Sunday, May 14, 2006

Channel News Asia on the impact of the Internet on the Singapore General Elections 2006

Aired on 12 May 06, CNA looks at the role of the Internet (e.g. blogs, podcasts and forums) in fostering political discussion and independent news coverage during the recent Singapore General Elections. Reported by Farah Abdul Rahim.

Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 12 May 2006 1557 hrs

Blogging activity up during Singapore election campaigning /video

By Farah Abdul Rahim, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : During the nine-day election campaign, the number of blog articles on the subject grew nearly 10-fold compared to before Nomination Day, showing the online community's interest in Singapore's general election.

Observers have hailed this as the first election in which the Internet had an impact on Singapore's political culture.

With Singapore being one of the most plugged-in and Internet-savvy countries in the world, it was no surprise that the election was closely watched and discussed online.

One indication was that before Parliament was dissolved, the number of blog articles on the election numbered about 20 a day.

This number doubled to more than 40 after Parliament was dissolved in the run-up to Nomination Day, and it averaged over 190 during the nine-day election campaign.

The interest has not waned even after the results, with 195 blog articles posted daily since Polling Day.

Said Goh Kheng Wee, managing director of NexLabs, "It is a very interesting trend. I think it's the first time citizen journalism is really taking its form in the Singapore election. Of course in the last election in 2001, blogging did not exist. Citizen journalism -- probably the best expression is in blogs and it was very prevalent in this election here. A lot of people took it upon themselves, felt empowered by technology to report what they see, feel, hear from each election, giving detailed accounts online with the hope of sharing that account as accurately as possible."

A check with blogs like yawningbread, singaporeelection, and sgrally showed that the James Gomez saga was the top election theme, followed closely by estate upgrading, according to NexLabs, which monitors online trends.

The hottest Group Representation Constituency discussed was Aljunied.

One blog received about 5,000 to 6,000 hits, double the usual number.

Serious discussion aside, there were also political satires, like one podcast by bloggers mrbrown and Mr Miyagi.

The podcast, which was a parody of the James Gomez affair, had 60,000 downloads and some 100,000 partial downloads.

What do the numbers mean?

Said Associate Professor Randolph Kluver, executive director, Singapore Internet Research Centre, " In this election, clearly the Internet took on a more prominent role in helping to define the news agenda and helping people to sort through the issues, to discuss the issues. So there are these subtle transformations of Singapore's political culture, in terms of making politics a little less serious, a little less formal, increasing the ability of people to comment upon it, to add variations upon it, to reformulate policies in a more nuanced way that hasn't been there before."

Political parties also made their presence felt in cyberspace.

The People's Action Party rejuvenated its Young PAP website to include a forum to discuss the latest issues, while observers said opposition parties like the Workers' Party and the Singapore Democratic Party also tapped on the Internet.

The election may be over but observers say it is still too early to assess the impact of the Internet on the election.

The Information Communications and the Arts Ministry is currently studying this issue.

But one thing is certain -- the Internet community is only expected to grow further before the next general election. - CNA