Technology is constantly moving forward.  Whether you notice this over decades of using computers or are a firsthand part of the innovation that is taking the world by storm, you understand that technology moves in only one direct.  That is of course unless you are Singapore.  In an unprecedented move, the Singapore Government has taken steps to lock out access to the Internet for a hundred thousand public servants. Shocking critics and supporters alike, the move has been compared to putting the government in a pre-internet age.

This news has rocked the international community to the core for a number of different reasons, not the least of which is that Singapore was previously thought to be one of the most “internet friendly” nations on the planet. There connectivity and access was almost unprecedented, and so many of the investments in infrastructure revolved around providing high speed internet access to any and all.

The Reason For Limited Access

It comes as no surprise to those familiar with the tech world that Internet security has never been harder to maintain.  With hackers all over the world testing the security of various systems, being connected to the Internet means opening up a potential security hole.  In identifying that Internet use by public servants is potentially putting the government at risk, Singapore has moved to remove Internet access from 100,000 work stations used by employees in the public sector.  Sources have confirmed that a lot of the motivation on the part of the Singapore government comes from a need by the government to clamp down on leaked e-mails and shared documents.

The group leading the changes is the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA.)  Stating that the government regularly reviews its security process, the move was put into place to ensure that the 100,000 computers that are linked in the public sector are far less vulnerable than they currently are.  What this means for workers is that the only way they can access the Internet is through their own personal devices.  Already monitoring communication the Singapore government takes this additional step in the face of hacking from groups including Anonymous.  It is expected to take about a year for the policy to take full effect and be implemented.  Access to the government Intranet will still be intact.

Reactions

Reactions to this move are mixed.  Many consider this a move in the wrong direction.  As Singapore boasts one of the best internet connection speeds both within the city and internationally, many believe this to be a step entirely in the wrong direction.   Limiting access to a hundred thousand people, this is seen in some circles as the dark age of technology for Singapore public workers.  As for how they feel about all of this, it is challenging to gauge.  They don’t have access to the Internet after all.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the rest of this story develops in the near future. The economy growth of all nations now largely depends on connectivity, so how Singapore handles this will be of great interest.

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Adrian Grant

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