I guess one of the advantages of running an island nation the size of a big city with virtually no opposition is that you can make any sort of decision you like and everyone has to go along with it. However, with this level of power there is always the fear that it could be abused. Singapore is such a country but its political machine, unchanged or unchallenged, for whatever reason, over forty-five years continues to make bold, and often bleeding edge, decisions that make the rest of the world take notice.
In technology terms, Singapore has never lagged behind. In terms of telecommunications, it has never been far from the lead in terms of rollout of new products and services. In the case of next generation national broadband networks it is way out in front with fiber to every premise well underway with 90 per cent coverage by end 2012. Ninety retail service providers have already signed up to deliver service direct to customers and developers are busy working on new applications that can really take advantage of delivery speeds from 100Mbps to 1Gbps.
But whether they like it or not, all Singaporeans will be led, some kicking and screaming, into the new age by a series of eGovernment initiatives. The first, announced this week, is that every Singaporean will be allocated a personal online mailbox to receive mail from the Government and public agencies.
Mail such as tax statements, reminders to renew TV licenses, road tax, pet licenses and bills for service and conservancy charges will be sent to this Internet mailbox called, get ready for it, OneInbox.
Singaporeans already handle most Government related matters online, including their tax returns using what is known as their SingPass ID which will now also be used register online to get e-mail and SMS alerts for new mail. No doubt their parking and traffic fines will also be delivered via their OneInbox.
Another new feature being touted is to give residents an online ‘safe deposit box’ for them to store important personal documents such as their birth certificate and statements of Central Provident Fund (Government pension/superannuation) savings. One government officer used the strangely emotional example that if there was a fire, people no longer needed to risk their lives running into their homes to save their important documents. Very thoughtful, yes, but some online skeptics are already touting that ‘big brother’ may also get a look in.
I’m not sure where this leaves the main recipient of current government mail expenditure, Singapore Post. OneInBox could deliver it the ‘killer blow’.