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?


Anonymous said...

An invitation to bloggers

Dear Bloggers:

If you publish opinion articles on current affairs in your blogs, be they of social, economic, or political nature, you are most welcome to repost them in our current affairs forum "Singapore Kopitiam" for discussion and exposure.

We have daily visitors in the order of a few thousands. The daily number of pages viewed has exceeded 20,000. Any article reposted in Singapore Kopitiam will gain you instant exposure to a few thousands more readers. You can get instant feedback to your opinions and views expressed. You can also join the debate and clarify your thoughts.

Since Sammyboy.com's Alfresco Coffee Shop was unplugged on 6 August 2008, Singapore Kopitiam has stepped in to replace it and to provide a cyber kopitiam for netizens (both Singaporeans and ex-Singaporeans) to meet, exchange ideas/opinions, and discuss any thing and every thing under the sun. It does provide an important link to the blogosphere community where public opinions are shaped and refined.

There is no waiting period for you to register an online moniker and to start posting your articles. In the spirit of free speech, there is no censorship or moderation.

Why don't you give it a try today? You would be surprised how effective it can be to reach out to your next few thousands readers, as many bloggers already discovered!

Victor Sun
Singapore Kopitiam

redbean said...

hi victor,

welcome to the blog and thanks for the invitation. all bloggers are part of a community. we shall encourage cross visiting and postings.

feel free to drop over or post our articles in your blog. just give us a little acknowledgement or credit at the end of the article will do. this is common practice. i also do it when i copy articles from other forums.


Anonymous said...

It will be difficult to reconcile the views of the government with the majority of those in cyberspace, unless the Government can come to accept that opposing views on policies are not anti-government or anti-Singapore. Then they will get the correct kind of feedback that is for the good of both parties and the country.

Feedback is useless if the purpose of such feedback is just to massage the egos of certain people or Government departments. It does not help to improve the goodness of society or the country.

Anonymous said...

Dear Redbean;

me concurs fully with all that You wrote in 'What's the fuss.'


suhaw said...

The E-Engagement chapter in AIMS consultation paper is a recommendation to the authorities to engage netizens. Till now, the Singapore authorities have been rather active in Internet technologies for e-services and consultations, the level of real engagement is still quite limited.

But there are real concerns about the authorities going online to engage netizens. This is not a platform that the Singapore authorities usually participate in and so will require some time to find their feet, just as all of us did when we first ventured into this space.

More importantly, for the engagement to work, both sides need to enter it with a certain level of trust that the other side is legit and above aboard. It is way too easy for a troll to sabotage this process. If anybody were to enter this engagement process thinking that the other side is insincere then the process is doomed to fail, for that person at least.

Reap what you sow. Just as we are telling the authorities that there is much to gain if they were to more actively engage netizens online, we also feel that netizens will gain much if you choose to participate.

We are having a public seminar on the afternoon of Friday 19th September. Do pop by if you can spare the time. More details at http://blog.aims.org.sg/post/2008/09/05/AIMS-Public-Seminar-19-Sept-4pm-NUS-Law-Fac.aspx.

Anonymous said...

they can't engage netizens without reservation. truth is, we'll tear them apart and they end up enacting more laws or taking legal cover again.

it's just a wishful idea they need to entertain so as not to appear regressive

they will stick their neck out to greet you but like a tortoise, will retract its neck into her protective shell the minute you get too close for their comfort.

you gotta be quite gullible to engage at their level.

Anonymous said...

you have been warned. reap what you sow. these dirt diggers- we have seen how they treat those who have spoken out in the past and the memories, still fresh - will have all the resources to frame you but if you ever do the same to them, legal road blocks and bureaucracy will stop you.

never play with dirt if you don't want to get your hands dirty!

redbean said...

hi suhaw,

welcome to the blog. and thanks for the invitation.

it is not easy for the authority to engage netizens. they will need to think of ways to do so. one thing for sure about netizen is that there is no protocol. it is like the apple organisation or many american organisation where everyone is on a first name basis. and people would have to learn to accept some unkind words or being rubbed the wrong way.

our unwritten rule is that the govt are officials and should not be trifled with or make fun of. how could they handle it if they they are called names or their views dismissed totally? the americans habitually called george bush an idiot. i don't think our rulers would be able to ignore such remarks.

but not all netizens will do that. they can engage netizens selectively or through proxies and ignore the more robust group. that could be a way, and a message telling netizens that if they want a dialogue, they need to maintain a certain decorum.

the internet has been alive for many years. how many are brave enough to dip their toes into the water? many malaysians politicians dare.

and it is very testing for our rulers to justify their positions when the positions are just indefensible.

the internet is a totally new ball game. but not all is lost. we have seen a few ginger steps taken but nothing more.

any ruler brave or confident enough to have a go at it? aims is urging them go in and change the world. ya, maybe too hopeful. the distance between the ruler and ruled must come down first.

Aaron said...

Hi redbean,

You made some good points. Engaging citizens online is definitely a challenge. The government expects dialogue to be conducted in a certain way while Netizens see the government as not respecting the free-for-all nature of the Net.

But a question; if an individual has concrete suggestions to make and truly feels that his views matter, would that blogger

1) prefer to talk at length to an audience but outside the sphere of influence, or;

2) get his views inside the sphere of influence and engaged by those who wield power in national decision making.

Arguably, there are two groups of bloggers and some bloggers prefer to simply talk at length. Might there not be some people who want to be heard and be part of the decision-making process?

Of course there are several levels of decision making, starting from the drawing board and right at the end when the major decision has been made and only tweaks are required.

If there is an opportunity to insert input into the decision making process, might not citzens want to be part of that?

Again, some qualifiers; there is some gap between the government and Netizens. The Netizens simply distrust the government's intentions while the government may not deal well with free-flow, anonymous and even cynical remarks.

I suppose the goal is to find a sweet spot in between: where that is, is the challenge.

BTW, if you are free on 19th September AIMS is holding a public seminar for people to dicuss these things in some detail. We have details of that up at our website (blog.aims.org.sg)

Aaron said...

Oops just realised suhaw has invited you, but the invitation is open to all, in case I didn't make that clear :)

redbean said...

hi aaron,

participation in govt decision making by the public is a misnomer. the people would not dare to demand to participate in decision making at the national level for many reasons.

first, they are inadequate in many aspects, the insufficient information available to them and the limitation of their resources.

two, the decision makers are highly paid to do the job and it becomes ridiculous if they need the people to help them in decision making for free.

three, feedback is the appropriate word, people who are unhappy or disagree with the decisions should be encouraged to voice out and be heard. and it is the decision makers to make their own judgement on how such unhappiness can be addressed.

four, individuals, unless they are expert in the field, are unlikely to provide solutions to complex problems. what they could have are just some bright sparks, which probably the decision makers, given their talents and expertise would have considered.

five, what the people can do, or demand, is the priority in allocation of resources and interest of the people versus what the govt thinks is good. many of the things that the govt thinks are good are not what the people think are good for them. these are the areas that the govt can raise with the govt. reprioritise. and these got to do with values and perception of tangible and intangible benefits.

five, the people are talking to the govt in all ways. govt channel should not be the only way. it is bad as the expectations are high. 'i give my feedback and nothing heard. a blackhole.' this is what will happen to govt channels.

six, the govt, if really interested, should seek out views and ideas from all the channels available. cyberspace blogs and forums are useful in the sense that the posts are there for the govt to read at its own time. why must feedback only comes from an official channel call feedback and the rest, no matter how decent and reasonable be dismissed?

seven, the govt should not keep asking people to help them solve their problems for free while they keep increasing their salary. it does not make sense. they are paid to do the job. and the people will kpkb if they don't do it well or in the interest of the people.

eight, yes, some citizens will be motivated just to participate in some capacity in the decision making process even for free. spread the net.

one last point. many decisions that hurt the people were dumped at the people despite all the kpkb and feedback. so, feedback for show or for real?

these are just some of my comments. again, thanks for the invitation. it is expensive attending events. petrol is not cheap and my time is not cheap either : )

Anonymous said...

err..please. just come down from your high places. people who aspire to be called 'rabbi' in principle create an environment of hypocrisy and division. people who can't see beyond being called swine and hypocrites cannot unite the haves and haves not, the wolves and the lambs. this is because they have no intention to seek the best for the least in society else their interests be compromised and their wealth and glory lost.

we have created a false sense of peace and prosperity. we have even created a false sense of civility. because all these are done under siege, there is no depth nor substance when dealing with people's problems. the result is a deceptive covering of paid services as oppose to services from the heart.

one must always remember that people here are pressured to prove themselves in order to be accepted amongst the elite class. this result in instantaneous success at the expense of the under class. from instantaneous burgers to instantaneous respect and honor, the egos desperately need to be gratified too which account for the instantaneous nation.

a society of people who needs all kinds of rules to enforce civility is a fake society.

this kind of society will ignore just duties if tributes are not paid to those seating in moses seat.

i have seen it happened in govt and govt associated bodies and its evil often went under the radar.

you may say, if you don't utter the right words to itching ears, it gives them the right to see you burn in the hell they have created for you.

kudos you serfs. and that's the whole pt isnt it?

Anonymous said...

nair is a case in pt?