The AIMS Paper
My general impression of the AIMS Paper is that it is a very comprehensive report on the existing status of internet activities and where to go from here. AIMS stands out as a fairly neutral body and its recommendations were free from the encumbrance that one would normally expect from a govt agency. The only area that it could not help to detach itself from is the need to control and manage political discussions of the people in general and the political parties in particular. The need to control and manage is entrenched in any govt in power. It is in their interest to ban or block any criticisms or comments that challenges their position and power. This assumption that it is normal for the govt to control and manage opposition and criticisms has moderated AIMS recommendation on Section 33 of the Films Act. Section 33 is simply a provision that favours the govt in power. Period. The other recommendations on the protection of minors, crimes, pornography, sedition etc should not see any objections and rightly so, and the Bloggers 13 have left them untouched. The recommendations to remove all the obstacles placed on netizens are welcomed. This can only come about with a positive assumption that netizens are responsible and decent people and can be trusted with the freedom of expression. Maybe AIMS should try to address the issue of a level playing field whereby the power to control and to dictate to the opposition be removed and all parties operate under the same set of rules. Would this be asking too much from the realities of politics? But liberalization of the internet must bring about a freer and fairer environment for all parties if criticisms and cynicisms are to be avoided. Transparency, fairness, soundness of policies will be demanded and anything less will only be ridiculed openly. It demands a higher level of sophistication and consistency in policy making. To liberalise involves big changes in many areas, including how the political games should be played and how the govt conducts itself and its relations with the people. AIMS has recognized that this is a process in its infancy and incremental changes is a better way to go, to learn and change along the way. The govt will have a tough time deciding on how much to let go on political activities, outside and during an election campaign period. A lot of resources and manpower will be needed to engage the netizens, including setting up of many support organizations. A lot of jobs will also be created, maybe even a ministry in charge of cyberspace and netizens be appointed. It is a new constituency. The boldest part of the recommendation is the recognition and acknowledgement that the internet is the future, uncontrollable and unstoppable. The govt is strongly encouraged to step bravely into the future, engage the people, be less uptight, and be less abrasive, be prepared to share the political space with the opposition and people who don't agree with them. This is a tall order. It is a great departure from the obsessive need to control, like pronouncing cycling in the park as dangerous to social security, even harassing young students, that makes the govt looks clumsy and ridiculous. The other positive assumption is that netizens are not the illiterate Ah Pek and Ah Ma, and many are thinking people that can see things as they really are and can contribute to the general goodness of country and society, that is, if they are embraced as part of the whole decision making process, even in a small way like e-engagement. AIMS has invited the govt to take a path into the future that is full of uncertainties but also full of promises and opportunities, to tranform our way of life and how we communicate, a freer and all inclusive society where the divisive line between the people and govt is blurred for the better of everyone. Will the govt bite?