Singapore has this new initiative with an objective of bridging the digital divide. In a cose parallel to the free-Wifi initiative in Mountain View, Singapore will launch a nationwide Wifi network that provides wireless online access for free over a two-year period. For more, read this GigaOm post or this..
This post was supposed to be a review of my first usage of this service. It was first launched on December 1st but well, I have wireless at home and free wireless in my NUS campus, so I didn’t caretill now.
So i tried signing up for it today, under the iCell network cos I heard icell and QMax have simpler signup procedures than Singtel based on media reports. So i tried doing what anyone else will do for a newbie.
I search for “icell singapore” with Google. No relevant result. Strange..
So i tried “wireless@sg singapore” instead, half-expecting it to direct me to a main site that will offer me direct access to all three providers and a list of locations where I can find the limited locations offering this service. No relevant result too. I reached an IDA web page, which was broken, and referred me to another site before i had to click on another button to reach the proper-signup page i was looking for.
Its not easy so far, I thought.. I didn’t imagine that the providers and the man Wireless@SG program had no dedicated Google presence in our world today. Just how will someone who is less web-savvy than me use this service? And I am not even a computer science student.. I wonder how my dad, mum, or uncle will use this. They will probably start off with a search engine too..
But its fine, I found the highly embedded Wireless@SG site, i thought, so i can finally sign up for my freebies.. But heck no..
Icell requires you to provide compuksory information such as your NRIC no, a personal identification number and your full name, your cell phone number and that totally put me off signing up. Last thing I want is icell spamming my cell phone with SMSes when Singtel, a proper telco, already does so. And why the hell do they always want NRICs? I hate giving that info out and it seems all Singapore websites love doing that. Dun they realise that is a conscious mental barrier for web users when we dun have to provide our NRICs when we sign up for foreign-based services like email, blog account, etc? It makes me ever more conscious that some governmetn agency will track my personal information and tracking habits. This “walled-garden”aproach of differentiating Singapore-based internet services from foreign ones is a needless hassle.
I went over to Singtel’s wireless@SG site. Since I was a Singtel customer, i could sign up easily by just text-messaging them. But i remembered all the personal privacy concerns and red flags from my icell experience and decided not to support this initiative that seemed to be founded on the wrong service development premises. I was also miffed that you cannot find the locations easily that provide the limited version of Wireless@SG services now.
Granted that its only been two weeks since the limited launch, these teething problems may come to pass, but as an early adopter, I am rather put off by my experience thus far. And i hear from my friends that you have to download a program before you can use the Wireless@SG service, that is dumb. I rather use the plug and play free wireless from McDonalds’ anytime over this.
This is another poor example of customer service in Singapore that threatens to derail this wonderful initiative at first. I would think you need to be rather savvy with the computer to use Wireless@SG services, so isn’t this service widening the digital divide ever more?