Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Government Ban on Song

Jolin Tsai's same-sex marriage music video and song banned in Singapore or not?


“We’re all different, yet the same”, is – according to GSN, “based on the true story of a lesbian couple who have been together for more than 30 years.”

The Straits Times, reported on Monday that there was no such ban. The Straits Times then quoted the unnamed spokesman as saying that the “MDA advised the local broadcasters that they should not air the song and music video on channels that are freely accessed by younger viewers due to its mature content.”

So ban from Radio and TV?

Why is it banned? Christian groups?

How many songs / shows are banned without anyone knowing (under private consultation)?

Why is it silently banned without anyone knowing?

-- Ironbowl

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The floodgates of foreigners

Many Singaporeans are not happy with the Government's open door policy to foreigners. Within 10 years, the population of Singapore almost doubled, infrastructure cannot cope with the influx of foreigners and traffic, public transportation is definitely declining.

As you may know, supply and demand will definitely cause prices to change. With an open door policy for foreign labor, wages become stagnant for years. There are always new labor willing to work for lower wages.

On the other hand, the increase in population drives up rents as the housing did not catch up with the increase of population. With the increase of rents, speculators move in and buy up properties, hoping to make money on the flip. Very soon, prices double and triple and apartments that cost $400,000 in 1998 or 2000 can easily cost over $1M on 2008 and 2014.

Next, the hospitals run out of hospital beds. There are easily 10 years without any new hospitals built, and it is not until a dengue epidemic that the government decided to build more hospitals.


The government was slow to act. Only when elections is close, controls are put in place to limit the number for foreign workers. Quotas are created. When housing prices have increased so much and real estate rentals are over the top, the new stamp duties are introduced.

Lately, Singapore earned the title of the most expensive city in the world. Due to the high rental costs, businesses have to charge a premium for everything. Food courts popped up everywhere and speculators buy up some of these coffee shops and drive up the rents and in turn drive up the cost of food.


I recently have a chance to speak with a few new immigrants. Some of them were PR in Singapore from Malaysia, China and Philippines. All of them are in Singapore because of one thing -- employment.

Singapore bring a more expensive city, pays way more than their home countries. They decide to become PR because they feel that Singapore is safe and they can do more that they could in their countries.

One of them even joined the Volunteer Corp at SAF to get to know an MP who was in the same camp. PAP MP Janil Puthucheary a new immigrant has not served NS before. After talking to them, they have a very good impression on Singapore and have even joined as Grassroots members.

"In Singapore, you need to know the MP and getting connected with these people brings a lot of benefits. From getting your PR status and citizenship process expedited, getting your kids to the school of your choice, and sometimes priority queue in HDB application." He said. "Sometimes as entrepreneurs, it is important to be a grassroots member to know about some tips on good deals in GeBiz, changes in PIC grants and access to other free government money. Because these ideas generally come from Grassroots members and we share these information."

Even when I do not trust 100% in everything that he said, the fact that he is now in SAFVC, an active member in the Grassroots at a GRC and juggling with his new job and training makes it really really credible.

From this perspective, I could see why the PAP want to bring in more foreigners. Getting them involved and giving them some benefits will essentially secure votes. With them pouring in, it does not matter what happened before and how much screw ups is created, the new citizens will generally support and vote for PAP, because many of them are also not considering staying here for long term.

The new immigrant from PRC, also joined the grassroots as a volunteer, said that it was easier for him to try to get work in the US as Singapore and USA has a free trade agreement, and he is already in the midst of getting a H1B1 visa to work for a US company, after becoming a Singaporean for less than 2 years.

Not all of these new citizens will stay long term, but be assured, once they get a better offer, many of them -- Permanent Residents and new citizens would jump ship.

-- Iron Bowl

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Smart Nation need Smart Leaders

I was using the Microsoft site (how-old.net) and it could not guess the age of Ultron from the movie age of Ultron.

I've often heard many politicians talk about "Smart Nation", the idea of a smart nation is very cool. But in essence, it is collecting personal data, recording videos, eliminating jobs, losing personal touch in services, and having an app for everything.

A smart nation sounds very cold, one that has defined rules in place, and defined consequences when breaking those rules, but does not care for any reason why those rules are broken. A smart nation with a lot of information is also prone for abuse. The easier it is to use a tracking software to track a person using all the connected CCTV cameras and a facial recognition software, the more it will be abused by people to use it for personal errands.

I've been pushed around in a bureaucratic system and having a webpage which the government forces everyone to use is by far one of the worse experience I have had. I wanted to buy a police report for an accident between my motorcycle and a bicycle, but could not do so online because the bicycle had no license plates, and when I arrived at the Traffic Police HQ, I could not buy the report over the counter as there is a webpage doing that, and since this was an exception, the people at the Traffic Police HQ denied all responsibility as they were not in charge of the system, and told me to look for the IT department, which was in a separate building, and the IT department could not access police reports as it was the duty of the Traffic Police.

With a computer system to blame, the service inevitably will be either very efficient (for things that are common) or impossible as exception will not be handled at all.

From my experience working with many different government departments across different countries, I realize that communications between the different government departments simply does not really exist.

In many countries, a "smart system" can be built relatively easily, but getting the data to work with can be impossible. Many government departments already collect a lot of data, most of the time, there will be an over saturation of data, and sometimes reports are run, but without any context or inputs from other government departments, most of these data are just nice to have and may not be enough to solve problems.

When the leaders do not have a clue about "Smart Nation" but pretend to know, then roll out initiatives and provide a lot of budgets for people to try things, There will be a lot of money wasted, as it is hard to achieve anything if the goal is not defined. Throwing money at the situation does not solve anything if the problem is not even properly defined.

Many of the Leaders have too much ego to learn. Having read a few pages from a book, they automatically can speak the lingo and become an expert. I've seen projects measuring traffic density, air quality and movement patterns, but the sensors are placed in any space that it fits with the least efforts required. So money is saved when sensors are just attached to pre-existing mounts, yet a lot more expensive sensor have to be bought because many of the sensors record the same thing as they are too close together to be effective.

Without a proper understanding of the problem, and an eagerness to talk about Big Data and other forms of analytics, the leaders will spend a lot to make sure that the data is collected, and have no idea how to parse the data into something usable. What's worse is that when other departments want to collaborate to use such data for their processing, the approval process to allow the sharing of the data or even having a sample of the data may take years. In the meantime, even what kind of data is collected remains a secret.

Well, I've spoken to some people who believe that collecting excess data in the beginning is a good approach, because we will never know what kind of data we need. I used to think that is a good strategy as well, but looking at the finite storage of the data collected, many of these data gets corrupted after a year or becomes unusable when the database structure is updated or a new system or new sensors are put in place, with a new format of data. Sometimes, even when changing different vendors for the sensors, the old data that has never been used, is discarded.

We can have a smart city, but if the leaders does not really know what's so smart about the city and having automation for the sake of automation, then it will be a big waste of money, hopefully the solution does not cause service levels to degrade.

I think the notion of a smart nation is a bad one, and I'd prefer to see perhaps a progressive nation, which focus on using technology to empower people and to reduce the barriers to marginalized people. From the implementation of many of the solutions I've seen from various government departments, the idea of a "smart nation" will indeed widen the income gap and create more barriers for people who are not the "average" person.

-- Iron Bowl

Friday, May 01, 2015

Impatient to donate?

"Some donors who had to be turned away by Mr Shrestha expressed unhappiness and asked if they could leave their items at the restaurant. One of them, a woman who declined to be named, said she had spent more than $100 on food items including cereal, cup noodles and nuts. She said: "I spent about two hours doing this and came all the way from Bukit Timah. I could have spent the time with my daughter instead. If you want to help, you have to be fast." 

I don't even understand the need to be angry when someone is also trying to help Nepal. "I could have spent the time with my daughter instead. " 

Singaporeans are even impatient to help but unwilling to do more, and they expect quick results to be quick.

There is no need to be angry.

I am building a list of is you want to support Nepal. Good people working on the ground.





-- Iron Bowl