Internet surfing devices sought for public servants

A tender has called for contractors to supply low-cost Web surfing devices such as Chromebooks and Windows notebooks.
A tender has called for contractors to supply low-cost Web surfing devices such as Chromebooks and Windows notebooks. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Tender called for low-cost devices to delink machines for work, Web

Plans are under way to buy low- cost Internet surfing devices to allow public servants to surf the Web, as the May deadline for hiving off Internet access from their existing work computers approaches.

In a tender that ended last month, the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) called for contractors to supply low-cost Web surfing devices such as Chromebooks and Windows notebooks.

These machines are designed to be used while connected to the Internet.

Manufacturers such as Acer, Lenovo and Asus produce the devices in sizes of 11 inches to 14 inches, and they cost anywhere from $300 to $500 apiece.

GovTech - the agency behind the move to delink 143,000 work computers of public servants from the Web - also called for the supply of encrypted portable storage devices of up to 256 gigabytes (GB) in capacity in the same tender.

"An internal survey across agencies indicated demand for low- cost and basic Internet-enabled computing devices and secure USB storage devices," said a GovTech spokesman.

He added that not all 143,000 public servants will receive the devices as their work must require Internet access.

Market research firm IDC's senior research manager Kenneth Liew said some users may not like to surf the Web using a mobile phone or a tablet.

"It might be easier for them to search for information using a traditional keyboard," he said.

The move to delink public servants' work computers from Internet surfing was first reported in June. It is aimed at preventing leaks from work e-mail and shared documents amid heightened security threats.

When the move takes full effect, public servants can still access the Web via separate notebooks dedicated to that purpose, or use their personal mobile devices. However, their work computers, where they access their e-mail, will not have Internet surfing capabilities.

The tender attracted bids from 19 companies, including Taiwan- based PC maker Acer Computer, Singapore's ST Electronics and locally based electronics store Newstead Technologies.

Ministers, senior civil servants and half of all the public agencies here have started separating Internet surfing from their work computers, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last month as he announced Singapore's cyber security strategy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Internet surfing devices sought for public servants'. Print Edition | Subscribe