Date: Thursday 28 September 2017
Venue: EB.G.02, Western Sydney University, Parramatta South campus
(Western Sydney University)
From Shipping Ports to Data Hubs: Digital Infrastructure Politics in Singapore
For a number of decades the Singaporean government has been investing vast resources into building an advanced, competitive national digital infrastructure. Critical components of this infrastructure include: a pervasive, high speed and affordable national broadband network; an extraordinary number of undersea cables that bring data in and send it out; a large number of data storage services and facilities; and data hubs designed to support research and innovation. In this presentation I use the concept of 'containment' to critique the values, ideologies, vested interests and complicated risks embedded within Singapore's digital infrastructure. I argue that Singapore has gone well beyond most governmental efforts to advance their national digital infrastructure. This, along with tax cuts and other incentives, has led dozens of global technology companies – including Facebook, Uber, Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Aliyun – to locate their regional headquarters in Singapore. The large presence of these companies and the data they amass is in turn transforming Singapore into a regional data hub. To explore the implications of this I look close up at one specific location: Jurong. For some time, economic development in Jurong was built around manufacturing and this has been connected to the town's major shipping port. Today, the town is being re-imagined as a place for data storage and simultaneously as 'a living lab for innovators, makers, entrepreneurs and new businesses'. Drawing on historical and ethnographic research as well as policy analysis, I consider how the development of Jurong helps illuminate and raise questions about the environmental and social frictions that result when data-focused industries and policies become entangled and concentrated in particular regions and countries.
Tanya Notley is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts and is an associate member of the Institute for Culture and Society. Her research and teaching is focused on social change, communication and technology. She has 15 years of experience working in the areas of social inclusion, social justice and human rights. Tanya is currently working on an Australian Research Council funded Discovery project focused on critiquing the impact of data centres on labour and territory in Sydney, Singapore and Hong Kong (with Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter). She collaborates with a number of media literacy, human rights and social justice organisations to design communication initiatives for social impact.