We seem to have many ways to track our fellowmen. From plans to install face recognition CCTV island wide to proposed regulations tracking what we can or cannot say online, we now have new monitoring systems to track cleaners as they work in Tampines. Is this Big Brother culture really necessary? Instead of forcing people to comply out of pressure, why not motivate them to want to work? While these various tools of monitoring may have good intentions ranging from safety to ensuring that our corridors are clean, the end result is a culture of fear which will never, in my opinion at least, produce long term or lasting results.
Is this just a myopic and short term technique to achieve results that will not endure?
Now compare to the system what cleaning start-up Nimbus is said to adopt where they invests heavily in technology for the benefit of the cleaners, particularly aged cleaners.
Co-founder of the company, Mr Daniel Thong said during the Straits Times round table discussion last Friday, "We build a lot of mobile applications specifically for the elderly that give them the chance to have flexible working hours, performance-based incentives, which is...to get rid of the flat “basic wage” conversation that we currently have and that workers currently suffer … and we do a lot by getting accurate timesheets from accurate timestamps.
"We’re able to pay them more frequently, which solves a lot of their financial situations, because low-income individuals tend to have very tight cash constraints," he said.
"On the demand side as well, we are changing that conversation, because we are able to combine more services to value-add to our customers. So the conversation is no longer just around the cost of cleaning, but about the entire value for money by having a convenient tech-enabled facilities vendor. We are changing our cleaners to become our brand ambassadors, and it justifies a higher living wage.
So one uses devices to compel one to work harder, the other use devices to enable better work performance, see the difference?
One standard for a class, another standard for the elites
Secondly, if the little people are being monitored left, right and centre, who is monitoring the powers be? There have apparently been murmurings of discontent over ministerial salaries for yonks yet, who is monitoring them? Who is ensuring that such salaries are deserved? While we get a chance at the ballot box, that only happens once every few years. In the interim, who is watching Big Brother?
If the people are being watched, shouldn't this apply to the authorities too? Monitoring should after all go both ways. That would be only fair. It is also concerning that Singapore is fast taking on the attributes of a police state. News that even cleaners are being tracked as they work is really one step too far. Slowly but surely, are we accumulating a state surveillance network that will permeate every aspect of life? Will a move in this direction really serve our highest good? Or will it become something that can be easily misused by higher ups as a tool of repression and control?
Further, will this lead us to become even more vulnerable to the nefarious intents of hackers? We have just suffered the largest ever security breach in SingHealth with the details of over 1.5 million people (including the details of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) illegally assessed. With all of these high tech surveillance plans which will no doubt involve the Internet and cyber technology, are we asking for trouble before we are ready to combat and assess all of the risks?
The ink on the COI inquiry recommendations is not even dry and now all this?
Let's look before we leap instead of taking one step forward only to take two steps back.