POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS OF 2017

Bills

The Active Mobility Bill will help prevent conflict between commuters and pedestrians. More importantly for cyclists and PMDs users is that the Bill, in drawing up a framework for them to use public paths, will help to expand the public spaces availa
The Active Mobility Bill will help prevent conflict between commuters and pedestrians. More importantly for cyclists and PMDs users is that the Bill, in drawing up a framework for them to use public paths, will help to expand the public spaces available to them.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Proposed legislation to be debated in Parliament this year give an interesting roadmap of what lies ahead for Singaporeans.

Four Bills, in particular, signpost the directions the country will take as new modes of transport gain popularity, computer networks spread into almost every industry, the management of town councils requires greater transparency and the elected presidency is tweaked to ensure multiracial representation.

For many, the Active Mobility Bill will be the most visible as it would have a direct impact on their daily movements .

It sets out what cyclists and users of personal mobility devices (PMDs) need to do when sharing public paths with pedestrians.

The Cybersecurity Bill, on the other hand, will function behind the scenes as it further fortifies the country's computer networks against hackers, who are out to steal personal data and cripple essential online systems.

For Housing Board dwellers, the move by the Ministry of National Development (MND) to tighten the laws governing town councils will improve how their estates' finances are managed, as well as governance.

The amending of the Presidential Elections Act this month will introduce racial provisions, which will reserve the next presidential election for Malay candidates.

The Active Mobility Bill will help prevent conflict between commuters and pedestrians because each group moves at different speeds.

But more importantly for cyclists and PMDs users is that the Bill, in drawing up a framework for them to use public paths, will help to expand the public spaces available to them.

"If we can legalise pavements for cycling, we will have about 3,000km of existing infrastructure for cyclists and PMD users," said Mr Francis Chu, co-founder of cycling group Love Cycling SG.

Mr Chu sits on the Active Mobility Advisory Panel that made recommendations for the proposed law.

The Bill will also make roads safe for all as Singapore takes a step closer to being a car-lite country.

It will introduce stiffer penalties for PMD users who flout road rules, like speeding beyond 25kmh, or using souped-up PMDs weighing more than 20kg, which is illegal.

Education and enforcement are vital for making riders and pedestrians abide by the rules, said Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport.

"We have to educate people on how to use shared spaces safely and on respecting other users."

And it is important to enforce the rules, he added. "People will not heed the rules if they know they can get away with it."

The aim of the Cybersecurity Bill is to ensure Singapore stays one step ahead of hackers, who are getting faster, bolder and trickier.

Besides building a strong protective shield around Singapore's computer systems, the Bill seeks to impose stiff punishments to further discourage attackers.

Details have yet to be disclosed.

For operators of Singapore's vital information systems, the Bill requires them to actively secure the systems and report all incidents.

It will also empower the Cybersecurity Agency to manage such incidents and raise standards of these security providers in Singapore.

Almost every industry uses large and complex data sets and systems, and coupled with Singapore's goal to be a Smart Nation, the need for a powerful defence against hackers is all-important, said Frost & Sullivan cybersecurity analyst Charles Lim.

One area of concern he pinpointed is the healthcare sector.

It needs to boost its security, as medical machines that store confidential data of patients are often linked to the organisation's main computer system and, sometimes, even to the Internet.

Another area to keep a watchful eye on is the Internet of Things (IOT), which refers to devices being embedded with sensors and, as a result, can collect and exchange data.

Often, IOT items are vulnerable and, when hacked, the attacker can access other systems linked to the devices, like the popular exercise band people use to track their fitness efforts.

Said Mr Lim: "IOT device manufacturers can sell them freely in Singapore.

"Perhaps, the items need to meet specified cybersecurity standards before they can be sold here."

The proposed law for town councils will give MND greater regulatory oversight of what they do.

The roles of the town councils will be spelt out more clearly and they must follow a code of governance and internal controls.

They must also inform the ministry and residents of people in key appointments, such as the chairman and town councillors.

A fund will be set up specifically for replacing lifts and critical lift parts.

MND can also direct town councils to prepare for crises such as terror attacks and disease outbreaks.

Pearl Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 01, 2017, with the headline 'Bills'. Print Edition | Subscribe