E-Engaging young S’poreans…with whom?

An article appeared on Saturday (March 7) in Malaysian newspaper The Star titled “Engaging the young and restless on their virtual turf”. The writer, veteran Singapore journalist Seah Chiang Nee, mentioned me briefly:

Prominent blogger Gerald Giam believes that until now the PAP did not see a need to use the Internet because it had firm control of newspapers and television.

He probably paraphrased it from a blogpost I wrote:

…back then, I think the PAP did not plan to use new media in a big way to win over the electorate. It didn’t see a need to since it had effective control over the mainstream media (it still does) and few Singaporeans were getting their news from the Internet (that number has grown, and it includes not just young people, but retirees as well).

Mr Seah also wrote that:

In his interview, PM Lee apparently realised it. Moving forward, he said, what is needed are young MPs who are comfortable with the new media landscape.

I’m interested to know who these young, potential MPs are — and if they even exist. Scanning local blogosphere for the past two years, I don’t know of many fellow bloggers who are pro-establishment and have made a name for themselves (i.e., Netizens know about them, for better or worse). Only a few come to mind: Ephraim Loy, Nicholas Lazarus, Kway Teow Man.

The fact that more than two years after PAP MP Denise Phua said the Internet is “85% against the government”, our blogosphere is still as anti-establishment as before indicates that there really aren’t many prominent bloggers in the PAP ranks to balance the anti-PAP rhetoric.

Added to the stringent qualifications for being a PAP candidate (scholar, CEO or can speak Chinese/Malay very well), this means that the party probably has to settle for candidates who are IT savvy, but are not necessarily bloggers.

This does not spell well for their e-engagement strategy. Being IT savvy doesn’t mean that one knows how to engage Netizens. Those are two completely different skillsets. It’s like asking a programmer geek to be a public relations professional.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

6 thoughts on “E-Engaging young S’poreans…with whom?”

  1. Hi Gerald,

    “It’s like asking a programmer geek to be a public relations professional.”

    You have a problem with geeky programmers? :)

    On a more serious note, I like this line… it sums things up pretty succinctly. It suggests a (national?) penchant for getting a good man for the wrong job.

    I know of an A-star guy who is doing biz development when he holds a Ph.D in the bio-sciences from the US of A. Maybe I don’t see the big picture or do not know what I am talking about. I have the impression MBA’s are better suited for BD, while Ph.D’s are better off in the lab or at least near one to think about big research problems. Perhaps mere mortals like yours truly can never understand the working of great minds, such as getting a Ph.D to do BD, or a programmer to do PR, or top military officers to run private enterprises. This line of reasoning simply eludes my simple mind.

    An Old Friend

  2. Good piece of article.

    >2 years has lapsed and the PAP is still trying to come to grips with the internet. Probably the way they think are these:

    – It’s not a threat.
    – Blogs are just ramblings, musings. Hardly worth the content enough to give a bite in politics.
    – Nobody will take notice or probably just scoff at the ‘personal’ views.
    – The content within is not authentic as compared to MSM.
    – If blogging starts ramping up, bring in a couple of pro-establishment websites to counter.
    – Engage them, bring them to toe the line, warn them that charges will be pressed.
    – If all else fail, there is always ISA and jail and hefty fines.

    Well, that’s why we have the Chua sisters gunning bloggers down and discrediting them. This is a sure way how NOT to engage the bloggers.


  3. On a side note, Barack Obama mentioned Singapore in his speech on education reform… around 4 min 25 s into his speech.

    In short, our students (at eighth grade, whatever that is), outperform their US counterparts three to one, whatever that means. You can bet your last dollar PAP sill say something about it pretty soon… I’d give them credit for doing such a good job w.r.t. education.

    An Old Friend

  4. Talking about President Obama.

    I’ve observed that the bills he attempted to introduced into his country are very similar to our government policies. I’m thinking if those bills worked, the U.S. will definitely bounce back as a credible superpower.

  5. Old Friend – I’m a programmer myself! Yes I agree about your point about good man for wrong job. About education, I think I posted the clip of Obama mentioning Singapore and Taiwan’s education system. Unfortunately the quality of the typical Singaporean coming out of our education system still leaves room for improvement. Very good technically, but can’t communicate well. I think it is in no small part because of our education system. I emphasise “typical”.

    James – Which bills are you referring to? Btw, US president doesn’t introduce Bills. Only Congress does.

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