On Monday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said after the 10th National IT Council (NITC) meeting in Kuching that the government would incorporate several information technology-related principles in the Eighth Malaysia Plan to ensure the absence of a glaring digital divide within Malaysia.
It is dubious that the incorporation of IT principles into the Eighth Malaysia Plan will make much impact to promote diffusion of IT awareness in the civil service when a full chapter on IT in the Seventh Malaysia Plan had not created a situation where Malaysia probably leads the world in having the most government "cobwebsites" on the Internet - homepages which are "dead" sites for lack of updating or interactivity.
Abdullah said yesterday that ministries and departments need to actively participate in embracing information technology, which is a sad commentary on the failure of the government’s efforts in the past five years to ensure widespread diffusion and application of IT in the country to stimulate productivity and competitiveness and further improve the quality of life.
In 1996, the Seventh Malaysia Plan declared that one of the thrusts of IT development in the next five years was to enhance IT awareness among the population - which cannot succeed when there is a lack of IT awareness in the civil service as evidenced by the widespread disease of "cobwebsites" of Ministries and government agencies
Abdullah should explain why the government has taken so long to wake up to the serious disease of government "cobwebsites" in Malaysia and what he proposes to do to ensure that his "ticking-off" is followed up by instant action. Does Abdullah surf the Internet and monitor the government "cobwebsites"?
The start to clean up the government "cobwebsites" should be the Parliament website, which is the most disgraceful Parliament homepage in the Commonwealth despite the huge sums of money spent on having a Parliamentary website.
Websites of Parliaments in other countries have introduced live telecasts of parliamentary proceedings on the Internet, but the Malaysian Parliamentary website does not even have information as to the business being transacted at the current Parliamentary meeting!
The IT rot in Parliament has set in so badly that two public reminders drawing attention to the Parliament "cobwebsite" could not bestir the Parliamentary webmaster into life!
The Minister for Science, Environment and Technology, Datuk Law Hieng Ding told The Sun today that he had just received an email this week stating that the DOE website was the most updated department of the government.
I have just visited the DOE website and its "Air Quality" section. Its last update was July 12, completely ignoring the return of the haze in the past five days with many areas of the country plunged into "unhealthy" air pollutant index. The DOE "Air Quality" website is an utter failure when it is of no help whatsoever to Malaysians when the country is faced with the "air pollution" threat with the return of the haze!
Probably it makes no difference whether the DOE website on "Air Quality" is updated or not as the ban on the release of the Air Pollutant Index (API) makes the DOE homepage totally irrelevant in this regard.
However, if the DOE can claim to be the most updated department of the government although the last update of the "air quality" section was one week ago, the diffusion of IT awareness in the government must be very low indeed.
Furthermore, the fact that the Minister had to be informed by email that the DOE website is the most updated department of the government shows that the Minister does not surf the Internet much, which is not atypical of the present Cabinet - one root cause for the lack of IT commitment at all levels of the government.