Lee Kuan Yew, 1923-2015: Some Links Worth Checking Out

2015 03 29 LKYpapers

I was traveling when Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, died Monday, and haven’t had a chance to blog about his passing until now. (Pictured above: a recent sampling of Singaporean newspapers’ front pages.)

Here are some links I suggest checking out.

The WSJ obituary:

Lee Kuan Yew, who dominated Singapore politics for more than half a century and transformed the former British outpost into a global trade and finance powerhouse, setting a template for emerging markets around the world, died Monday. He was 91 years old.

And here’s the NYT obit, as well.

My colleague Shibani Mahtani, a Singaporean who lives abroad, at WSJ Expat on the significance of Lee’s death for her countrymen:

Singaporeans are a lucky breed—we do not have memories of coups or mass protests or riots or severe terrorist attacks in recent years, unlike most of our neighbors. In many ways, the passing of Mr. Lee is the deepest loss that the country has felt, together, in a generation. It is also a reminder of the fragility of the nation, and how its history could have gone in a completely different direction if not for Mr. Lee’s vision.

Elsewhere, The Economist charts the remarkable rise in Singapore’s per capita GDP — and low fertility rates:

2015 03 29 gdp

What comes next for Singapore? Here’s our story:

Mr. Lee, who died at 91 on Monday, has been widely credited for turning what had been a malaria-ridden British trading post into a gleaming economic success story. Singaporeans now enjoy a standard of living comparable with Japan and advanced European and North American economies, albeit without a pluralistic political system, a free press or strong dissenting voices.

But what comes next? In many ways, Singaporeans have been quietly preparing for a future without the steadying influence of the republic’s founding father.

The past four years were the first for independent Singapore without Mr. Lee in government. He stepped down from his advisory role of “minister mentor” in the cabinet in 2011, just a week after the ruling People’s Action Party recorded its worst electoral showing in five decades—a result government officials and political observers have attributed to festering socioeconomic tensions in recent years.

And here’s our look at Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — Lee Kuan Yew’s son:

He has been prime minister of Singapore since 2004, but Lee Hsien Loong was inevitably overshadowed by his celebrated father, Lee Kuan Yew, who died this week.

The younger Mr. Lee faces the task of carrying forward his father’s legacy in his own style at a time when Singapore confronts social and economic challenges that have seen support for the governing People’s Action Party erode more than at any time since it came to power in 1959.

Politically, Ernest Bower at the Center for Strategic and International Studies says:

Some of PAP’s leaders may pine for the old days, but hopefully they won’t pursue the path of their counterparts in Malaysia, where the ruling United Malays National Organization party seems to be trying to turn the clock back, betting on an ultra conservative approach.

It is more likely that over time, PAP’s well-educated and globally focused leaders will find there is new room to breathe and innovate in the new political space of the post-Lee Kuan Yew era.

Meanwhile, we also ran a long, very interesting Orville Schell essay about the “Singapore model” and the future Asia. It concludes:

Lee Kuan Yew not only made Singaporeans proud; he also made Chinese and other Asians proud. He was a master builder, a sophisticated Asian nationalist dedicated not only to the success of his own small nation but to bequeathing the world a new model of governance. Instead of trying to impose Western political models on Asian realities, he sought to make autocracy respectable by leavening it with meritocracy, the rule of law and a strict intolerance for corruption to make it deliver growth.

Though his country was minuscule, Lee was a larger-than-life figure with a grandness of vision. He saw “Asian values” as a source of legitimacy for the idea that authoritarian leadership, constrained by certain Western legal and administrative checks, offered an effective “Asian” alternative to the messiness of liberal democracy. Because his thinking proved so agreeable to the Chinese Communist Party, he became the darling of Beijing. And because China has now become the political keystone of the modern Asian arch, Beijing’s imprimatur helped him and his ideas to gain a pan-Asian stature that Singapore alone could not have provided.

As countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and even China continue to search for new models of development and governance that do not bear the stigma of their former Western colonizers, Lee Kuan Yew’s example is a tempting option. Even though he is now gone, the Venice-like republic he founded will continue to be extolled as a hopeful experiment, and the man himself, the progenitor of what has come to be known as the “Singapore model,” will doubtless remain an influential political evangelist.

Read the whole thing.

And finally:

Embedded above and on YouTube here: Lee Kuan Yew on “Meet the Press” in 1967. He discusses the Vietnam war and Southeast Asia. An interesting slice of history.

Recent Stories Round-Up: Telcos in Myanmar; InMobi, Snapdeal, Facebook in India

It’s been a busy week or so.

Here are links to some recent stories I’ve worked on with colleagues, both here in Singapore and in India.

Myanmar Tests Foreign Telecom Entrants (March 10):

YANGON, Myanmar—When Myanmar’s first foreign telecommunications companies, Qatar’s Ooredoo QSC and Norway’s Telenor ASA, arrived last year, customers lined up for blocks to buy their inexpensive services, exhausting the supply of SIM cards within weeks and cheering their executives.

Six months later, state-owned Myanmar Posts & Telecommunications, which had for decades monopolized the market despite its generally outdated services, has added more new customers than its challengers combined.

The scenario underscores state-owned companies’ dominance here and the conflicting forces that foreign companies face as the military government tries to modernize Myanmar’s long-isolated economy and lure fresh investment while also moving to protect its interests. As Myanmar prepares to open up other sectors, including energy, real estate, tourism and manufacturing, the telecom industry is being watched as a test case.

Google in Early Talks to Buy Indian Mobile Ad Firm InMobi (March 11):

BANGALORE, India—Google Inc. is in early stages of negotiations to buy Indian mobile ad firm InMobi, a person familiar with the matter said, as the U.S. company looks to strengthen its presence in the mobile advertising space.

“Google has expressed interest and has reached out” but there is no certainty on whether the Indian company would sell itself, this person said.

Google declined to comment.

The Economic Times first reported the news.

InMobi, one of the biggest ad networks in India, offers advertising services on mobile websites based on the profiles and behaviors of users of those sites. The company has offices across 17 countries with more than 900 employees.

Snapdeal Considers Acquisitions in India, CEO Says (March 17):

NEW DELHI—Online marketplace Snapdeal.com is considering acquiring firms in India as it seeks to expand its presence in the country’s fast-growing e-commerce market, the company’s chief executive said.

Kunal Bahl said in an interview Monday that possible acquisitions would be focused on allowing Snapdeal to expand from its current mass-retail model into more specialized niches such as luxury goods.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are giving consumers very specialized experiences” in terms of the types of products they buy online, Mr. Bahl said. He cited as an example Snapdeal’s acquisition last month of Exclusively.com, an Indian luxury fashion website. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

India Is Requesting More Data About Facebook Users (March 17):

Indian authorities are increasingly asking for data on Facebook users, and Facebook is increasingly blocking content in the country.

That’s according to the U.S. social media company’s most recent report on government requests, which showed that from July to December 2014, authorities made 5,473 requests for data on users’ accounts, up from 4559 requests in the first six months of that year. Facebook provided “some data” in response to nearly 45% of those requests, the company said.

Facebook also blocked 5,832 pieces of content in the second half of 2014. That’s up from 4,960 pieces blocked from January to June last year.

I’ll continue to post links to my stories here on Newley.com, as always. But just a reminder that you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter in case you’d like my clips — and other fun stuff — delivered to your inbox, as well.

There’s Finally an Ebook Version Available of Nicholas Negroponte’s ‘Being Digital”

2015 03 07 being digital

Back in Dec. 2012, I blogged about the irony that there seemed to be no ebook version available of Nicholas Negroponte’s popular book about the future of technology, “Being Digital.”

A major theme of the book, which was published in 1995: We’re moving “from atoms to bits,” and everything that can be digitized eventually will be.

Yet 17 years after the hardcover came out, the very book itself apparently hadn’t been digitized into an ebook format.

No more.

Behold:

2015 03 07 ebook bd2

Thanks to reader Pierluigi Montinaro, who recently left a comment on my earlier post pointing out that an ebook version of the book is finally available, as of Jan.

Atoms do indeed turn into bits. Sometimes it just takes time, it seems.

By Me Earlier This Week: Interview with FireEye CEO David DeWalt

The story begins:

Network security company FireEye Inc. is seeing strong demand for its services amid a series of high-profile cyberattacks, and would like to grow more quickly, but is inhibited by a need to satisfy investors, the company’s chief executive said.

“Once you’re public, Wall Street wants to see earnings,” David DeWalt told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Tuesday. The Milpitas, Calif.-based company, which has worked with Sony Pictures and health insurer Anthem Inc. following recent breaches, was founded as NetForts Inc. and went public in 2013.

The company has yet to post a profit, and earlier this month reported a fourth-quarter loss of $105.7 million, despite higher revenue and billings, compared with $2.5 million a year earlier. The company said it has increased spending to expand its customer base. Revenues during the period jumped to $143 million from $57.3 million a year earlier.

“If I had my way, I probably would continue to grow the company much faster than I would produce earnings,” he said. But the company must stay “balanced for cash flow and earnings, reporting and returning to shareholders bottom-line capabilities, as well as top.”

“I liken the analogy to a Maserati that’s got the gas pedal to the floor but it’s in neutral. We’re looking for the gear,” Mr. DeWalt said.

I also wrote a piece re-capping what DeWalt had to say about recent trends in cyber-security:

Nations are fighting for superiority

DeWalt said that “this great domain called cyberspace has created an enormous potential conflict.”

“If you study mankind, it’s had conflict over every new domain that’s been discovered, whether it’s land or ocean or air or space. Whenever there’s a new land discovered we’ve fought wars over it. We’re in a major conflict. It’s been brewing. The gloves have been off a bit the last year or two. We’ve been on the front lines watching it, and it’s probably one of the most interesting times of my career.”

Governments’ goals vary

Each nation has its own reasons for “offensive” cyber activity, DeWalt said.

“It’s well documented that China’s focus has largely been on the enrichment of its own state-owned enterprises. Do we ever watch crime occur for dollars? I’ve never seen a single case of a nation-state attack in China for money. They’re mostly after innovation information. Their modus operandi is to level the playing field through cyber offense.

The U.S. has been very active in monitoring, maybe not for enrichment of commercial operations that are government-owned but for its own geopolitical interests.

Russia has been super money oriented. Do we ever see them sabotage something? Never.

North Korea? Gloves off immediately, try to destroy South Korea as quick as they can. It’s not about money or espionage, just about, kill your neighbor.”

Expect more Sony-like “wipe and release” hacks

The breach of Sony last year marked the “elevation” of cybercrime into “sabotage,” DeWalt said.

“We’ve watched over the last two or three years significant occurrences of just outright destruction. Attempts to really hurt companies or countries with Internet weaponry. You don’t have to wipe out the company. All you have to do is release the information about the company. I think you’ll see a lot more of these wipe and release models, or maybe even just the release model, forget the wipe.”

The Anthem hack shows increasing sophistication

The take-home from the recently announced attack on U.S. health insurer Anthem: cybercriminals are getting seriously sophisticated.

“The layers of cybercrime are reaching new levels. What once was high volume, low dollar amount credit card stealing evolved into the stealing of insider information to gain an advantage in capital markets. And now fraudulent healthcare claims.”

By Me Yesterday: Google Access Disrupted in Vietnam

The story begins:

Access to Google Inc. ’s Vietnam website was disrupted briefly Monday, the company said, with some users redirected to a website appearing to sell a service used for cyberattacks.

“For a short period today, some people had trouble connecting to google.com.vn, or were being directed to a different website,” a Google spokesman said. “We’ve been in contact with the organization responsible for managing this domain name and the issue should be resolved.”

The spokesman stressed that users’ searches and Google services, like Gmail, weren’t compromised. Users within Vietnam reported that service disruption lasted several hours.

In an apparent hijacking of domain name system servers, which act as virtual address books and help direct Internet traffic, users who tried to visit Google’s Vietnam site were sent to the website, which showed a man facing a mirror taking a photo of himself with an iPhone.

My Interview with Minsi Chung at Covering Business

My former Columbia classmate Minsi Chung interviewed me for Covering Business, the Journalism School’s financial reporting-focused site.

You can find the interview here.

We talked about getting exclusives in Southeast Asia, discussed some of my recent stories, touched on wider tech trends and more.

Subscribe to My New Email Newsletter, Newley’s Notes

2015 02 19 email1

Last Sunday I sent out the first edition of my new email newsletter*, called — you better believe it — Newley’s Notes.

You can read that dispatch here.

To be added to the list, enter your email address here.

I’ll use the brief dispatch, probably sent every Sunday, to:

  • Share links to my recently published WSJ stories
  • Highlight notable technology industry news, especially concerning tech in Asia
  • Point out other interesting stuff related to books, sports, music, science, journalism and more — much like the material I link to in my periodic links posts.

Note that the newsletter will not simply be a regurgitation of what you see on this site. It’ll point to some Newley.com items but will mostly link to other stuff.

*Long-time readers will recall that I’ve blogged about email newsletters several times in the past — as long ago as January 2002, in fact! — so I’m excited to be kicking off one of my own at long last.

By Me Today: Google Capital’s Coming to India

The story begins:

More evidence of global investors’ growing interest in India’s startups: Google’s new investment arm is setting up shop in the country.

In what will mark the first such expansion outside the U.S., Google Capital — a wing of the tech giant that invests in mid-stage technology companies — is interviewing candidates for a position to lead their efforts in the populous nation.

“It makes a lot of sense to focus on India right now,” Google Capital partner David Lawee told The Wall Street Journal. He noted that the country of 1.2 billion recently surpassed the U.S. in terms of its number of Internet users, and that local entrepreneurs “are responding” with “innovative” offerings for the domestic market and thinking about global growth, as well.