At the launch of a new career centre in the Central Business District (CBD) in Singapore, Guest of Honour, Minister Ong Ye Kung has openly recognised that “innovation remains a doubled-edged sword”. This is an interesting development as it is the first time post the SingHealth hacking that a minister has talked openly about the risks of innovation unprompted. In the past, it was always a focus only on the positives of innovation. Perhaps the silver lining of the SingHealth data breach is that the powers be are more cautious.
Ong went on to say that “if the first phase (of embracing technology) is not handled well, sentiments of workers will turn against us…. This first wave is the most critical because it directly affects people’s jobs and livelihoods.” Perhaps this is a tacit way of the government finally admitting that the failures at data protection in SingHealth have seriously affected the privacy of 1.5 million people.
In the wake of the hacking, the government went into immediate defensive mold. Instead of fully owning up to the gravity of the situation, it chose to downplay the information that was stolen by saying that nothing critical was stolen. In my opinion, that was never the point. The point was that the data could be stolen in the first place and that the gaping hopes in our systems were exposed in such a public manner. It is not everyday that the private data of the Prime Minister of a country is stolen. In the face of this, it beggared belief that the initial response by the government was still to downplay the seriousness of the incident. Besides, the people whose data were breached were never really given a choice whether or not they wanted to provide their data in this manner. It was forced on them and yet not adequately protected which to me, is a real let down of the people by the government.
Perhaps with the passage of a few weeks, the government has finally realised that being a “smart” nation cannot be rushed. It is one thing to set deadlines and quite another to meet it adequately. What is the point of doing things without getting them properly done? It will only come back and bite you in the ass right? Hopefully the government will be once bitten twice shy. After being humiliated internationally after proudly calling itself a “smart” nation, it will be more thorough and risk adverse.
Judging from Ong’s words, it would appear that the government is being less gung ho. I can only hope that this is not just paying lip service.