The Singapore government is about to disconnect civil servants’ computers from the internet. They will still have email and be able to surf on their own devices. The reaction has been predictably measured and thoughtful.
Let’s all take a moment to laugh at how backward and authoritarian the Singapore government is. There now, done?
In fact, it’s common practice in most countries for computers in security-sensitive offices to be cut off from the internet (email excepted). It’s also common practice to ban staff from bringing their own devices into the office and to oblige them to clean all USB keys before use (whether they actually follow these rules, on the other hand…). The Russian government has gone a step further and reverted to typewriters for some of its functions, with Germany possibly following suit.
While the official line is that this is for security reasons only, it’s worth remembering that there’s little conclusive evidence on whether internet access makes workers more productive, but the workers themselves seem to think that the effect is generally negative. (Thought experiment: look at the first page of your inbox. Which of those messages would you still have received if someone had to type them out on a manual typewriter and deliver them?)
Obviously the Singapore government can’t actually say that they think that their employees are a bunch of time-wasting slackers, and prefer to endure a few days ridicule for being paranoid and out of touch rather than offend their homies.
Which is rather sweet.
Edit: This just in, Patient Zero in this initiative was our social media-loving PM, Lee Hsien Loong.
The first person to volunteer not to have any direct Internet access on his work computer was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He took on the challenge at the beginning of the year after security experts advised that it was necessary to shield the public sector’s IT systems from cyber attacks.
Relating his experience yesterday to reporters in Myanmar, where he is on an official visit, PM Lee said: “It’s a nuisance, it takes some getting used to, but you can do it.”
Which other world leaders are famous for deliberately avoiding connectivity? Yup.