(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The past week has been a bad one for the government’s IT image with the following news reports:
Two days ago, MyCERT advised Parliament’s Information Technology (IT) department to focus on reviving its hacked website the same day, but a check this morning shows that the Parliamentary website is still not accessible.
The week of adverse news should raise serious questions not only about the security and quality of the parliamentary homepage, but even more important, on the government’s information age agenda to transform Malaysia into a knowledge society and in particular on specific IT agendas with regard to e-goverment and e-commerce.
Five years go, during the debate on the Seventh Malaysia Plan in Parliament, I had made two proposals to underline the nation’s sense of urgency and seriousness to make the quantum leap to an information and knowledge society, namely the creation of a full Ministry on Information Technology and an annual status report on IT developments, problems and challenges which would be debated in Parliament to promote a IT-literate Malaysian citizenry.
The Seventh Malaysia Plan had talked about the formulating of a prospective National Action Plan to "chart the necessary steps to promote the development of Malaysia into an IT hub and outline the scope, size and schedule of plans and programmes as well as identify the necessary infrastructure support in terms of education and training". The Plan will also "identify the undertakings and contributions of both the public and private sectors".
Malaysia has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world which has not yet formulated a National IT Plan after promising it for five years. What guarantee is there that although the Seventh Malaysia Plan has ended, the National IT Action Plan would finally be incorporated in the Eighth Malaysia Plan which is scheduled to begin this year?
Malaysia is lagging behind international progress towards the transition to become an information and knowledge society. For instance, there is an urgent need for greater political commitment in the setting and monitoring of top-level delivery targets for e-government.
As far back as December, 1997, Australia set itself the target of ensuring that all appropriate services would be available via the Internet by 2001. In Canada, the October 1999 Speech from the Throne (the government’s annual priority-setting address) contained the commitment that "by 2004, our goal is to be known around the world as the government most connected to its citizens, "with Canadians able to access all government information and services online at the time and place of their choosing". The United Kingdom set a target of having 75% of all services capable of electronic delivery available online by 2002; 100% by 2005.
What are Malaysia’s targets on electronic delivery of public services? What are the other national IT targets, whether promoting e-commerce, reducing Internet access costs or ensuring universal access to new technology?
Malaysia cannot delay any longer in having its own National IT Action Plan when other countries have gone through several National IT Action Plans in their transition to information and innovative societies.
The time has come for the appointment of a e-Minister to take overall responsibility for the Government’s Information Age agenda, ensure that the National IT Action Plan is in place in the Eighth Malaysia Plan and be the driving force for e-government and e-commerce. The e-Minister should present monthly reports to Parliament on all aspects of IT development and progress in the country, and such reports should be instantly posted on the Internet and be available to the Malaysian public to create an IT-literate citizenry.