Governments must reach out to online citizens

Singapore communications minister calls for governments worldwide to cater to increasingly connected population and implement policies that support pervasive online participation.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

SINGAPORE--Governments can no longer overlook the high volume of activities taking place in cyberspace and must adopt public policies that better support increasing Web-based participation.

During his address at the opening of the 7th Ministerial Forum on ICT here Monday, Singapore's Minster for Information Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim noted that governments must fully embrace an online strategy in order to reach out to their citizens and ensure their policies remain relevant.

Citing figures from the International Telecommunication Union, Yaacob noted that the global online population clocked over 2 billion last year, 1.2 billion of which were from developing nations.

"With the prevalence of social media networks as well as the [evolution] of mobile and new platforms, the increasing volume of online engagements is a trend that we cannot ignore," he said in his speech. "Governments worldwide are recognizing that the online community is an important group that we actively need to reach out to."

Adding that this has changed the way governments interact, he noted that many have turned to the Internet to better serve and manage participate from their citizens. Mobile apps in Singapore, for instance, have been tapped to collect feedback from the public, he said. Such insights can then be used to improve government policies to ensure these stay relevant amid the latest industry developments, he added.

Policies related to the ICT sector must also address requirements needed to support increasing online participation, specifically, cybersecurity and ensuring secured online transactions.

Yaacob said: "A fundamental component of leveraging ICT for the benefit of Singaporean citizens is to ensure a robust and secure high-speed broadband access network is put in place to connect, homes, businesses and communities."

He also noted the need to implement measures to ensure "digital inclusion" so that all citizens, "regardless of their demographic profile", are provided "a fair opportunity" to also benefit from online adoption and participation.

The Ministerial Forum features closed-door meetings which the minister hopes will encourage "frank" exchanges of views and ideas on how developments in the ICT industry impact policy-making. The high-level meeting is parked under the Infocomm Media Business Exchange (imbX) brand which encompasses a series of major tradeshows taking place this week, including CommunicAsia and BroadcastAsia.

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