How might the Singapore society differ were it not for these technologies – would the society be more or less heavily regulated? Lee recommends analysing politics and society by addressing how power struggles and relations were played out in the pre-Internet era, namely the maintenance of political control via public support (2005: 74). Foucault defines ‘governmentality’ as the point of contact where the technologies of power interact with the governed. This spurs Lee to postulate that, in order to retain power in the Internet era, 'governments need to be actively involved in shaping the design as well as the societal, cultural and regulatory environment in which the Internet and other new media technologies operate' (2005: 75).
One example of how the Singapore government has used technology to instil greater trust, and reinstate wavering public confidence is its online tax-filing system. The e-Filing system has been described as one of most definitive e-government projects, introduced by the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) as a trust-building mechanism (Tan et al., 2005: 2). The e-filing system has been a conspicuous success for e-government. The success of the e-Filing system was unprecedented in terms of compliance, and succeeded in reversing negative public opinion at a phenomenal rate (Tan et al., 2005: 2).
Srivastava and Teo explored how the Singapore government utilised their ‘citizen trust on the technology’ initiatives to promote and maintain ‘trust for e-Government’ (2005: 721). According to them, this was largely achieved by fostering measures to build institutional trust via transparency and soliciting of feedback from citizens. They attributed the huge success of Singapore’s e-government programmes to 'a high level of trust on the government’s ability, motivation and commitment for the e-Government programs coupled with a high level of trust on the enabling technologies leads to a synergy of the government and citizens' (Srivastava and Teo, 2005: 724). These are examples of society being shaped by government via technology, but Castells maintains that society shapes technology according to its needs and desires, not vice versa (2005: 3). However, Singapore is a society that has a history of being heavily influenced by government policy. As such, there is less resistance to technologically-governed control, which supports the idea that the relationship between society and technology is a co-constituted one.
Singaporean society in the context of ICT is perhaps unique because it is different from other countries that readily adopted and promoted similar technologies. Ragnedda believes that 'new digitalized surveillance allowed a new form of social control that tries to direct and influence the behaviour of people', but the technologies themselves are merely tools (2011: 180). As Lee affirms, Singapore considered itself as having a legitimate right to influence and manage the citizenry (2005: 79). Therefore, it is...