Here be the dragons!


I cannot believe that the MCE planners did not think things through.  Of how the traffic is to flow from East to West and vice versa as well as all the other exits from the AYE-ECP model.

I guess the clues to how they planned the MCE is quite clear in the video that the LTA created to explain how the MCE will benefit.

Let’s look at how they were selling the MCE.

a) At 0:12, the narrator says “… will change the way people travel East to West …”

b)  At 1:12, the narration is about taking Exit 3 to go to the Marina South Pier and Marina Bay Cruise Centre, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage and Marina Bay Financial Centre.

c) At 1:59 the narration turns to traffic going East and taking Exit 2 to go to Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage and MBFC.

The focus of the narration is all about accessing the Marina Bay area. No where does the narration talk about the connectivities that the ECP had to Rochor and from Ophir. This means that as far as the LTA is concerned, traffic is all about new flows that have nothing to do with what is currently happening. In general, that is fine, but the fact is that what was a quick entry into the Rochor and exit via Ophir is now not available except via the new major trunk road, the Central Boulevard. This Central Boulevard (CB for short) exit is going to be the SINGLE merge point from any traffic exiting from the MCE going to the MBFC, Gardens etc. I am not sure of the capacity of the CB, but I reckon it will be a choke point. I think the majority of traffic getting out of the MCE is not going to the Cruise center etc but to the down town areas. Perhaps some of the load will be shared with the Maxwell Road exit (MCE Exit 1), but that is not ready until later. Maybe by then, the traffic flow will be much improved. All of this is something that the LTA should have considered before opening the MCE. What was the hurry to open it in stages when we all know that it will be a mess? Who gave the go ahead to open the MCE with these major links not ready? Did the Cabinet OK this?

Going back to the video, the key message early on was the traffic flow between East and West. It was only in the later part of the video at 2:40, any mention of going to the Northeast via KPE appears. So, the focus of the MCE is really for E<->W traversal.

If we accept that premise, then it completely befuddles me as to why the MCE->ECP exit is a TWO lane exit. One breakdown/accident on that exit means a 50% cut in road capacity meaning back ups in the MCE (all underground BTW) and a nightmare for anyone in a hurry to get to the airport. How did the planners NOT think through this?  How was the design review even signed off? Were there external consultants to give an independent review of the design?

If you look at the video the MCE->ECP exit is to the West and loops around before joining the northside of the ECP. There are NO major buildings or infrastructure in that area that is obvious to me that would have required the exit only having 2 lanes. Did the LTA actually determine conclusively that the original ECP eastbound traffic volume was mostly going to the Northeast via KPE and not enough going to the Bedok/Changi area hence validating the 2 lane exit? Really?

I don’t believe that the design is sound and I would urge the LTA to urgently relook and provide for at least two more lanes for the MCE->ECP exit.

Do it NOW.

I am very apprehensive now in going to the airport from the west. In one fell swoop, a fairly predictable eastbound ECP route is mired in a risky two lane MCE->ECP exit.

Just admit that a planning mistake was made. Let’s not wait for a situation before fixing it – numerous parliamentary seats are at risk.

Sparks of brilliance and WTFs!


The Land Transport Authority is the agency charged with all things land-based transport. 2013 is a busy year for them. Two major infrastructure projects came online. The first one was on December 22nd with the partial opening of the Down Town Line.  Although the rides are free until early January 2014, the DTL has had a few DOWN times. Perhaps the name of the line has jinxed it from the get go. I think we should do the noble thing and rename it Up Town Line with the hope that there will be no more DOWNtimes. And while we are at it, change the name of the “Tan Kah Kee” station to something with a geographical reference.

The second major infrastructure launch happened on December 29 – the Marina Coastal Expressway. The stated aim of the MCE’s construction is to free up the land that the ECP occupies in the reclaimed Marina area so that there will be better use of the land. It is a fair reason and one would have thought that LTA’s road planners would have factored in all the current traffic flow as well as future demands. Amidst all the fanfare of the opening of the MCE, there are fundamental design flaws in the MCE.

An expressway is defined by two things: first, the quality of the highway in getting you from point A to B including the road surface, markings, notices, lighting and related safety considerations. On that count, I think the MCE is world class.

The second item that an expressway is defined is by the EXITs it has. After all, to deliver the traffic from A to B, the EXITs come into play. On that count, the MCE is a failure. I’ll repeat it once more – the MCE EXITs are a failure.

I wrote up an initial impressions post last night. The surface roads in the Marina business district are not ready yet to accept the flow of traffic out of the MCE. I am sure the LTA is very aware of this shortcoming and in their defence, I think it is really hard to time the roll out of new road infrastructure in a major business district and expect all things to go well. I do not, however, see any form of engagement by the LTA about the problems that the MCE is causing and how to mitigate it. In the construction of the MRT lines, the LTA had done a lot of engagements with residents around the areas that the construction was happening to make sure that issues are addressed and managed. But since the MCE is a highway that was built in an unpopulated area, that type of public education and engagement was not done. Just look at the LTA website about how to navigate to the various places that we are all accustomed to. The biggest omission is how to get to/from the Rochor Road/Ophir Road areas and the MCE. Come on, LTA, you can do better.

LTA clearly has not learned enough from earlier screw ups with highway design. Yes, land is scarce and we all accept that. But when you are building a new highway in a RECLAIMED land and most of it being UNDERGROUND, what is stopping you from thinking through the issues?  I am fully aware that there will be tradeoffs in terms of cost, time and design. When you are presented with essentially an unbuilt up area, why make compromises?  I am ready to forget about getting to Rochor from the West or going West from Ophir. But I cannot forgive the TWO lane constriction on the Eastern end of the MCE to merge into ECP. Was that really a design constraint because of land? Way too many things need a clear and honest answer from the planners at the LTA. Don’t CYA please.

The LTA has sparks of brilliance interspersed with WTFs!

First impressions about the new Marina Coastal Expressway


I decided to take a spin onto the new Marina Coastal Expressway today.  And my first impression is that it is screwed up. Not the highway per se. The highway is top-notch. Five lanes in each direction. Fantastic surface where you don’t hear the tires at all. Smooth and probably worth the S$5billlion spent on the 5km expressway.

So, what’s wrong?  Here’s my list:

a) *Anyone* travelling from the West to the East (say to Fort Road), you will, if you choose to go via the AYE, be then marshalled into MCE (which is quite sweet I must say). You continue in the MCE and since you are goint to the East, you have to KEEP TO THE TWO LEFT lanes to make sure that you then get into the exit of MCE to ECP. So, 4 lanes of AYE, becomes 5 lanes of MCE then 2 lanes of the exit and then onto ECP/Fort Road. Yes, TWO lanes to ECP. I repeat, TWO lanes. If you MISSED this exit, you will continue from MCE into KPE and then have to turn around somewhere to undo your mistake.

b) If you are coming from the West and want to go to Rochor. Good luck. You’ll have to exit in the MCE – ie take an exit and go INTO the Central Business District – yes, ERP  and traffic light infested zone – and then navigate to the Rochor area. I did not take that exit on MCE today as I was not happy with what I saw in a) above.

c) You are coming from the East and want to down town. There is an exit that brings you to the Central Boulevard, but because the roads on the surface after exiting the MCE are still being realigned, it is a mess for now. I reckon those will be straightened out over the next few months.

d) You are coming down Ophir Road expecting to go West. Although I did not try that today, you will go up the ramp and go over the Sheares Bridge on to the South side of Marina Bay Sands (which was part of the ECP but no longer called the ECP but Sheares Avenue) and then navigate to enter the MCE and then onto the West.  Not sure of the swamp you will be in with lights and reduced lanes.

I am not happy with the way the MCE is breaking all the connections and travel patterns we have had with some yet to be proven improvements in traffic flow. I am very sure that the biggest congestion will be a the exit from MCE to ECP because of the lane reduction.

I cannot understand how the LTA could have royally screwed up with the MCE and how traffic flows. I am really disappointed. I could be completely wrong as I only saw a part of the how the MCE’s introduction changes the traffic flow. But I bet you, the mess will be enormous over the next week or so as people begin to adjust to the new realities.

I would like to perhaps suggest that MCE be temporarily changed from Marina Coastal Expressway to Most Cocked-up Expressway until the whole MCE plan is rolled out.

I know more than you do


I cannot help but continue to be baffled by the way the G responds to some of the continuing challenges that the nation faces.

Way back in 2009, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the formation of the Singapore Infocomm Technology Security Authority. It apparently is an entity within the Internal Security Department. Fast forward four years, the Ministry of Defence announces the setting up of a Cyber Defence Operations Hub. Not sure how much these two efforts are costing us, the tax payer, but suffice to say, an extra $130 million will apparently be spent on more cyber security stuff over the next 5 years. Nice.

Money is not an object is seems. There is plenty to be spent. Will any of this help create new software and hardware that is open? Will the tax dollars being spent enable the citizens to help and innovate upon? I suspect that they will not buy the “security by obscurity” meme and claim national security being paramount and so all things have to be hidden.

While all of this was happening, some websites got defaced. Defaced by groups who label themselves as “Messiah” and claiming affiliations with the Anonymous group. The clueless mainstream media, obviously, go about saying that the sites were “hacked”. Hacking is a noble thing. It is a skill, a frame of mind, a can do bravado. A cracker/vandal, on the other hand, is one who does not live up to the hacker ideals and ethics and abuses her skills. She is no different from a housebreaker who by day is a locksmith.

So, amidst all of these defacements and “cyberwar” preparedness, we get reports of some individuals being caught and the charged in court for allegedly undertaking the defacements. These alleged vandals, if we are to go by the MSM reports, seem to be nothing more than script-kiddies who could not even do the basic “cover your tracks” that any criminal worth his salt would have done. These script-kiddies merely locked on to pre-existing flaws in the sites they chose to vandalize and did the deed. Perhaps they deserve the book being thrown at them.

On the other hand, these alleged vandals could be fall guys. They were unskilled enough to have been caught.

Toshiba’s FlashAir wifi-enabled SD card


I was looking around on Saturday at the various SD cards for my Canon 500D. I thought that since there are these new fangled wifi-enabled ones, I should consider getting one of those.

My enquiries in Funan Centre initially began at Challenger. They had a 8GB model for S$79 which I thought was very expensive (not that I did any check on the costs yet) and enquired if there were bigger capacity ones. The store assistant said that there are, but they don’t have any in stock.

Great, I thought.  I will use the S$79 as my upper limit for this and went from store to store. Funny that some camera stores don’t carry these devices – why that would be the case eludes me, but I reckon, those stores don’t want the extra hassle of having to understand how wifi works!

Finally, I came across Song Brothers (2nd floor, Funan), who not only had the Toshiba 16G models in stock for S$75, and another from PQI, called PQI Air Card for $68. Both were rated at 16GB. Looking at the cheaper one I decided not to get it because the brand was new to me. So, I settled for the Toshiba FlashAir 16GB class 10 SD card with WiFi capabilities. The card is a SDHC – Secure Digital High Capacity model.

The Obligatory Review:

This card is white in colour Toshiba FlashAir 16GB SD-Wifiand when you insert into the camera (or any SD card reader), the wifi hotspot fires up. The SSID takes the form of “flashair_WifiMACAddress”, which in my case is “flashair_e8e0b79af4fc”. Pretty cool I’d say.  They have a Android app as well. Even if you don’t use the app, you can connect to this SD card if your device has a wifi capability. All you then need to do is to attach to that SSID and in the browser of the device, go to: http://flashair/.

What you will see is the contents of the DCIM directory on the SD card. You can then download the contents. Nice. What I like about this is that the card does not need to connect to some external wifi access point and no need to connect to any server to make the contents available.

For the purposes of extracting the images out of the card, this method works very well. You can use it in any place so long as your other device can connect to the card via wifi. No dependence on wifi infrastructure and other server systems is very good.

What would be useful is the app on the Android to have some extra cleverness and be able to pull files out of the card and send it to other destinations and not only on the Android device (phone, tablet etc), although I reckon if you pull the images and put them into the folder on your Android device that is set up to upload to picasaweb (for example), then that would suffice. In any case, the code for the Andrioid app is not available – which is pity – for I am sure there will be clever tweaks done to it to make it very useful.

I must note that when I used the card at an event where my older son was graduating from Secondary 4 at SJI, the photos and videos were saved very quickly and at no time did I have to wait before the next shot, all because it is a class 10 card. Nice.

The file structure of the card is as follows:

./SD_WLAN:
216 Mar 11 CONFIG

./MISC:

./DCIM:
100__TSB

./DCIM/100__TSB:
128751 Mar 11  2013 FA000001.JPG

./GUPIXINF:
32768 Mar 11  2013 CARDICON

./GUPIXINF/CARDICON:
12021 Mar 11  2013 ICON_128.PNG
1800 Mar 11  2013 ICON_32.PNG
1250 Mar 11  2013 ICONINF.TXT

The CONFIG file is what that gets read and worked with by the Wifi stack. The contents of that file is:

[Vendor]

CIPATH=/DCIM/100__TSB/FA000001.JPG
APPMODE=4
APPNETWORKKEY=**********
VERSION=F19BAW3AW2.00.01
CID=02544d535731364708d085847800d401
PRODUCT=FlashAir
VENDOR=TOSHIBA
MASTERCODE=40b0fac41a58
LOCK=1

The default wifi key is 12345678 which gets replaced by the * as shown in the APPNETWORKKEY above when the card is first inserted and switched on. I cannot find where the actual value is kept for later use.  I am sure that there are some hidden areas that the actual key is kept at. Perhaps the wifi electronics has some flash storage for that. I will run testdisk on the card to see what can be found.

I am indeed pleased to see Toshiba setup and provide a lot of details at a new FlashAir developers site and all the configurable details are explained in the tutorials.   This does look very, very promising and I am sure that there will be plenty of places that Toshiba’s FlashAir can be deployed, way beyond making conventional DSLRs wifi enabled devices.

All in, I am quite pleased with the wifi card. And 16G is a decent size but with the wifi capability, it does make the use case very interesting.

Will we ever have engineers?


As noted by Vivian, the first of three key ingredients before anything starts is to have engineers, engineers who are valued and who want to change the world by their work and their ideas.

As an engineer myself I of course agree with that.  As we laud engineers and the possibilities of what that means, I fear that we are being set up for failure. We as in Singapore, that is. We not skilling up enough members of the next generation to become engineers to the extent that we need.

Back when I completed my “A” levels (1977), electrical engineering was the *hottest* program to get into, regardless of university.  Fast forward to today, 2013, getting into E school has dipped to an all time low, especially, electrical engineering (and I will lump computer, communications and electronics into that).

The competition is now for entry into business school and, dare I say, the “softer” programs.  There, I’ve said it.  We are not seeing strong competition for entry into the hard sciences nor math nor engineering. What happened?

Where and when will we be able to reverse this spiral into mediocrity?

I was attending the Singapore Polytechnic open house yesterday. My older son is keen on the Poly and electrical engineering at that. It warms my heart that he want to take that program and it was all his personal choice.  I do not demand our sons to follow the paths of their parents, but if they do, it is a bonus.

But what bothers me is that the Poly lists electrical engineering as having the least competitive entry requirements – 22 points (the O level scores needed from the English, 2 relevant subjects and 2 best subjects) and Business Administration needing 12. Really? 12 vs 22?

See this document:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/166426183/Singapore-Polytechnic-2013-Entry

Note that the most sought after engineering program is Aeronautical Engineering (12 points) and the least is Electrical and Electronic Engineering (22 points) while Biomedical Science is the most sought after at 8 points. Perhaps the 8 points and the 22 points are outliers but it is still very worrisome.

Things to be thankful for as we celebrate 48 years of independence. Majulah Singapura!


I’m thankful for:

  1. If we were ever at war, it was under the Union Jack, not the Crescent and Stars. Singapore has never been to war.  While, yes, we have a small standing military setup and a large citizen-army comprising reservists. And the fact that we have a large reservist citizen-led ready-at-a-moment’s notice force is perhaps the single biggest achievement of the pioneering cabinet who initiated National Service in 1967. All things considered, the spin-off of NS has been the breaking down of both imaginary and real societal barriers with the exposure to ideas that can challenge one’s world view. The immigrant society that this nation was built from (and being redefined as it were) needs that anchoring and sense of belonging. I know that my 2.5 years in Police NS as an Inspector of Police gave me an opportunity to grow up and understand life’s warts and all. Though it would be naive to suggest that we’ve gained a united society, we are well down that path. Some characterize NS as a waste of time or that it is a means to indoctrinate the people.  While there is an element of truth to that, as with any uniformed organization, I think there are many knock-on effects that is hard to put a dollar value to.  Suffice to say, I would be really proud when the time comes, to see my two sons do their service to their country of birth.
  2. Great weather (but we could always use with less humidity) which means you have an all year round opportunity to explore that great outdoors, not only in Singapore but in the neighbouring countries.
  3. Good water. Yes, this is the tropics and yes, with the earlier reference to humidity, we should really be deriving potable water from the air around us. That will certainly see us being very self-sufficient in that essential life-sustaining compound.
  4. Great people. People are what a country makes. I believe that adversities and challenges are the fire that forge the psyche of a nation. It is good to have a governmental system that supports the people, especially those who are “falling behind”, but ultimately, what makes a nation is still the people. This statement is true for any nation and all of humanity. As Carl Sagan might have said as he gazed on the picture of our planet from a far, there are no borders that delineate nations. It is just one planet. Yes, we are an island and our borders are not land-based but sea-based, so that observation still applies.
  5. Great Family.  I am thankful for the wonderful family I was born into and the extended family that I’ve been able to create with my wife.  My family has spread its wings and are now pretty much all over this planet. But Singapore is still home. Warts and all. It’s what makes for memories and a place under the sun.

I just finished watching this year’s National Day Parade. Did not get to go watch it in person, but that’s fine. Growing up, I was fortunate to have had been in the 1973 (RI Red Cross, Sec 2, Padang), 1974 (RI Red Cross, Sec 3, Padang), 1978 (Guard Of Honour, Police OCS, Padang)  and 1979 (Police Academy, Queenstown Stadium) parades.  It was very different then. There weren’t the goodie bags you see today, nor where there the musical extravaganza of today. Our contingents had a three to five kilometer route march after the march past and those were challenging to say the least. But we did it. I don’t have pictures of those days for all I have are memories.  I am sure we can get MediaCorp/SPH to open up their archives under a Creative Commons license and let people do wonders with it, Its part of who we are.

Majulah Singapura!

Getting a good grip on the haze conditions


I feel that with DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s speech this past Monday, June 17 2013, at the eGov Global Exchange event about the Singapore government going whole hog with 100% machine readable data on the data.gov.sg, was excellent. Finally, there is some sanity in government with regards to data (that has already been paid for by tax dollars) should be open and freely available.  No more discussion about “monetizing” the tax-payer-paid data. Let the public do as they please with the data.

So, it is with that as a background, that I want to see how best was can get the following done to address the haze conditions (as seen in the NASA satellite image) with the population that is at risk.

This is what we have in terms of data:

a) Data from the National Environment Agency regarding the Pollutant Standard Index and the PM2.5 values.

b) AirNow.gov US government site that gives a co-relation between the various data measurements

The NEA PSI data is only shown on the site for the current 24 hour period and nothing is shown of the previous days.  I don’t see any link on their site to look at earlier data. As such, I’ve set up a public document on Google Docs.

Now what I’d like to see is the mashing up of the data with maps and other relevant information such as construction sites where there are workers outdoors and to see how quickly we can pull in the right resources to assist.  There is already an effort underway  (also geek.sg) to make sure that those populations at risk because of lack of information and/or safety equipment like N95 masks are reached and provided for.

[Update at 7:25 pm June 22, 2013]

Looks like the NEA site is transforming in a good way.  You can get historical data now.

Proceedings from the “The Singapore Computer Society’s Internet Regulations Workshop” – August 1996


I used to head up the Internet SIG of the Singapore Computer Society back in the 1990s. When the then Singapore Broadcasting Authority (now known as the Media Development Authority) issued a directive that they will require all ISPs to filter access to websites, my SIG sprang into action and organized a workshop at which we invited the SBA rep and interested members of SCS as well as the public to discuss the issues.

I had posted the proceedings of the session on my personal website when at that time was hosted on Pacific Internet (home.pacific.net.sg/~harish). But today that is all gone and I am using this blog to host it for posterity:


Singapore Computer Society’s Internet Regulations Workshop

The ProceedingsCopyright 1996 Singapore Computer Society


Saturday August 17th 1996 0930-1200 NCB Auditorium

      Present:

 

Ms Ling Pek Ling, Director (Policy and Planning), SBA

Mr Lim Kien Thye, Legal Adviser, Singapore Computer Society

Mr Andrew Sansom, Vice President, SCS (moderator)

The workshop started with a welcome by the moderator who introduced the two panelists and the agenda of this workshop.

Ms Ling started off first by introducing the SBA regulations as was spelt out by the SBA press release and the subsequent gazette notification.

Mr Lim then went through the regulations in finer explaining the various clauses and their implications and interpretations.

Following the tea-break, Lim continued with some clarifications on issues raised during the break. Specifically, the issue in Section 13 of the Conditions of Class License was revisited. Mr Lim said, before the break, that geomancy et al as mentioned in that section are illegal on the net. A member of the audience had pointed out to him that in fact, Section 13 mentions the outlawing of this only for services defined in Paragraph 3(a) to (e), eg audiotext and videotext services of the Notification and this excludes the Internet. Lim was of the opinion that it is a little difficult to totally delineate the Internet from this category. SBA clarified that while Sec 13 did not apply to Internet Service Providers and Internet Content Providers, they were subject to the requirement to comply with the laws of Singapore.

The much awaited question and answer session ensued thereafter.

[Ed Note: Most of the answers were from the SBA. Where it is not, the speaker is identified.]

Q1: If a web site is maintained OUTSIDE Singapore but the contents are political in nature with the editors residing in Singapore, must that site register?

A1: Yes.

Q2: Even if the site is NOT of a political party?

A2: Yes, if it falls in the list of other categories which need to register with SBA. [These categories are spelt out in the class licence gazette, a copy of which is available on SBA's web-page at www.gov.sg/sba.]

Q3: If a Singaporean machine discusses, say, Indonesian politics, it is OK not to register?

A3: The registration requirement for political groups applies only to political parties registered in Singapore and groups discussing political issues relating to Singapore.

Q4: But if it discusses Singapore politics it must be registered?

A4: Yes.

Q5: Do you think the Wall Street Journal will care to register if you were to ask them to because some of their subscribers are resident in Singapore?

A5: We have a good working relationship with the WSJ and do not see that as being a problem.

Comment: I think the WSJ would not bother.

Q6: Can you please tell me why you included geomancy, astrology, palmistry and fortune-telling in the list of banned activities?

A6a: [Lim KT] Well technically, fortune-telling, palmistry and geomancy are on our statutes as “banned” activities.

A6b: But, KT, you and I (Harish Pillay) were in the police force doing NS many years ago, and you know very well that there are many things that are illegal (for example the burning of joss paper in public), but we close an eye and let it pass. We have been doing so with these things anyway, then why bring it back?

A6c: Well, the SBA regulations do not preempt other laws of Singapore and the inclusion here is merely to re-iterate the laws.

Q7: So, can I take it that we will not see anymore palmistry, astrology, geomancy and fortune-telling books in Times and MPH?

A7: Well those are not illegal. The SBA regulations focus on broadcast media, which are more pervasive – we want to make sure that people are not cheated by confidence tricksters under the pretext of telling fortunes etc.

Q8: Do you know that the SPH in it’s audiotext service, it is providing fengshui, astrology and horoscopes? How come, in spite of you listing audiotext services as one that must not promote these, you are allowing SPH to do so?

A8: We are in discussion with the SPH on what the acceptable limits are.

[Clarification: SPH is allowed to carry horoscopes. It does not offer astrology services.]

[Ed's clarification - at last check, August 20th, SPH's 1-900 service provides fengshui (Chinese geomancy) services.]

Q9: Will you tell us the public what arrangements you have made with SPH to allow this?

A9:We have given some guidelines on what the acceptable limits are in the phrasing of Condition 13(c), namely “ensure that its service is not used to advertise, provide or otherwise promote-

(i) astrology, geomancy, palmistry; or

(ii) any other type of fortune-telling device

Content or service providers who need further clarification can check with SBA.

[SBA has a feedback channel on its web-page at www.gov.sg/sba.]

Q10: You say that I cannot put up banned audio/video on web pages. Does that mean that my .wav files are illegal now? Is there a publically available list of banned movies/songs?

A10: Those come under the Undesirable Publications Act and you can get the information from the Ministry of Information and the Arts.

Q11: In your Internet Code of Practice, you mention fines. I have never known a Code of Practice that carried fines. How much is the fine?

A11: Sec 24 of the SBA Act provides for SBA to impose fines, suspend or cancel the licence of a provider in the event of a breach of licence conditions. The Code of Practice gives some guidelines on the types of content that should not be carried. As one of the class licence conditions (Condition 11) is that licensees should comply with the Code of Practice, breach of this Code would constitute a breach of licence conditions.

Q12: Who can I appeal to?

A12: You can appeal to SBA. SBA will refer grey cases to the National Internet Advisory Committee. You can appeal to the Minister if you are not satisfied with SBA’s decision.

Q13: When will the NIAC be formed/announced? You did announce the SBA regulations in a hurry, out on a Thursday and enforced on a Monday.

A13: Sooner than you think.

Q14: In the Code of Practice you say that there should not be anything that satirises or denigrates any race or religious group. So, will you now force the ISP to drop rec.humor.funny because it has racial jokes? Are Jewish, Irish, Chinese, Indian, Malay jokes illegal now?

A14a: We will go by what is acceptable to our community and focus attention on areas which upset the racial and religious harmony of our society.

A14b: [Lim KT] The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act 1990 provides for a Presidential Council for Religious Harmony which would advise on matters affecting the maintenance of religious harmony in Singapore.

Q15: Since we do not have any sizeable Singaporean Jewish community, will you say that Jewish jokes are OK and not others?

A15: Again you have to refer to the Religious Harmony Act.

Q16: You say that promiscuity and permissiveness must not be promoted and yet allow Beverly Hills 123456 to be aired on local TV. If that is not promiscuity and permissiveness, then what is?

A16: It’s all a matter of degree. Even on TV, there is a family view hour of 9.30 pm. Shows aired before that hour have to comply with stricter standards.

Q17: If I run a site that has a bunch of people editing and maintaining the site with some of the editors physically outside Singapore, do I have to register that site because it could contain political discussions about Singapore?

A17: Yes, if it falls within the list of groups which need to register with SBA.

Q18: What kind of liability do the editors have?

A18: They are responsible for the contents as they have editorial privilege.

Q19: What about mirror sites mirrored in Singapore? And it contains political discussions but I do not have editorial rights?

A19: If the SBA thinks that the material in the mirror is not acceptable, it has to be removed.

Q20: Proxy servers for leased line customers. I have clients who have leased lines and use the net link to do Virtual Private Networking (VPN) and other business transactions. Now they want to go away from Singapore because of your rules. They have confidential information that cannot be put on a proxy server.

A20: The requirement for the use of proxy servers does not apply to customers who use it only for company use. Organizations such as cybercafes, libraries, community centers have to go the proxy servers as they are providing Internet to the public.

Q21: Let me understand this. I look after the schools. Schools have leased lines to the Net and so, if leased lines users are exempt, schools are exempt also?

A21: The exclusion is not for all leased line users per se. It is for corporate (private) communications. The primary audience of the schools are the students, which count as members of the public, and so they have to use the proxy.

Q22: But what about the teachers who have machines on their desks and no student will use it?

A22: The aim is to for the links to be used by the students and so the proxy must be used, even if student access is supervised by teachers.

Q23: When will you announce this non-use of the proxy server?

A23: Soon.

Q24: How soon? Some of the ISPs are sending out information to leased line customers informing them of this rule.

A24: Sooner than you think.

Q25: There is one group that is exempt from the regulations – those who provide access incidental to their business. Can you elaborate?

A25: If a hairdresser provides net access while cutting the hair of the client, the net access in that business is incidental and not primary. This is unlike the case of a cybercafe, where it would be difficult for the operator to claim that providing net access was not a primary part of its business.

Q26: Will you release the black list of web sites to the public?

A26: No, we want to keep it confidential and want to be conservative.

Q27: Why not? I can get a list of banned books, movies, tapes, magazines etc. How come you are so secretive about the black list?

Comment: The black list could become a hot list (laughter).

A27: The books and magazines that are banned are made known because people can buy then overseas and so they need to know what is not allowed. In the case of the Net, only the ISPs need to know as they are the ones making access available.

Q28: So, let’s consider this. I spend a weekend cruising the web. I come across a bunch of sites that are blocked off to me – I know this because of the message on the screen. I write them down. I then pass the information to others and collectively we build up a list and then I post it to my home page. Is that OK?

A28: No, you are in violation of these guidelines.

Q29: Why, where and how?

A29: You should not put the information out on the web.

Q30: So if I e-mail it to a friend outside Singapore and he posts it, will you block the information?

A30: The site is in violation.

Q31: When does an article or web page become “illegal”? When it is being created using an editor, or uploaded to server but not hyperlinked or when it is on the web?

A31: [Lim KT] The issue of when material becomes content is a grey one which lawyers are still grappling with.

Q32: I am a software developer. I depend on my customers to use my software to develop content on the Internet. Currently you are specifically mentioning WWW services. Will you in the future say that a particular service is not legal?

A32: As a software developer, you should not feel constrained as the primary responsibility lies with the content developers who use your software. We encourage software development in Singapore and want to emphasise the light touch nature of our licence scheme. We would also like to hear from you if you think the regulations are hindering your business operations. SBA is keen to have close consultation with the industry.

Q33: Further to that I asked if in future such “consultations” with the “Industry”, should they be minuted, be placed in the SBA web site for public access?

A33: We will look into the feasibility of this.

Q34: The Internet Regulations specifically define Internet Content Provider to be:

      - any individual who provides any programme, for business, political or religious purposes, on the World Wide Web through the Internet; or

- any corporation or group of individuals (including any association, business, club, company, society, organisation or partnership, whether registrable or incorporated under the laws of Singapore or not) who provides any programme on the World Wide Web through the Internet, and includes any Web publisher and any Web server administrator.

This definition excludes other Internet services such as the Gopher and the IRC services. Does this mean that the above definition excludes the Gopher and the IRC services? What about other emerging Internet technologies?

A34: We will continue to refine the Internet Regulations to incorporate emerging Internet technologies when these have mass public impact.

Q35: What about Intranets?

A35: Intranets are NOT under the jurisdiction of the SBA.

Q36: What about an Intranet of say a club – say the Turf Club. And they want to use their computer network to place bets and do gambling?

A36: As long as they have the license to do so by other relevant government authorities, this should not be a problem.

Q37: What would you define as obscene? I have to manage a design school where there are creative people who would ask me why a particular site is blocked when in their opinion it is not obscene.

A37: SBA will refer grey areas to the National Internet Advisory Committee.

Q38: If my site has a link to another who may have links to objectionable sites, am I liable?

A38: You will not be, provided you did put the link in good faith and did not know of the subsequent links.

Q39: You say that financial information presented without commentary is exempted from the SBA regulations. What does that mean?

A39: The exemption covers raw information for example, the index closed high at 1234. To quote the Gazette, the exemption applies to “financial information services where the financial information is transmitted without commentary and without alteration or addition to its form.”

Q40: You say that the Internet Advisory Committee will be formed soon. What types of people will it have? Users or people from the govt?

A40: It will constitute a broad cross-section of people to represent the users of the Internet and will include relative light users as well as members of the industry.

Q41: When the committee decides on something and the decision is not what the SBA or the Minister hoped for, the SBA and the Minister is NOT bound to accept the decision, right? After all it is only an advisory committee.

A41: Yes. But, we will take into consideration all the viewpoints carefully before deciding.

Q42: We all know of this abomination called “Mr. Kiasu”. Now, I belong to a running group which enjoys lewd and naughty jokes and one us wanted to create an e-mailing list to share it with the rest. He approached one of the ISPs who, erring on the side of kiasuism, wanted him to sign a document that effectively disallowed anything like what we wanted. Don’t you think your rules will breed more self-censors – mind you, this was before your rules came about? I now run the mailing list out of my laptop.

A42:No, as long as they are following the guidelines.


Updated August 20th 1996
This page was compiled, edited and posted by Harish Pillay, Internet SIG Chair with the help of four other participants from the audience and the SBA panelist, Ms Ling.

You may quote from this page for commentary purposes, newsgroup postings and so on, but we ask you to please include the URL – http://www.scs.org.sg/sbaworkshop.html – in your quotes.