authorities have said the Sedition Act--last revised in 1985--is under review to see if it should to be strengthened or amended in any way.” <<<

Fake Twitter Used in Singapore to Satirize Famous People and Organizations

In 2011, Nicholas Yong wrote in The Star, “Fake-PMLee, fakestomp, fakeMOE, therealfakeNTU – and the list goes on. These are the names of fake Twitter accounts which have sprung up to lampoon everything from SingTel to Singapore Press Holdings’ citizen journalism website stomp to this newspaper’s StraitsTimes.com The fake Twitter accounts are started by anonymous posters. And these fake 140-character-maximum missives have gained a sizeable following in Singapore. [Source: Nicholas Yong, The Star, March 13, 2011]

“FakeMOE has about 7,000 followers, while FakeSTcom, which claims to be “the nation’s trusted parody news source”, is followed by almost 2,000 people. But perhaps the most well-known faux tweeter here is Fake-PMLee, who has gained more than 10,000 followers for his daily tweets since starting the account last year. One fan is popular satirist Mr Brown, who follows the account “religiously”. “He is in a class of his own. It takes a lot of work to sustain a fake Twitter account and be consistently funny, as he needs to do it in his voice,” notes Mr Brown, whose real name is Lee Kin Mun.

“He adds that such accounts impersonating an organisation or a real person are really a backhanded compliment. “You have to be famous or prominent enough for followers to know what the fake tweet is talking about. “But on the other hand, it is not flattering when people make fun of you, so it all depends on how thin-skinned you are.” In response to queries about FakeSTcom, The Straits Times social media editor Ng Tze Yong says: “Satire can be a powerful communication tool, but there is satire that is just funny, and there is satire that’s both funny and insightful.

But what about the potential legal minefield? Lawyer Bryan Tan says: “Because the fake tweeters clearly indicate they are not the person or organisation they are satirising, you don’t have a situation where there is a misrepresentation. You can’t be accused of passing off as that person.” But he adds that the people behind the fake tweets could still be sued for libellous content. “Whether you are this person or not, you could still defame him, even if you say the content does not come from the PM.”

Telephones and Cell Phones in Singapore

Telephones - main lines in use: 2.017 million (2011), country comparison to the world: 58 Telephones - mobile cellular: 7.794 million (2011), country comparison to the world: 90. Since Singapore has a population of about 5.5 million so the last figure works out to about 1.4 cell phones per person. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

Telephone system: general assessment: excellent service; domestic: excellent domestic facilities; launched 3G wireless service in February 2005; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity more than 180 telephones per 100 persons; multiple providers of high-speed Internet connectivity and the government is close to completing an island-wide roll out of a high-speed fiber-optic broadband network international: country code - 65; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, and US; satellite earth stations - 4; supplemented by VSAT coverage (2011)

Waiting time for a phone (1995): 1) the U.S., Canada, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea (on demand); Argentina (2 months, 110,000 people on waiting list); Mexico (3 months, 197,000 people on waiting list); Brazil (7 months, 500,000 people on waiting list); Costa Rica (8 months, 61,000 people on waiting list); Uruguay (22 months, 768,000 people on waiting list); Columbia (24 months, 750,000 people on waiting list).

Singapore is world leader in making overseas calls. In 2000, the average Singaporean spent $707 on international telephone calls more than any other nation.

The Singaporean government demands courteous cell phone use. Short text messages (SMS) per cell phone subscriber per month (2002): 263, compared to 208 in the Philippines and 63 in Norway.

More than 80 percent of Singaporeans Had Mobile Phones in 2003

In 2003, about 80 percent of Singaporeans used cell phones, compared 7 percent in Thailand, 25 percent in Malaysia and 58 percent in South Korea. By 1999, one in three Singaporeans carried a cell phone. Growth continued as parents bought their children phones to keep in touch and cell phone owners upgraded their phones with new technology such as cell phone cameras. There was also a strategy to develpp machine-to-machine communications so that people could do things like buy drinks form vending machines.

In 2003, AFP reported: “More than 80 percent of people in Singapore now have a mobile phone, according to the latest government figures. The Infocomm Development Authority figures for June, published on its website, show the number of mobile subscribers climbed 16,900 in June from May, reaching 3.34 million or 80.1 percent of the population. In contrast, the number of fixed line subscribers fell nearly 80,000 to 1.91 million or 45.9 percent of the population while the number of pager subscribers dropped more than 9,000 to just 5.3 percent of the population. [Source: Agence France Presse, July 30, 2003]

“Research manager Natasha Tan told the newspaper there was still room for mobile growth with the increasing popularity of data services, such as enhanced SMS and multimedia messaging. At the same time, she cautioned that the market was approaching saturation level. "Growing the mobile penetration rate to these levels is a double-edged sword for mobile telcos," Tan, from industry analyst firm IDC, said. "There is less headroom for profitable growth but they still have some room to play with in terms of growing the (average revenue per user rates)." Penetration rates in Singapore still lag behind the Taiwan and Hong Kong markets, where it is common to have more than one mobile subscription per person, but they are far higher than most other Asian countries.” [Ibid]

Communications Companies

Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) is Southeast Asia’s largest phone company. It is state owned and has stakes in a number of foreign telephone companies, including 20 percent of Advance Info, one of the largest cell phone companies in Thailand, and 35 percent of PT Telekoommunkasi, the largest cell phone company in Indonesia. Singapore Telecom dominates the telecommunication industry. Its maon rival in the cell phone business is MobileOne (M1). It is large cell phone operator with large stakes in cell phone operations in India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia.

PT Indonesia Satellite Corporation (Indosat), a major Indonesian cell phone and international phone call provider, is 42 percent owned by Singapore’s Technologies Telemedia Pte Ltd.

SingTel

Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) is a Singaporean telecommunications company, with a combined mobile subscriber base of 416 million customers from its own operations and regional associates in 25 countries (June 2011). One 25 largest cell phone companies in the world, the company was known as Telecommunications Equipment until 1995. SingTel provides ISP (SingNet), IPTV (mio TV), mobile phone (SingTel Mobile Singapore) and fixed line telephony services. [Source: Wikipedia]

SingTel has expanded aggressively outside its home market and owns shares in many regional operators, including 100 percent of the second largest Australian telco, Optus, which was acquired in 2000 from Cable & Wireless and other shareholders of Optus, and 35 percent (second largest shareholder after the promoters) of Bharti Airtel, the largest telco in India. SingTel is also the largest company by market capitalisation listed on the Singapore Exchange and is majority owned by Temasek Holdings, the investment arm of the Singapore government. SingTel is an active investor in innovation company through its SingTel Innov8 subsidiary, which was funded in 2011 with S$200 million.

Singapore Telecommunications was founded in 1879 as Private Telephone Exchange. Headquartered in Singapore, it serves Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Philippines, Australia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Simon Israel is the chairman. Chua Sock Koong in the group CEO. Products: Fixed-line and mobile telephony, broadband and fixed-line internet services, digital television, IT and network services. Revenues: $18.183 billion SGD (March 2013). Operating income: $5.200 billion SGD (March 2013). Profit: $3.508 billion SGD (March 2013). Owner: Singaporean Government. Employees: 23,000. Parent: Temasek Holdings. Website: info.singtel.com.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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