(Petaling Jaya, Monday): The New Sunday Times yesterday headlined its front-page report: "Websites turn cobwebs - Government Internet addresses not updated regularly" and told the sorry story of the pathetic efforts of the government to lead the country into the Information Age
It reported that a random check revealed that several important arms of the Government, instead of leading the way in serving the public through the instantaneous Internet, are lagging behind.
The Parliamentary web-site (http://www.parlimen.gov.my), "touted as a potential tool for Malaysians to find out the issues, debates and motions of the House and the attendance and voting records of their wakil rakyat", led the list of IT ignominy.
The report said:
"There is no listing of MPs or Senators, let alone how to get in touch with them.
"In other sections, such as ‘History Background’, ‘Functions’ and ‘Other Matters’, the website offers links to local media and foreign Government websites, but has only three entries for each."
This morning, the whole Parliament server closed down. At least there is a sense of shame.
Another article in the New Sunday Times rightly pointed out that when the Parliament homepage was launched in May 1996, I had said in Parliament that this was not done to boost its journey into the new millennium, "but just to shut me up from repeatedly complaining about Parliament having no website."
I have repeatedly expressed my dissatisfaction with the Parliament web-site and made suggestions as to how it could not only be a model website in Malaysia but a leading parliamentary website in the world, but they fell on deaf ears in the last two-and-a-half years.
The Parliament web-site, instead of being a credit to the Malaysian Parliament, had in fact become an international badge of shame about Malaysia’s level of digital literacy.
The first thing that should be done to raise the level of digital literacy, including ensuring that the Parliament website is a model website both in Malaysia and the world, is for the establishment of a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology.
I will put this proposal to the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the Deputy Prime Minister is normally delegated the task by the Prime Minister to be responsible for parliamentary affairs, and I hope Abdullah could agree so that a motion could be moved and passed in the next Parliamentary meeting and such a Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT set up without any delay.
The New Sunday Times article next highlighted another leading IT cobweb in government, the Road Transport Department site (http://www.jpj.gov.my), which won the Public Services Innovation Award when it introduced its website in mid-1996 for its useful information and user-friendliness in accessing it.
However, this top government IT website was last updated in November as shown in its current heading - "Salam 98", showing a most un-IT mentality when a human year is generally equated with about five Internet years
I have often questioned in Parliament whether the government is serious about the Multimedia Super Corridor and the National Information Technology Agenda for Malaysia to take the quantum leap into the Information Age, when the political leadership, particularly the Cabinet Ministers, are l so mired in pre-IT culture and mentality.
For instance, if we have a Transport Minister who fully understands the critical importance of IT to the country on the eve of the new millennium, he would never allow his prestigious department which had won a Public Services Innovation Award for its website to degenerate into a laughing stock instead.
Shockingly, even the Prime Minister’s Department website (http://www.smpke.jpm.my)
is not a model government website. The New Sunday Times article said:
"Up to earlier this week, it was also out-of-date in the titles of several Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, rendering in vain the efforts of Malaysians to get accurate information ‘from the horse's mouth.’"
When I visited the Prime Minister’s Department’s website today, I found that in its "Cabinet Line-Up" , three Cabinet Ministers are still without any Internet links, namely the Minister for Transport, Datuk Ser Dr. Ling Liong Sik, the Minister for Defence, YB Dato' Abang Abu Bakar bin Datu Bandar Abang Haji Mustapha and the Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, Datuk Sabbarudin Chik.
The scandal of Government websites ending as cobwebs is the most eloquent testimony of the failure of both the National Information Technology Council (NITC) and the National Information Technology Agenda (NITA). There is an urgent need not only for a full revamp of the NITC but also a comprehensive review of the NITA.
In the past three years, I had repeatedly proposed in Parliament that the government must become the model user of Information Technology to provide more efficient, cost-effective and responsive services to the public but my proposals had been to no avail.
If Malaysia is serious about taking the quantum leap into the Information Age, I call on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to appoint a Minister for Information Technology charged with the challenge to create one of the most IT-savvy governments in the world to prepare Malaysia for the information age.