Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Security in water, food and energy

By Samantha Boh, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2018

Climate change is wreaking havoc on global food and water supply and Singapore, a tiny city state without natural resources, is at risk of bearing the brunt of the damage.

Sea levels are rising, and droughts and extreme storms are getting ever more frequent. In turn, farming and fishing communities are disappearing as repeated extreme weather events wipe out entire crops and fishing grounds.

The lack of rain has also caused rivers and dams to dry up, even in neighbouring Malaysia in previous years, cutting water supply to communities.

Singapore gets the lion's share of its raw water from across the Causeway, largely from Johor's Linggiu Reservoir, which can meet 60 per cent of Singapore's water needs during times of normal rainfall. The country also imports more than 90 per cent of its food.

At the same time, global warming is pushing up demand for electricity, where conventional generation of it using fossil fuels is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions - the most significant driver of climate change.

How then can Singapore ensure a reliable supply of water, food and energy that can be sustained for generations to come?

The answer is astute planning, learning and innovation.

WATER

If you go by numbers, it would appear Singapore does not stand a chance at water independence.

It is 460 times smaller than Malaysia by land area. Its 17 freshwater reservoirs combined are but a fifth the size of Linggiu Reservoir.

But when a dry spell in 2014 led the reservoir's water levels to drop to new lows, which at its worst was just 20 per cent in October 2016, it was Singapore that supplied Malaysia with additional potable water to help tide it over.

The Republic has defied the odds out of sheer necessity, bolstered by a strong political will, effective water management laws and an experienced and motivated people, said water experts.

Singapore can draw up to 250 million gallons of water a day from the Johor River under the 1962 Water Agreement. The treaty, however, expires in 2061.

This, along with the expectation that water demand will rise as the country's population grew, pushed its leaders to plan ahead. After more than 50 years of unceasing efforts, Singapore has made strides towards self-sufficiency in water supply, and established itself as a world leader in water treatment technology.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Are online vigilantes going too far?: The lure of the shame game

Online vigilantes instigating others to go too far to exact revenge on alleged wrongdoers
By Calvin Yang, The Sunday Times, 22 Apr 2018

Self-styled online vigilantes, who attempt to execute social justice for perceived wrongdoing by digging up all they can on perpetrators and spreading the information online, are turning out to be instigators - spurring others to go too far to exact revenge on their targets.

The Sunday Times has found that victims - whether mistakenly targeted or not - often suffer depression or anxiety.

This comes even as experts warn of real-world ramifications for victims of such online witch-hunts. Some have lost their jobs, received death threats and left the country with their families to escape the relentless persecution.

One victim said he has been "punished enough" from having his photos plastered in online posts to being harassed at home.

In the latest episode of online vigilantism gone wrong, keyboard warriors took matters into their own hands, but ended up jumping to wrong conclusions.

About a week ago, a driver had his name dragged through the mud for reportedly refusing to pay the full cost of petrol wrongly pumped into his BMW at a Caltex petrol pump in Tampines. He claimed to have asked for only $10 worth of petrol, while the pump attendant thought he had wanted a full tank and so pumped $135's worth of fuel.

The attendant then told the cashier that he would bear the rest of the bill, according to a Facebook post on the matter. This led Caltex Singapore to assure the public that the attendant "did not bear any financial obligation" for the incident.

CSI GONE TOO FAR?

Even though the case was later established by the police as a misunderstanding, the damage had already been done.

Incensed by the driver's actions, online vigilantes trawled through various sites to dig up whatever details they could get on him. These included his mobile number, LinkedIn profile, usual parking spots, road tax details, company he worked at, and even photos of his family. Fearing for his family's safety, the driver - who said he had received "many nuisance calls, SMSes and WhatsApp messages" - lodged a police report. He has since switched off his phone and is on leave from work.

This is not the first time an online "investigation" has gone wrong.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Singapore tackling inequality early from pre-school: K. Shanmugam

Stepped-up spending in sector to give every child a good start and chance to succeed
By Jose Hong, The Straits Times, 21 Apr 2018

Just as it casts its shadow over the rest of the world, inequality also remains one of the most serious issues now facing Singapore - with one difference.

Here the Government wants to tackle it early and believes that the best chance of addressing it is during a child's pre-school years, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.

The idea is to give every child a good start and the chance to succeed right from the beginning, he said. That is why the Government is levelling the playing field by providing more assistance to those in danger of being left behind during the pre-school years.

It will double spending on the pre-school sector to $1.7 billion by 2022 and open 40,000 more childcare places by then, said Mr Shanmugam.

Explaining the rationale behind this approach, he said that while Singapore remains wedded to meritocracy, children have different starting points in life.

"At the point of birth, there is already a gap. That gap widens because of the difference in the families. And inequality will manifest itself in many intangible ways," he said. "Therefore, the pre-school years are crucial - the best chance that the Government has to give our children a good start… and a decent chance to succeed in life and to close the inequality gap."

Those from less privileged backgrounds have limited networks and fewer opportunities to develop their talents.

The Government is now stepping in to offer these opportunities.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Singapore's 23 key industries to be grouped into 6 clusters as economy begins next phase of transformation: Heng Swee Keat

Six industry clusters to drive economic transformation
Heng outlines plan to position Singapore as key node for technology, innovation and enterprise
By Chia Yan Min, Economics Correspondent, The Straits Times, 19 Apr 2018

The next phase of Singapore's economic transformation will involve deepening linkages between complementary industries by grouping them into clusters, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

The aim is to position Singapore as a key node for technology, innovation and enterprise in Asia and around the world.

The latest move comes after the Government rolled out 23 sector-specific road maps for transforming key industries, called Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs). A total of 23 road maps covering 80 per cent of the Singapore economy have been launched.


These sectors will now be grouped into six clusters to maximise opportunities for collaboration, Mr Heng said at a media briefing yesterday.

The six clusters - each helmed by a minister and at least one private-sector or union representative - will be unveiling plans in the coming months to promote innovation and encourage partnerships within these sectors.

The clusters are: manufacturing, built environment, trade and connectivity, essential domestic services, modern services and lifestyle.

Such an approach will help bring diverse capabilities together, said Mr Heng. For example, in the lifestyle cluster, there is scope to explore how firms in hotel services and food services can work together to bring major events and conferences to Singapore, as well as improve experiences for tourists.

Citing hawker centres as an example, he added: "In a hawker centre, stalls sell different food and are competing but at the same time they are cooperating - people know that hawker centres will always have a great variety of good food.

"This is what I hope Singapore companies can also do. Everyone is good at something, and together we can build a reputation as the best 'hawker centre' in town."

The aim is to cement the Republic's position as a "global Asia node of technology, innovation and enterprise", said the minister.

This means making innovation pervasive, building deep capabilities in companies and among workers, as well as developing strong partnerships locally and around the world.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

New Singapore jobs portal MyCareersFuture.sg uses technology to better match jobseekers and employers

By Joanna Seow, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 17 Apr 2018

A high-tech national jobs portal was launched on Tuesday (April 17) to better match local jobseekers with employers.

It can prioritise search results according to the relevance of a jobseeker's skills, and filter results to show those under government schemes that support training, among other key features.

The new portal, called MyCareersFuture.sg, is developed by Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Government Technology Agency (GovTech).

It replaces the interface of the existing Jobs Bank for users, and WSG said it aims to roll out the function for employers to post jobs by the end of this year.

For now, employers will still post jobs on Jobs Bank, and the posts will be shown on MyCareersFuture.sg

A pilot run of the new portal was conducted with 100 users in the last three months of 2017, and the site went live in January this year. It has received 280,000 visitors as of the first week of April.

Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo told reporters on Tuesday that the portal is aimed at providing jobseekers a “smarter and faster way” to find the right opportunities in the next phase of their careers.

“Today, some jobseekers send out many resumes, not knowing whether there is a good job fit and whether they have the skills employers are looking for. Employers also have a similar problem – they have to sieve through a lot of CVs (curricula vitae), and sometimes it is hit and miss, they may not find who they are looking for,” she said at Suntec City mall, on the sidelines of a roadshow on government job schemes

The portal is timely because new jobs keep coming up and the skill profiles of jobs are changing very quickly, said Mrs Teo. She added that with the portal showing the level of skill relevance to jobs, even those who are currently working can see areas where they can enhance their skills.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

It's not just America: Zuckerberg has to answer for Facebook's actions around world

By Karen Attiah, Published The Straits Times, 13 Apr 2018

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is in the hot seat in Washington. The social media platform now admits that the data of up to 87 million profiles may have been improperly used by data firm Cambridge Analytica. US lawmakers are demanding answers - and rightfully so.

But while Facebook is facing the most heat in the United States, it is a multinational corporation and, some would argue, a sort of nation-state unto itself.

In many countries around the world, Facebook is the Internet. And with little ability to influence how the social media site operates, such nations are vulnerable to any policy action - or inaction - the company decides to take.



So while Mr Zuckerberg struggles to answer for how his company is affecting Americans, let's not forget that he has a lot more to answer for.

ELECTION INTERFERENCE

Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal is truly global in scope, with countries in almost every continent affected by the data breach.

In Britain, law enforcement officials raided the offices of Cambridge Analytica and have opened an investigation into Facebook after news of the leak broke. Former Cambridge Analytica data scientist and whistle-blower Christopher Wylie testified before British lawmakers last month (Mr Zuckerberg declined a request to appear before Parliament). Mr Wylie alleged the social data Cambridge Analytica improperly collected was used by the Vote Leave campaign during the 2016 Brexit referendum.



Lawyers from Britain and the United States have now filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, arguing that the data breach "effectively abused the human right to privacy" and "undermined the democratic process".

But the damage is also palpable in developing democracies, where ethnic tensions remain some of the most potent political issues. In India, where Cambridge Analytica may have improperly accessed the data of over half a million Facebook users, politicians from both of the major parties have accused the other side of using the data for campaign purposes.

Friday, 13 April 2018

St Andrew's Secondary hockey players lose match but win admiration for sportsmanship

St Andrew's Secondary hockey team requests umpire not to count a goal, earning opponents' respect for fair play
By Natalie Choy Ching Mun, The Straits Times, 12 Apr 2018

The St Andrew's Secondary hockey team lost a match and a potential medal, but won widespread respect following an act of sportsmanship.

During the Schools National B Division boys' bronze-medal play-off on March 29, the score was tied at 1-1 in the third quarter of the game when Northland Secondary's Muhammad Raihan Adris went down with a sprained ankle.

After a time-out, the umpire blew the whistle to resume play. The Saints defenders threw the ball to the other side of the pitch for their opponents to start, but a miscommunication saw one of their forwards taking the ball and scoring a goal, giving them a 2-1 lead.

The Saints then requested that the umpire overturn the goal when they realised the ball should have been in Northland's possession and their opponents were not ready.

The score reverted to 1-1 and remained unchanged until the end of regulation, resulting in a penalty shoot-out which Northland went on to win 4-3, taking the bronze.

"It wasn't the right thing to do, to let the goal be counted, because it wasn't fair. We scored even though it was supposed to be their ball," captain and centre-back Sean See, who made the decision, told The Straits Times.

"It was too sudden. They (Northland) were caught off guard, they weren't ready. So I asked the umpire not to count the goal," added the Secondary 4 student, who said that his teammates supported his decision.

The Saints may not have won the match, but their act of sportsmanship earned them the respect of their opponents, who clapped and thanked them for playing fair.

The boys also won praise from umpire Miskarmalia Mohd Ariffin, who said she had "never seen anything like this" in her 12 years of umpiring.

"I was honestly very impressed by the boys. It shows that they have been really brought up well, by their parents, teachers and coaches," she said.

Foreign interference in Singapore politics: ACRA rejects company application from Thum Ping Tjin, Kirsten Han; says it has foreign funding links to George Soros

Purposes of proposed firm clearly political in nature: ACRA
It rejects company application, saying it has links to foreign funding from group with political agenda
By Joanna Seow, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Apr 2018

An application by historian Thum Ping Tjin and freelance journalist Kirsten Han to register a company has been rejected on the grounds that the registration would be contrary to Singapore's national interests.

The Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) said yesterday that the purposes of the proposed company, OSEA Pte Ltd, "are clearly political in nature".

OSEA Pte Ltd, it said, has links to foreign funding from a group led by billionaire George Soros, which was set up to pursue a political agenda the world over.

ACRA noted that OSEA was to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of a British-registered company called Observatory Southeast Asia (OSEA UK).

OSEA UK has received a grant of US$75,000 (S$98,000) from a Swiss charitable entity, Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI), said ACRA.

FOSI is closely associated with Open Society Foundations (OSF), founded and led by Mr Soros, it added.

In a statement, the authority said that what happens in other jurisdictions is not the concern of the Singapore Government.

"OSF and FOSI, and other foreign philanthropies and groups, can fund whatever causes they like elsewhere," it said.

"In Singapore, however, our position is that none of them can be allowed to fund Singaporean organisations or individuals participating in our domestic politics. The registration of OSEA Pte Ltd would therefore be contrary to Singapore's national interests.


ACRA said an application was made to register OSEA Pte Ltd on Feb 8. Dr Thum - a research fellow and coordinator of Project Southeast Asia at the University of Oxford - was cited as its director and Ms Han its editor-in-chief.

Its proposed activities included organising discussion fora, workshops and other events in Singapore, such as "Democracy Classroom" sessions.

Another of its objectives was to provide editorial services to a website named New Naratif, which both are involved in.

ACRA said New Naratif has been publishing articles "critical of politics" in the region, such as articles claiming that certain governments are using violence to maintain political control, had manipulated events or framed them for political gain, and have "rigged" their electoral systems.

"The purposes of the proposed company are clearly political in nature," said ACRA.