SGD Freedom Rating

Home                                                    Current Value = 1.5/10 

The Singapore Digital Freedom Rating (SGD Freedom Rating) is a symbolic figure maintained since 2006 by the Singapore GNU Group. It describes the level of digital freedom in Singapore using a metric from zero (0) to ten (10), with zero representing the least level of freedom. The strength of the free software movement in influencing entities to adopt free alternatives rather than proprietary software, the amount of awareness of digital freedom as reflected by the number of threads/posts in local forums and the intensity of marketing in the local media all contributed to this rating.

This rating, which is essentially a measure of the degree of threats to our digital freedom, is updated periodically. It is currently set to a value of 1.5, having been dropped by 3.0 on June 2, 2008, primarily due to three reasons listed as follows.

Digital Freedom

1. American and ex-Singaporean Gopalan Nair has been arrested and charged in Singapore courts over remarks made in his blog. He was commenting on the high profile case between Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and SDP Chief Chee Soon Juan over a defamation case. The articles can be read at his blog.

2. There is a complete lack of privacy protection for users of local webforums like Hardware Zone and STOMP. We strongly recommend users to move to other forums that have better respect for their users, like Sammyboy's Coffee Shop Forum.

We are reminded of what US Supreme Court Justice William Brennan said: "If there is a bedrock principal underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable." Thomas Jefferson also noted: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

3. The privacy concerns regarding Wireless@SG. An open letter was released to the public, after the report made by Privacy International ranked Singapore among the worst five (5) countries in the world for employing endemic surveillance on its citizen.

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Free Software In Singapore

Most users of the GNU/Linux system or free software in Singapore have never heard of the term free software, let alone the various ethical, moral and freedom issues which are associated with it. One only has to look at the numerous local forums, mailing lists and blogs to realize the fact that almost all Singaporeans who are using free software do so purely for its practical benefits! For example, users of free software in Singapore often cite security issues with Microsoft products as their primary reason for using it but many do not know the reasons why GNU/Linux and Mozilla Firefox exists in the first place, or understand why there was a need to declare jihad on KDE with the launch of GNOME. And what they would usually do after installing a GNU/Linux distribution is to add non-free software like Adobe Flash player to their system.

The free software movement, whose goal is to replace all non-free components with free software, started in 1983 with the GNU Project. The movement has come a long way since, with the addition of the free kernel Linux in 1992, to produce a completely free operating system GNU/Linux. Today, we are facing a different threat. Not so much from non-free operating systems but from non-free device drivers, applications and technologies like DRM and Trusted Computing. The kernel Linux presently contains non-free software and though the developers are hesitant to take actions against this blatant violation of the GPL, which it was licensed under, it does not mean that it is alright to carry on in this way. Many video cards are crippled if you refuse to use any non-free drivers. Visitors of Youtube had to install non-free software in order to be able to view the embedded Flash videos and the Flash format is now trapping Flash users just as Java previously did so with the Java Trap. Microsoft Office continues to entice all its users with non-free software and patented document formats.

The trinity of software, which the majority of computer users requires for their daily work/play, would very soon be completed and all users could possibly be liberated if they endorse and use this trinity of software and make a commitment to refuse to install any non-free software on their systems. We are heartened to know that Singapore's Internet Banking and GNU users would soon be liberated from one less non-free software (Sun's Java platform) when the free version becomes easily available through major GNU distributions. In addition, the latest GNU Flash player Gnash is now able to play Youtube videos well.