Asia.Com: Asia Encounters the Internet

By K. C. Ho; Randolph Kluver et al. | Go to book overview

15

Communication and relationships in online and offline worlds

A study of Singapore youths

Waipeng Lee and Brenda Chan


INTRODUCTION

By any measure of information technology (IT) development, Singapore is a success - and way ahead of many of its Asian neighbors. Singapore is among the world's fifteen leading information societies (World Times, 2002), and more than half of its workforce is engaged in information-related professions (Low and Kuo, 1999). The Singapore government - motivated to build a nation and to attain a competitive economy - has put forth several plans since the 1980s to make IT omnipresent at every sector and level of society. Major plans include the Civil Service Computerization Program (1981), the National IT Plan (1986), the A Vision of an Intelligent Island (1992), and Masterplan for IT in Education (1997). Children, heirs to the country and members of the future workforce, are certainly part of the scheme. The 1997 Masterplan for IT in Education, which demands curricula to include 30 percent IT skills and computer training for teachers, has ushered the schools along the information superhighway. More recently, the 2002 Masterplan II for IT in Education continues to promote IT actively in schools.

Under the spurs of the government, the impact is evident. Although the general public had no access to the Internet until 1994, the penetration rate has reached 46 percent among adults aged 18 and over, and 71 percent among 13-year-olds in 1999 (Kuo et al., 2002). Follow-up surveys by the Singapore Internet Project which tracked Singapore students' Internet usage patterns in 1999, 2000, and 2001 show that more than 90 percent of 13 to 15-year-olds were regular Internet users by 2001, spending an average of 9.8 hours a week on email and online chats, information search, and cyber entertainment. As the Internet swiftly becomes an integral part of life, there are concerns over its influence, especially on the post-MTV Net-surfing generation. Many of these concerns, such as pornography, are not peculiar to the Internet; but, unlike newspapers, radio or television, the Internet has a unique characteristic - that is, interactivity, which allows online interaction and transaction, and the formationof cyber

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