“When asked if she felt the project had failed to engage foreigners and Singaporeans, Ms Tan said it had never been meant to be a platform for discussing issues affecting new immigrants” (LIVE@SG Not As Lively As Before, Miss Melissa Kok).
The commentary on the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts’ (MICA) LIVE@SG initiative, titled “LIVE@SG Not As Lively As Before” (December 3, 2010) by Miss Melissa Kok, provides accurate perspectives into how its has – in spite of the dedicated resources and manpower – failed to meet its purported objectives of active engagement as a proper resource portal. Even its initial collection of 40 questions and 50 comments in its first week – preceded with much hype and fanfare – pales in comparison to many existing online platforms, such as forums, websites and weblogs et cetera. Beyond the monotonous concept and unappealing layout, MICA failed to establish clearly the aims of the interactive portal, and ultimately lacked sufficient pull factors to draw its supposed target audience – of foreigners and Singaporeans – consistently.
There is cause for concern amongst Singaporeans. The public in general should be cognisant that considerable resources and manpower have been committed to an almost defunct initiative, and that the lack of sustainability and interest means that the aforementioned elements are going down the drain. These are valuable elements that could have gone into better initiatives to provide more immediate help and assistance.
Instead of desperately salvaging meek positives from the failure or finding excuses to dismiss the little-known endeavour, MICA should divert its efforts to analyse the reasons for LIVE@SG’s eventual ineffectiveness and redundancy. It seems obvious that besides the lack of focus and unrealistic target audience, the responsible department did not take into account the proliferation of existing Web resource portals; thereby duplicating information-content and failing to get a slice of netizens’ attention pie.
This is not the first instance in which a portal, established directly by the administration or its ministries, has reached a plateau in viewership, receptivity and general utility. Years ago, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) developed Youth@SG, and envisioned it to be an online channel for youths to converge and discuss about pertinent issues that concern them. Over the years, with its tacky-messy interface and declining interest, it has been losing its novelty and appeal despite tonnes of money sunk in for a less-than-helpful awareness campaign last year. To claim that it is the online portal for youth in Singapore is almost ludicrous; youths passionate about socio-political issues or community involvement could easily turn to established editorial sites, while those interested in lifestyle or entertainment updates have the entire World Wide Web to rely upon.
Simply churning out sites after portals and vice versa would not be the panacea for the Government’s lack of effective communication and engagement with its constituents through the Internet. If it is not serious about reviewing its failed attempts and genuinely comprehending what Singaporeans are looking for, then its future efforts would only be futile and overshadowed by individuals and groups who are more serious about empowering on-the-ground citizens with a more active and representative voice.