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This tech hub wants to keep government employees off the internet

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Singapore may be a leader in the global drive to use technology to create "smart" cities, but starting next year, the city-state will be yanking its public servants' access to the internet.

The new policy, set to be fully implemented by May 2017, was aimed at tightening information security and preventing leaks, according to local media. It could affect an estimated 143,000 public officers in Singapore, working in over 16 government ministries and over 50 statutory boards.

"We have started to separate internet access from the work stations of a selected group of public service officers, and will do so for the rest of the public service officers progressively over a one-year period," a spokesman from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) told CNBC.

"There are alternatives for internet access and the work that officers need to do does not change," he added.

The internet was never designed to be secure: Expert

Public servants will still be allowed to forward work emails to their private email accounts, and can surf the internet on their own personal electronic devices, as long as the devices do not have access to the government email systems, according to Singapore's local newspaper The Straits Times, which broke the news.

The move appeared at odds with Singapore's multi-pronged Smart Nation initiative. The initiative includes having "a more anticipatory government that utilizes technology to better serve citizens' needs," according to the Smart Nation website.

"With the internet access as a key foundation of the way business and government operate today, the government should very carefully consider the potential impact of this action in Singapore's role in the global business and regulatory community," Francis Yip, group vice president of Verizon Asia-Pacific, warned.

Yip told CNBC that while "online security should always be a focus for every organization, there is a need to balance potential risks against giving employees the tools they need to do their work effectively."

The majority of data breaches were due to human error, according to Verizon's 2016 data breach investigations report, which found that 63 percent of confirmed data breaches were the result of weak, default or stolen passwords.

"The government should be focusing its efforts on continuing to train its civil servants on best practices and developing a comprehensive cybersecurity policy...rather than effectively turning away from the problem," said Yip.

The government has not released further details of the new security policy.

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