Three night ago, at the "Dinner with Barisan Alternative MPs" at Hotel Nikko (March 22, 2000), I criticised the Parliamentary homepage as an example of a serious and prevalent IT disease in Malaysia 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.
I told the dinner that the Parliamentary webmaster had committed the "unpardonable sin" of not updating the Parliamentary website for more than five months since Oct. 15, 1999 - when in the era of IT, websites should not updated not just daily, but sometimes several times a day.
As a result of the "unpardonable sin" of the Parliamentary webmaster, all the newly-elected MPs in the Nov. 29, 1999 general election were still not listed on the Parliamentary website as the MPs of the ninth Parliament were still listed as current MPs. The new Cabinet formed after the general election was also not available on the website and the number of elected MPs was still mentioned as 192 when the tenth Parliament has 193 MPs.
I note that the Parliamentary webmaster has taken note of my castigation on Wednesday night and the old list of MPs had been removed and the number of elected MPs is now given as 193 and not the old figure of 192.
However, there is still no current list of MPs on the home-page, which is the most basic information which should be provided by a parliamentary homepage. A greater indictment of the Parliamentary homepage, however, is that it remains 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!
The parliamentary homepage was launched on May 21, 1996 not so much because Parliament wanted to be in the very forefront of the digital revolution, but just to shut me up from repeatedly complaining in the Dewan Rakyat that there was no Parliamentary website on the Internet and that it was most ridiculous for MPs to talk in Parliament about the IT revolution and the vision of Malaysia becoming an information and knowledge society when the Parliament seemed to be totally cloistered against the IT changes.
Right from the beginning, the Parliamentary homepage was a "disgrace".
There was not only no interactivity on the Parliamentary homepage, there was no currency whatsoever.
Unlike other Parliamentary websites, bills, acts and parliamentary documents are not available and there is no search engine. In the last Parliament, DAP had to perform the public service to post various bills, particularly the IT bills on Computer Crimes, Digital Signature and Telemedicine on the Internet for the information of Malaysians.
Draft hansards and daily notices of business of the current parliamentary meeting are available, but most visitors would have given up trying to access them as they would invariably come out blank with the information "Applet can’t start error. Java lang. ClassFormatError."
In the previous Parliamentary session, draft Hansards had also been posted on the Parliamentary homepage, but they have now been removed - without being replaced by the final Hansards - example that even archives have been removed.
The removal of the outdated information on the Parliamentary website has not been replaced by any current information, and the Parliamentary homepage continues to turn off visitors because of its user-hostile features. It is no wonder that since its establishment in the last four years, there had been some 43,000 visits - working out to the dismal breakdown of less than 100 visits a month.
If the Malaysian Parliament cannot put up and maintain a homepage which is a credit both to Parliament and Malaysia’s IT reputation, then it is better 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.