A Clued-in Parliament


Here’s what I had submitted as part of the NMP process – my essay. Perhaps, with this, you will understand where I come from:

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Nominee from the Singapore Computer Society for the Nominated Member of Parliament

I put myself up for consideration as a nominated member of parliament specifically to be a voice for/from the IT sector of the country. I feel that with the changes that are happening in this industry globally, we need to have inputs into the legislative process that will help voice and address issues and concerns of this segment and one that comes from a technically competent person. The IT segment today comprises about 100,000 persons if we were to use the figures from the IDA.

I have been in this industry for now over 20 years. I have seen how technology has evolved and changed the landscape. It is my opinion that we have only seen the tip of the proverbial iceberg on how technology will evolve and change things around! My concern is that these technological changes are so rapid that the governmental middle-management are not able to ask the hard and tough questions. I feel that this handicap is because of both their mental and economic models not being able to handle it.

But beyond representing the IT sector, I think it has come time for me to come forth and serve my country. I feel that the office of the Nominated Member of Parliament is an excellent way for me to contribute. I think also that the innovation of the NMP in our legislative system has to evolve further. I can see it becoming a key source of ideas and the opportunity to build a bond with people who might not get representation via the usual and conventional constituency model.

Contributing to Parliamentary Proceedings

The proceedings of the parliament, in my opinion, should be made as widely available as possible.

Here are some suggestions I would like to see taken up (even if I am not nominated):

a) It is good to note that the Hansard is available on the Parliament’s website, but I think access to it can be made easier and better. To start off, it should have a better search engine.

b) I would like to see the Parliamentary proceedings being webcast live on the Internet so that anyone can watch it. We should also have the sessions archived so that it can be viewed anytime and by anyone. I think this will get the people to connect with their representatives in the House and be a better informed electorate who can help in making this country even better.

c) Use weblogs/wikis to allow rapid feedback to and from the parliamentarians and their constituents. These technologies are remarkable in bringing about the electronic town hall alive and vibrant.

Issues

a) As the IT industry goes through rapid changes, there are some fundamental shifts happening that needs to be looked into. Specifically, the increasing prominence of Open Source software and issues surrounding it has not been tackled properly in Singapore. The rest of the world (let alone the region) is actively addressing how to embrace and exploit Open Source, but is being given only a cursory look by the authorities. We are being left behind. Hence, I will be bringing up the use and deployment of Open Source in government/education as an important issue for Parliament to consider.

b) Review of all IT systems that have been deployed with a view of ensuring that they conform to standards that allow for a broader participation of companies. Specifically, the use of eXtensibe Markup Language (XML) and related open standards in the filing of documents. I would want to see that what looks like a business monopoly be reviewed with a view of bringing about greater competition (specific examples will be provided later).

c) As the former president of the civil society group, The Roundtable, I will be raising two issues that have not been resolved. They are:

i)The establishment of an independent Elections Commission. I feel that the credibility of our electoral process will be increased if we do so. The current model of the Elections Department reporting to the Prime Minister’s Office is archaic and has to be reviewed.

ii)Doing away with electoral walk-overs. At any election (whether general/by/ presidential), if there is only one candidate running, that candidate should still have to be voted into parliament. We can decide on some percentage, say 20% of the eligible voters, as the requisite amount that will grant the candidate his seat in Parliament. Walking into the parliament or the Presidency just because no one ran against a candidate makes a mockery of the entire democratic electoral process. It seriously disenfranchises the electorate as well.

d) We need to have a bold vision for bringing the country into areas that we have not considered:

i) Formulate a program that will see us have a Singaporean astronaut. We should participate actively in the International Space Station as well as work closely with other space agencies to ensure that this avenue is open to Singaporeans as well.

ii) We have to actively bring about sporting competition with the institutes of higher learning not unlike what exists in the United States. It is only with such a model, will we ever see Singaporeans rise the ladders of sporting excellence globally.

Dated August 27 04

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