One of the biggest problem for all NSmen when returning for in-camp (reservist) is to find a non-camera phone. Most phones nowadays comes with a camera. It’s very hard to find a phone without a built in camera. The most common non-camera phone for NS is the Nokia E51. Most NSmen end up using old 2.5G phones or go back in camp without a phone. This add on to the disruption that in-camp cause to NSmen.
I really hope that the Army would relook into the no camera phone policy and lift the ban. Let me talk about the benefits of having a camera phone first.
Allowing camera phone means most NSmen do not need to specially look for a non-camera phone when coming back for in camp. I’m sure all NSmen already have a long to-do list to finish before returning for their long in camp. Allowing NSmen to bring their usual phone will reduce 1 task from the list, thus making it more convenient. And since NSmen are holding on to their daily phone, there will be little disruption during in camp. There is no need to worry about forgetting to copy contacts over. Calendar and notes are still accessible. If they are using smartphones, they can continue using the applications on their camera phone. Some people depends heavily on their mobile phone at work. We all know that it is near impossible to break away completely from work during in camp. And not having your usual mobile phone with you makes it more difficult to coordinate work stuff during in camp.
Having a camera phone has it benefits for the 3G army too. For example, let say if a military vehicle met an accident with a civilian car on public road, the vehicle commander could take a photo of the damages and submit it together with the report. Soldiers who spotted hazards in training area can also take a photo of it and submit to their commanders so that action can be taken to prevent accident.
Camera phone can also be an instrument for building cohesion within platoon. NSmen only get to see their platoon-mates once a year. It would be good to have a few group photos taken for memories sake. Sadly, we never had any group photos taken since nobody had a camera in camp. (and it’s impossible to find the official photographer) NSmen can also take some photos of non sensitive stuff like the bunks or food even how they looked after camo-ing their face and share their army experience with their family and friends.
There are concerns that camera phone might be a threat to security. Indeed, NSmen can take photos of top secret documents and equipments and send them to our enemies or post them online. That is provided they have access to these top secret stuff to begin with. Let’s say they do have access to top secret stuff, why would they want to compromise the security of Singapore’s defense? If the army trust NSmen to hold a SAR21 with live ammo, why don’t they trust them with a camera phone? And if the NSmen really wants to steal secrets from the army, there are many other ways to do it.
Another concern is that NSmen would post pictures or videos online that will bring discredit to the Armed Forces. Before camera phones were banned from army camps, we saw some videos on youtube where soldiers were playing around with blanks or equipment in camp. I do agree that these videos and pictures are giving the army a very bad image. But we should not ban camera phones just like that. We should control the use. Pass down strict instruction on how and where camera can be use when in camp and give out punishment for people who disobey them.
Everything has it pros and cons. We should not ban something outright just because of their disadvantages, especially when the pros out weights the cons. Instead, we should learn how to use the technology and control it so that we can harness the pros without compromising. For example, since electricity is dangerous and can kill, do we ban the use of electricity or learn how to make use of it safely?
I’m happy when I read about the recommendation by the RECORD V recently. One of the recommendation is to allow NSmen to bring their company-configured laptops, blackberries and PDAs for use during non-training hours. I hope the recommendation will further extend to allow NSmen to bring camera phones to in camp.
Camera phone can be used safely in Army camp without compromising security. I really hope the army will relook into the no camera phone policy.