Alas, the truth eventually emerges, as it usually will. And it's a rather embarrassing truth:
ST Dec 25, 2007
End of free Net access to spell 1m dip in user figures
That's because IDA counts all SingTel home phone customers as subscribers of mysingtel service, which will be withdrawn in April
By Irene Tham
THIS is not an early April Fool's joke. On April 1 next year, close to one million Internet dial-up subscribtions in Singapore could 'disappear'.
It raises a poser about one set of figures Singapore has used in claiming to be among the world's most wired cities, although this claim holds, thanks to other criteria and widespread broadband penetration here.
SingTel, which owns most residential phone lines here, ends its free Web access service, available to all these customers, on April 1.
Called mysingtel, the dial-up service was launched in early 2000, before broadband really caught on. It meant that every residential phone line could be connected to the Net, for the price of a local phone call - provided everyone signed up for mysingtel.
The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has, in fact, been including every residential phone line in its 'dial-up Internet subscription' figures, The Straits Times understands.
It now seems that even non-users of mysingtel were counted in: Internet subscription figures reflected anyone with a residential phone line.
Hence, Singapore's dial-up base almost tripled in two months from December 1999, after mysingtel's launch. In February 2000, IDA recorded about 1.7 million dial-up subscribers islandwide, or a population penetration rate of 52 per cent.
And let's take a look at how the IDA used such data to toot its own horn:
............ IDA started to publish broadband subscription data on its website only in January 2003, and continued to use the dial-up subscription figures to show how wired Singapore was.
The numbers were published in IDA's annual reports that highlight key national infocomm developments. Dial-up figures were also quoted by the Ministry of Trade and Industry in its Economic Survey of Singapore 2002 and 2003 reports.
Come April 1, SingTel's 938,000 fixed-line residential customers, of whom only 7,000 are active mysingtel users, will have to be excluded from IDA's dial-up subscription figures.
A few views from industry observers:
.............. Mr Jonathan Coham, a consumer group analyst at British-based research firm Ovum, said that counting non-users 'will artificially inflate numbers'.The moral of the story? The next time you hear the Singapore government make any grand claims - "world's best public transport"; "world's least corrupt government"; "world's most efficient public service"; "world's leading hub in X, Y or Z" - scrutinise the data. Or at least take the claim with a big pinch of salt.
Mr Tim Johnson, chief analyst at British-based research and consultancy firm Point Topic, said: 'This conceals the fact that many people in Singapore may not be using the Internet.'