In typical top-down fashion, the government has issued a memo that computers used officially by public servants in Singapore will be cut off from the Internet from May 2017.
According to an IDA spokesperson:
The Singapore Government regularly reviews our IT measures to make our network more secure.
Although 100,000 computers will be affected, public servants can still use dedicated computer terminals to access the internet.
Why the “draconian” move?
One explanation is that cutting the internet access from official computers will stem potential leaks from work e-mail and shared documents amid heightened security threats.
Malware can easily be accidentally installed onto the official computers via the internet, which will give hackers access to confidential information.
What public servants say about it
This is a compilation of quotes from public servants we asked about the no-internet move:
They already have so many security features in place now, such as a lot of patches to cover up any security loopholes
Not having internet will slow down the whole work process
We are behaving like North Korea
IDA could have looked into educating (public servants) instead of a blanket ban, such as when IDA banned porn websites
We are now a ‘Smart Nation’
The upcoming no-internet move by the government gives a counter-image to our Smart Nation commitment. It’s a sign that we are not equipped and agile enough to deal with the fast-changing world of internet security. It’s also a sign of us being afraid with the security threats.
One of the earlier concerns of teachers was about lesson preparation and delivery using internet-based resources. Withholding internet access in schools may also mean that teachers have only to prepare web-based lessons and resources at home, after school hours and on their own computers. However MOE has sent an email to assure teachers that their needs are noted and that the IT branch is looking into supporting schools to provide continuous internet access. More details will be made available by Oct. 2016.
Teachers union highlights concerns to MOE
The Singapore Teachers’ Union (STU) has written to MOE to highlight teachers’ concerns on lack of internet access.
As schools are more dependent on the use of the Internet for teaching and learning, MOE HQ will ensure schools continue to have access to T&L resources on their Internet from their computers.
Source: mySTU mobile app
STU has since posted MOE’s response in mySTU app noting that MOE will be in touch with Educators on internet use in schools.
What this issue reveals about the government
Public servants are the government’s hands on the ground helping to run the show.
By issuing such a detached blanket memo, the government (which is also Singapore’s largest employer) reveals its weakness in engaging and training its employees effectively on cybersecurity matters.
The backlash from public servants show how offended they are by the off-handed manner which their employer treats them.
This brings into question the level of competency which the government manages its own human resources, while it continues to lecture the private sector about training and retaining human capital.
Smart Nation huh? More like Kancheong Nation.
Also published on Medium.