Committee of Supply Debate, Ministry of Communications and Information, 9 March 2015
Last month, the Government announced that it is planning to build a dedicated telecoms network for public sector use, as part of the ‘smart nation’ push. Instead of leasing connectivity, as is usually the case now, the Government will own the network backbone infrastructure.
IDA (Info-comm Development Authority) said this is to provide a platform that is secure and trusted to safeguard potentially sensitive information used across multiple government agencies.
There are many security and privacy mechanisms that can be put in place to prevent unauthorised access by both outsiders and insiders. Just because a network is owned by the Government does not, in and of itself, make it more secure than if it were owned by private entities. In any case, the Government plans to commission private sector telcos to operate this dedicated network on its behalf, so they will still have access to it.
The other reason cited is that the Government wants to build a common infrastructure to support the deployment of smart nation applications. Can this not be achieved by expanding the capacity and resiliency of existing infrastructure?
I am not sure if these reasons justify the cost to the public purse of building a dedicated network.
Can the Minister share what is the estimated cost of building this dedicated telecoms network?
How will the Government ensure that its dedicated network does not end up with excess capacity, while the public networks become increasingly clogged?
Lastly, can we be sure Government will not sell away its telecoms network infrastructure to private enterprises in the future, like what happened to OpenNet, which was sold to a SingTel-owned company in October 2014?
 Tham, Irene, “Govt to get own telecoms network in smart nation push,” The Straits Times, 4 February 2015.
Update (10 March): The Minister for Communications and Information has pointed out that OpenNet was not owned by the Government. It was a consortium of companies and its sale was approved by the telecoms regulator, IDA.