The Minister for Energy, Telecommunications and Posts, Datuk Leo Moggie repeated on Monday at a national conference on electronic commerce that in preparation for the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), several new and existing laws would be enacted and amended, which include those on intellectual properties, digital signature, computer crime, telemedicine and electronic government.
He said three of the Bills are expected to be tabled in Parliament at its March meeting. There are no signs however that the government would be making public these cyberbills although it had been talking about them since last year and the Cabinet had approved them.
I will seek an appointment with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to ask for the cyberbills to be presented to the next Parliament to be made public immediately to give adequate time for discussion and feedback not only from the country but also from the cybercommunity.
In fact, there is no reason why Bills which had taken years to prepare and which had been finalised, could not be made public as a matter of public policy to invite public views. In January last year, there was the fiasco when the first of a four-day Special Parliamentary meeting had to be cancelled because the National Council on Higher Education Bill had not been circulated to MPs at all.
Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the the Bills to amend the Land Acquisition Act 1960 and to repeal the Rent Control Act 1966 would be presented to the next Parliament. The Government had spent about two years on the first bill and more than two decades on the second bill, and there is no reason why they should not be made public immediately in view of the immense public interest and concern over their implications.
In his recent mission to the United States and Japan to promote the MSC, Mahathir spoke of his vision of Malaysia leap-frogging from the Industrial Age to the Information Era. If this vision is to be realised, then we must be prepared to revolutionise many areas of Malaysian society, starting with the way the country prepares for the “soft infrastructure” of supporting laws, policies and practices for an Information Society. Past practices where bills are made public when they are tabled in Parliament a few days before they are to be debated and enacted must be regarded as totally unacceptable in an Information Society.
The MSC is a farsighted aim, but it cannot succeed unless we are prepared to be equally farsighted in preparing for the revolutionary changes that would come with an Information Society.
Education, for instance, will undergo a great transformation as a result of new information technologies.
Firstly, from labour intensive, it will become capital intensive. Industrial Age education uses little technology. It is low tech and labour intensive. According to one study in the United States, more than 95 per cent of a typical school’s budget goes to teachers; less than five per cent goes to instructional capital such as books, software and computers. Information Age education, in contrast, is capital intensive. Education resources, including individualized instruction, are delivered via the information superhighway, high-definition television, multi-media PCs, and so on.
Next, from transportation intensive to communications intensive. Industrial Age education is transportation intensive - the learner must physically travel to the key educational resources. As a result of the high cost of travel, education is geographically bound. Students attend the neighbourhood schools, not one that is tens or hundreds of miles away. In contrast, Information Age education is communications intensive. It is the end of geography. The learner can access educational resources produced and distributed anywhere in the world. Apart from the traditional textbook with national reach, there will be the “virtual course,” the “virtual classroom” and the “virtual school”.
These are just two of the examples of the revolutionary changes that will transform education in the Information Age. At a time when Malaysia is preparing for the “virtual campus”, some universities in other countries like the Deakin University in Australia, in collaboration with the IBM, is already looking at ways of developing a “global campus”!
The recent mission of the Prime Minister to the United States and Japan to promote the MSC has received a very good press. It is important however that Malaysians should not allow themselves to be carried away by the euphoria as if the MSC is already a sure-success to become an international IT hub, which could not only excel Singapore but to compete with the Silicon Valley.
It is in this context useful to refer to two news reports following the Prime Minister’s mission to promote the MSC in the United States and Japan to get a dose of realism.
The first report quoted the Singapore National Computer Board chief executive, Stephen Yeo as saying that Singapore officials are not worried by the threat of being overtaken by Malaysia as an information technology (IT) leader as Singapore enjoys superior infrastructure and a high rate of computer literacy among its people.
Yeo is confident that Singapore could maintain and improve its edge, which he said is multifaceted:
Singapore’s IT strength includes its high level of PC household ownership where one in three has a computer and one quarter of these families have internet access.
The second report surveyed the contest to be the IT hub of the world - the present Silicon Valley, Malaysia’s MSC, Singpaore’s IT2000 Plan to wire up the whole island and even Subic Bay Cybercity in the Philippines. The report concluded that Silicon Valley’s great inherent strength to flourish well in the 21st century or perhaps even beyond lies in its “awesome creative brainpower, the state-of-the-art research capability and its unrivalled high-tech know how”.
Both reports deserve serious study, not only by policy makers and planners but also by the ordinary people, for finally the purpose of any government plan, whether MSC or leapfrogging Malaysia from the Industrial Age into the Information Age, should be for the good of the people and future generations.
Finally, I wish to commend the DAP Cheras Branch for launching the Homepage on the Internet, in making use of Information Technology to provide more convenient, responsive and higher quality services to the public.
Cheras DAP Branch is the first DAP Branch to go on-line. Penang DAP made history in having the first political homepage in Malaysia. DAP Malaysia launched its homepage last March.