For some four years, the image projected by the parliament homepage was that Malaysia cannot succeed in its National Information Technology (IT) agenda to take the quantum leap into the information age when the Malaysian Parliament, highest pinnacle of the political system in the country, is no better than a dinosaur in the era of Information Technology (IT)!
Before my media statement was issued yesterday, there was an attempt to defend the Parliament homepage, claiming that it had finally been updated "on Thursday, about three months after the new Parliament was formed".
The last update of the Parliament homepage was in fact more than five months ago on Oct. 15, 1999 - which I had described as "an unpardonable sin" at the "Dinner with BA MPs" in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday.
The Starís report today "Dewan Rakyatís homepage finally updated" quoted the Speaker, Tun Mohamad Zahir Ismail as attributing the failure to update the Parliament homepage to "oversight".
If "oversight" could be accepted as an excuse for the failure to update the Parliament homepage for over five months , when it should be updated every day when there is a parliamentary meeting, Malaysia is going to be left behind by the Information Technology revolution!
The tragic fact is that the updating of the Parliament homepage after my public criticism on Wednesday night was still not good enough, and this was why I had issued a media statement yesterday that the "Parliamentary homepage should be taken down immediately, the IT webmaster sacked and IT section closed as the Parliamentary homepage is presently doing more harm with its antideluvian presence on the Internet".
The so-called "updated" Parliamentary homepage could not even list the newly-elected MPs for the tenth Parliament and continue to be the most user-unfriendly website of all Parliamentary websites and probably will win the top prize if there is a contest for the most user-hostile website in Malaysia!
Furthermore, the Parliamentary update was dishonest, claiming that it was last updated on March 14, 2000 when it was done only after my public criticism on March 22, 2000.
There is not much point for the national leaders to talk about K-economy masterplan or E-commerce blueprints when Malaysia is afflicted with the serious and prevalent IT disease where there is a total absence of IT mind-set and culture although there is no lack of IT technology.
Websites are put up by Parliament and government departments not to devise new ways of communications in the IT era, providing for instantaneous interactive two-way transmission of information, but just to show that they are not left behind in IT although their mindset is to conceal rather than to share information.
Now that the Parliamentary homepage has been removed, Parliament should give top priority to relaunch it so as to be a credit to Parliament and the national IT image, and I am prepared to give full assistance and advice for the development of a Parliamentary homepage format which would rank it as one of the best and most user-friendly Parliamentary websites in the world.
The significance of the scandal of the Parliamentary "dinosaur" homepage extends beyond the perimeter of Parliament House, as it highlights the Achillesí Heel in Malaysiaís IT Vision - the fatal lack of IT culture and mindset among the top leadership in the country.
This is an email which I have received to a recent paper I gave
on "IT and Governance" which discusses the gravity of such an IT
Achillesí Heel in Malaysia:
"unfortunately, reality speaks otherwise. today, we proudly tout the 240 or so companies which have secured msc status. but in all this time, what exactly have we produced from the msc ? other than the established brand names (sun, hp et al), has a homegrown company secured global reach with its products or services ? singapore, and now india have already staked their claim as challengers to america's technological supremacy, but we are no where near them, let alone be a threat to silicon valley.
"in all fairness, many of the smaller msc companies face stonewalls to their progress not of their doing. i'm sure they'd echo my observation that the msc and what it promises is just a glittering facade to doing business and dealing with government the same old way.
"to them, phrases like k-economy is just another buzzword, a fresh coat of paint to a concept which is going stale from disuse.
"the 7 flagship applications, 3 of which were temporarily suspended at the onset of the economic crunch, are still unlaunched. granted, the 4 which went on -- smart schools, e-government, telemedicine and the multipurpose smartcard -- are in various stages of completion. nevertheless, the expected implementation dates have all been blown. being fair to these companies and knowing how speed is of the essence in the commercial infotech world, i am sure that the winning consortiums are all for a speedy implementation, but where then are the delays coming from ? applications which thus at one point of time seemed revolutionary, are now commonplace. the k-12 program and netday initiatives have wired and placed computers in the american classroom. even nations like india are jumping on the bandwagon. by waiting and delaying this process, we've made our pride applications run of the mill and a necessity, no longer revolutionary.
"the global marketplace has changed much in the last 3 years, and as kit rightly pointed out, 1 calender year is 5 internet years. we're thus left 15 internet years behind time. look at our internet scene in malaysia. have things changed much since you first started ? yes, the influx of free isp service is a bonus. but is it really so ? look again, internet access is free, but the phone call's gonna set you back 3sen a minute, making these isps less attractive than the pay-per-use isps at a combined 2.5sen a minute.
"we took a step backwards in telecommunications service in 1996 when the dominant telco decided to switch from unmetered access to metered access. this is ridiculous considering how everyone and his dog is touting the internet as the best thing since sliced bread. perhaps we just dont get it, do we ?
"couple unmetered phone access with free isps, and you've just cut away the barrier to internet access in the country. imagine, kampungs and rural communities would just need capital investment into a few PCs and modems, and they're within reach of the same services as the bloke living in an exclusive hi-rise in bangsar. but put in metered calls, and all you encourage is for the rakyat to watch the clock and not the screen where the information is.
"strategies, white papers and high level concepts are a good start to a new age, but to achieve the goals stated, we need to also translate these ideas into working implementations which also walk the talk. by ignoring the change in implementation procedures and doing things the same old way, these ideas are only cosmetic, thus eliciting the query: whither the msc?"
The scandal of the four-year Parliamentary "dinosaur" homepage
should be a wake-up call for Parliament, Government and nation to address
the Achillesí Heel of the National IT Vision and Strategy and save the