Dec 26, 2007

How To Make Singapore Look More Tech-Savvy Than It Really Is

Basically all you have to do is make the wild claim that every grandmother, grandfather, uncle and auntie who has a phone in his/her home is also an Internet user.

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That's because IDA counts all SingTel home phone customers as subscribers of mysingtel service, which will be withdrawn in April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'.

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.'
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.


Anonymous said...

i say, not a pinch. take a spoonful. those jokers have been bullshitting far too much...on many many topics...Suzhou Ind. Park, Educated HUB, UNSW Asia, Biotech life sciences HUB,...all came crashing down to Earth.
Loads of bullshits.

Anonymous said...

The million dollar solution is lump everything into something similar to "Singapore Resident" category

Anonymous said...

They probably know about this "figure" since the launch of the "mysingtel" program. A really big number is good for attracting advertisers and investors.

When the "free Net access" program is going to be terminated, they have to announce it now because the industry watchers will sure to pick up it and it will definitely look bad for Singtel and IDA. Or someone has somehow privately "highlighted" this data inaccuracy and this announcement is to go the market first before any damage can be done. But then, what's new, right?

From the IDA's Statistics on Telecom Services for 2007 (Jul - Dec):

Total Residential Line Subscriptions* for:
Jul 2007 - 1,085,900
Aug 2007 - 1,085,600
Sep 2007 - 1,085,900
Oct 2007 - 1,086,800

Total Residential Internet Dial-up* for:
Jul 2007 - 1,059,700
Aug 2007 - 1,050,500
Sep 2007 - 1,040,600
Oct 2007 - 1,031,300

From the news article:

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.

So, 931,000 SingTel's fixed-line subscribers (non-active mysingtel users) were included in the IDA dail-up users statistics.

Actual Total Residential Internet Dial-up* for:
Jul 2007 - 128,700
Aug 2007 - 119,500
Sep 2007 - 109,600
Oct 2007 - 100,300

Actual Total Residential Internet Dial-up* percentage (difference) as compared to published totals for:
Jul 2007 - 12.1%
Aug 2007 - 11.4%
Sep 2007 - 10.5%
Oct 2007 - 9.7%

Well, if you look at it in terms of percentages, you need tons of salt.

*Note: Include all service providers.

Anonymous said...

Where are the whistle blowers and nit pickers. Please don't wait until the damage has been done or when these buggers make a Freudian or whatever slip before coming in with your comments.

We should have a Nitpick Singapore Boasts Annonymous, that will charge itself with the solemn, hallowed public duty to examine to death and to destroy all and any bits of bullshits, boasts and self-serving propaganda being churned up by the govt.

Please focus especially on those bs that are primarily intended to force the citizens into things that are against their free will without the provision of proper choices and options.

Anonymous said...

Anecdotal indicators have always been used to complement official figures. Much thought usually goes into the formulation of figures, which often have to account for policies, seasonal trends and reality.

Still, like with many things, it is the extent rather than the intent that ultimately causes grief, much as it does now.

Perhaps, one should take figures as one would take to anesthesia - it makes things more bearable. :)

Have a great year ahead everyone!

Anonymous said...

maybe someone can point how to me exactly how this manipulation of data brings about a net detriment to us as singaporeans. the last i heard, foreign investment is a healthy thing.

Anonymous said...

Not to worry. Now that they can't count land line subscribers, why not try counting all registered Wireless@SG users and 3G mobile phone subscribers too? Let's boost the Internet penetration rate to 200%!

concerned_citizen said...

Thank you very much for exposing the truth. May falsehoods and injustice be expelled from this nation.


Pkchukiss said...

Creative statistics - are we looking at a possible Enron-style blow up some time in the future?

Anonymous said...

You'd think with their million dollar salaries, these civil servants would be very good at counting, but somehow they always seem to have problems with giving precise figures.

Like the exact figure of new jobs going to singaporeans- not residents.

Or all the assets belonging to the government.

Or the millions unaccounted for when Mindef got audited.

Anonymous said...


I believe that Wireless@SG is also counted in. That alone would boost up the figures by a fair bit

Anonymous said...

and to think that Singstat is said to be a reputable source of secondary data...

Ok, I'm not implying that ALL are unreliable, but will this have an impact on research papers relying on this data?

irgen said...

Sorry to deviate from your subject temporarily.

I am confused by Singapore Power to peg our electricity tariff to fuel oil prices while in fact our generating plants now uses gas and has been doing it for years.

Here I reproduce my article which I post at the Young Pap Blog.

It is reported that the electricity tariff will increase from next months onwards - according to Singapore Power, the increase is due to the oil price hikes.

I am surprise that Singapore Power based its electricity tariff on oil. As early as 2004 most of the power generating plants in Singapore used gas and it had contracts with Malaysian and Indonesian gas suppliers, notably from the Natuna Gas Fields and here I paste these report taken from Energy Information Admininstration:-

Natural Gas
Singapore's Natural Gas Consumption, 1990-2004. (Source: EIA, International Energy Annual)Singapore imports all of its natural gas, which is mainly used for power generation and petrochemical production. In 2004 Singapore consumed 233 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas, a greater than five-fold increase from the 2002 level of 41 Bcf.

Natural gas use is rising rapidly, as the government promotes policies aimed at reducing carbon dioxide and sulfur emissions, ensuring energy security, and promoting the country as a regional hub for an integrated gas pipeline network. In 2002, the government set a target of 60 percent of the country's electricity to be generated from natural gas by 2012. By 2003, this goal had already been met, and the Singapore’s Energy Market Authority (EMA) reports that about 80 percent of the country’s electricity demand comes from natural gas today. In November 2003 and June 2004, Singapore experienced power outages that were the result of natural gas supply disruptions. After the June 2004 incident, the government set up the Energy System Review Committee (ESRC) to study the root causes of the gas disruptions and propose measures to strengthen the energy system’s reliability. Among other recommendations, the ESRC called upon Singapore to diversify its sources of natural gas, as it has historically relied on Indonesia for its natural gas imports.

So in effect this pegging of our electricity tariff with oil price hikes is not in line with business practice and another burden for our much belequeared low and mid income citizens. Why not peg the price with gas since most of our plants are gas-fired?

If you use gas to generate electricity and peg this hike on oil prices, more businesses will also hike their prices and the next round of such increases will be disastrous for us poor and not too poor people.


27 December 2007 21:05

I hope concerned citizens please help to spread this message to all the blogs and forums in Singapore. You have my permission to do so. Thanks and Happy New Year to you, Mr. Wang and all readers.

To return to your subject of Singtel, fyi I have subscribed to this service for more than 5 years and it is not free. I was billed $9.50 per month 13 hrs. dial-up plan.

Xtrocious said...

Maybe it is time to look at the GDP growth numbers more closely...

There has been talk that the strong growth (which is also the determinant of the MIW's bonuses) was mainly due to the high influx of foreigners coming in as PRs...

Anonymous said...

There is a difference between mysingtel and Singnet DialUp dialup programs.

mysingtel provides only internet access but you still have to pay for the local toll charges. There is no email account allocated for this service. It is NOT FREE, you need to pay at the rate of 2.14 cents/min. You do get FREE setup fees and the monthly subscription fees.

Singnet DialUp provides internet access, an email account, fee web space, free hours and others. It used to have toll-free services but SingTel stopped it long time ago. So, you need to pay the fixed line usage charges. You need to pay setup fees and monthly subscription fees.

If you read through the information, you would realise that the Singnet DialUp may be cheaper than mysingtel in the long run for heavy usage users.

Anonymous said...

Reporters without Borders (RSF) ranked Singapore 141 out of 169 nations in Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2007, 1 for being the most free and 169 to be last.
Do we deserve such ranking for no reason?

Anonymous said...

Like my mother always said....

"It's not the figures you see which you should be concerned about. It's the figures you DON'T see which you should really worry about."

Anonymous said...

Journalist Ms Irene Tham has done a good job through the said article.

We should commend such credible and responsible journalism - even though I should think that the subject misleading data of IDA should have been exposed by the ST long ago.

There are a few socially responsible journalists in ST. Unfortunately many of those regular columnists who write long articles are not like that. They are good in talking about nothing.

They write regular articles like "why I don't like the kitchen" or "Hey, lately I have been having writing blocks and my wife told me to write about that". I speak of writers like Sumiko Tan, Colin Goh among many others.

Then there are those who have good enough intellect to write on socio-political subjects.

Unfortunately such writers as Janadas Devan is always safe and very "angkat" all the way. In one word, politically correct. Of what use are such intellect to society?

Surprisingly Chua Mui Hoong (whom some claim hailed from ISA) dares to criticise PAP policies quite outrightly, even when other journalists are cowering in fear of the authorities.

I don't lump every journalist into one type. But if many are just so safe, irresponsible and boring, I think its chief editors must also be largely responsible.

But then again it is hard to assign all blame to them knowing that PAP will fire any editor or journalist who dares to cross the line.

Remember PAP owns the press all the way.

You see, TODAY newspaper have had 2 top editors in charge of Voices (forum) page quietly removed since last year for publishing articles and letters that are highly critical of PAP.

PAP still believes in the power of a submissive press in misleading the people and covering up the defects and failures of PAP.

No doubt, this still works for some naive and die-hard PAP supporters who want only to hear the good side of the story.

But if according to a very recent survey only 30% of readers believe our local press is credible, PAP is definitely fooling itself on this count.

Anonymous said...

And Mr Wang read what kind of journalism Straits Times is producing. Sunday Times today page 39 reads : "Wah $#%@ I swear in Hokkien" with subtitle : "It's 'cool' and direct and packs more punch than English swear words, say teens and even adults."

It is written by a certain Samantha Eng. Whether it is an article criticising or promoting/glamorising such swear words, it is hard to tell after reading it.

However the first impression it gives is that it is cool to curse in Hokkien. And we all know how vicious such swear words can be!

This is the kind of national press we have.

Who does'nt know how to curse and swear. Just that one would rather not talk about it because it is not something you want to promote, certainly not to your children.

Please, please, there is nothing great about such things.

Man must be careful not to equate such badness with being cool and bravery.

There are invisible forces that are so wretched, so messy, so deep into self-destruction that people can connect to through such behaviour, and make us so miserable and eventually destroy our own lives, families and society. This is the hidden danger.

We need to restore our perspective of good vs bad but our only major English newspaper is blurring this issue.

Imagine how many young impressionable minds will be influenced in the wrong way through such an article.

Anonymous said...

the "free" internet dial up is load of rubbish. It is connected but doesn't work and importantly, you have to pay the phone bills for using the line. It is free in terms of monthly subsription but the bill is paid through your line access...

Anonymous said...

I agree. The free internet dial up is a farce. I gave up many years ago because it is dead slow and you just chalk up phone charges waiting for the connection. I think Singtel made a pile out of the line charges despite the so-called free subscription.

Anonymous said...

The IDA reply:

End of free access won't see big dip in Net usage dated 25 Dec 2007 (STI)


"These figures are compiled from submissions by IASPs. We complement these figures on Net access with data on Internet usage from our annual infocomm surveys of households and businesses.

Over the years, IDA has been submitting dial-up Internet subscription figures to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in accordance with its specifications. In April, the ITU revised its definition of dial-up subscription to specify that only 'active subscribers that have used the system within a reasonable period of time should be included', with this period (for example, three months) to be indicated in the submission. IDA is reviewing its submissions to ITU on dial-up subscription figures accordingly."

The ball has been transferred to another court.

From the ITU website:

Key indicators of the telecommunication/ICT sector dated Feb 2005 (see point 15.1)

Final Version (April 2007)
. See point 13.1

The world meeting (Final Report of the Fifth World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Meeting Geneva, Switzerland, 11-13 October 2006) that leads to the change in definitions. Other countries discussed about active and non-active users of the telecom services.


IDA is saying that they did not lie, they are saying that ITU's previous definitions did not really stop them from including non-active mysingtel users who happened to subscribe fixed lines.

The question is why did IDA use a figure of users which never used internet access at all and claimed that figure is part of national internet penetration rates. These people did not even have a dial-up modem connected to their fixed lines at all. This simple fact does not qualify the 2005 definition (pt 15.1).

It is just simple logic - if use, include and if no use, don't include. You simply do not include dead people as part of our national population, right? No one has jumped up from the grave yet.

"End of free access ..."
It is free setup & subscriptions only and you are still charged for the fixed line usage to have internet access. It is definitely not free in terms of cost.

Michael said...

Singaporeans express few doubts that their future holds careers as researchers, software engineers and biotechnology specialists - not factory workers. The effort is starting in places like Singapore Technologies, a conglomerate of companies spun off from Singapore's Government-owned and well-financed concerns that make military goods, probably the strongest base of native technology.


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