Reinvention of Future Governance through E-Government

By: Sonny Zulhuda*

Introduction

This paper is aimed at assessing the perspectives and experiences of Malaysia on the concept and application of electronic government (e-government), more on policy context. Attempts are made to observe preparatory initiatives taken by the government of Malaysia in three distinctive but interconnected aspects: administrative measures, regulatory frameworks, and public participation. Some update applications of e-government in Malaysia will also be touched at the later part. This paper will be ended by underlining the lessons that can be learned by Indonesia in seeking the best format for e-government application, especially in tabling policies and regulatory framework.

E-Government Defined

Electronic Government (E-Government) is variably defined, but basically refers to “the use by government agencies of information technologies (such as Wide Area Networks, the Internet, and mobile computing) that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses, and other arms of government.”[1] Nevertheless in this context, this general meaning of the Information Technology (IT) has been so much associated to the use of the Internet. Thus e-government would generally mean the development and utilization of Internet-based solutions in government services and works. Exactly like e-commerce, which is a utilization of Internet-based solutions in business activities.

This form of solutions are seen to serve a variety of different ends: better delivery of government services to citizens, improved interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access to information, or more efficient government management.

Stages of E-Government

Analogous to the concept of E-Commerce, E-Government can be seen to evolve through four stages:

  • Publishing
  • Interactivity
  • Completing transactions
  • Delivery

Publishing stage includes mainly making as much as possible the information on government services publicly available for access by citizens through the Net. This would include the making of portals and websites for government agencies, also the updating of government programs and information to be widely informed to the citizens.

Interactivity stage is realized when such Internet-based service can invite and accommodate responses from public through the Net. That is for instance making a mechanism where citizen can forward their questions, complaints, or suggestions so as to make the Internet-based relation interactive and going two ways.

Completing transaction stage happens when the ongoing two-way relationship through the Net can be brought to result in a complete transaction between two parties (e.g. between the government agency and citizen). For example, when there is a facility on the Net for citizen to pay their electric or water bills to a government body without having to come physically to the agency’s office. This is also exemplified when a business sector wants to get tender for a government project through the Net. The other instance is when a private individual can sign up for getting license required for certain business.

Delivery stage is an advance level of e-government service. This is achieved when a government provides the delivery of its service through the Internet mechanism.

Malaysia’s Experience on E-Government

Malaysia is a federation of thirteen states and a federal territory, adopts a system of constitutional monarchy, that is, a monarch that subjects to a constitution. King is the head of state/country while Prime Minister is the head of government. Malaysia’s population is currently about 23.8 million people and mainly comprise of three major ethnics: Malay, Chinese, Indian, and the rest is from other native races in both Malay Peninsula and Borneo parts.[2]

Since independence in 1957 and throughout the past four decades, Malaysia has changed quite tremendously from a country that leaned so much on agricultural sector of development to the highly industrial sector and labor exploitation. Ahead to the end of 90’s, Malaysia is preparing towards another shift from industrial society to a knowledge-based society where information and knowledge are deemed to be the engine of growth of the country.

In 1991, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad launched for the first time in public his long-term planning for Malaysia to become a fully developed country in the year 2020. This planning is now widely known as Vision 2020, and was adopted in the Seventh Malaysia Plan of 1996-2000. With this new vision, Malaysia is expected to shift the paradigm of development from the old industrial perspective to the new informational one. It is asserted by Malaysia’s Prime Minister that the manufacturing sector has become the mainstay for Malaysia’s sustained economic growth of between 7 and 8 percent over the last two decades.[3] But this growth would not last long unless there is a succeeding second engine of growth if Malaysia is to achieve Vision 2020. And according to him, one consistent pounding beat was digital technology. Thus, Malaysia decided to make the Information and Communication Technology the engine of growth within all economic sectors.

Pursuant to this perspective, Malaysia is therefore aiming at a ‘reinvention of future life’ through the IT power. Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project is planned and executed as a test-bed with some strategic flagship applications. It tries to reinvent the future education through smart school flagship. It seeks to reinvent the future health care through the telemedicine flagship. It seeks to reinvent the future interaction through telecommunication enhancement. It seeks to reinvent the future business activities through e-commerce. And above all, it seeks to reinvent the future governance through the application of e-government.

E-government is seen as the ‘umbrella’ concept of all those new flagships in the series of MSC project. That is because the very function of government itself is to ensure all aspects of public life going smoothly to the happiness of every body. Consequently, Malaysia takes quick and speedy initiatives in preparing and implementing the concept of e-government.

Malaysia perceives that Electronic Government will improve both how the government operates internally as well as how it delivers services to the people of Malaysia.[4] It seeks to improve the convenience, accessibility and quality of interactions with citizens and businesses; simultaneously, it will improve information flows and processes within government to improve the speed and quality of policy development, coordination and enforcement. In addition, Electronic Government will play an essential role in catalyzing the development of the MSC, as well as furthering political and economic development goals in Vision 2020.

Pre-requisite Administrative Measures

Among the initiatives taken by the Malaysian government to support the implementation of E-government concept are:

Malaysia Inc. Concept

This concept envisages the most important perspective subscribed by the government of Malaysia. It basically says that the whole nation of Malaysia should participate in the development of new society. The government and private sectors would have to cooperate hand by hand and to work side by side to achieve the common goal. This concept is to create the feeling of togetherness of the nation to uphold such a big task of transforming the society to the aim of Vision 2020.

Restructuring the Government

Towards the era where information flows freely through the advance technology, Malaysian government is concerned about the effectiveness and efficiency of its management. Thus they try to slim down the structure by holding only the strategic public portfolios within the government machinery such as defense, justice and finance, and to privatize much of the rest. In this respect, public good and services functions such as telecommunications, power and railway transportation, traditionally under the aegis of the government, have now been privatized.[5]

Putrajaya Administrative City

For the whole great Vision 2020 to be achieved, Malaysia moves ahead by moving and concentrating all headquarters of government agencies and ministries from capital city Kuala Lumpur to the newly constructed administrative capital city of Putrajaya Federal Administrative Centre, about 25 kilometers south down Kuala Lumpur in 1998. The move is not merely a physical one, but symbolic of the paradigm shift of the government from the old legacies of paper administration towards online and interconnected administration; from the old industry-based society to a new information-based one. This move is also mainly to ease the congestion in Kuala Lumpur, to centralize previously scattered Federal government offices, and to increase KL’s competitiveness as the biggest commercial center in the country.

Cyberjaya Intelligent City

This is the first model cybercity built for MSC companies and its knowledge workers. As an intelligent city, Cyberjaya will be equipped with advanced IT and telecommunications infrastructure to meet business, residential and recreational needs of the residents within the development. Served by state-of-the-art telecommunications network with a capacity of 2.5-10 gigabits per second, Cyberjaya is expected to be accommodating around 500 IT and multimedia companies by the year 2020.

The Administration of Internet Policies

Another important measure taken to anticipate the e-government application is to hand over all administrative measures on Internet development under one roof. It is the Ministry of Energy, Telecommunication and Multimedia that is responsible for the policies and development of the Internet and related matters including the legislation of Cyber Laws and their enforcement.

In-House Training for Government Agencies

In the wake of emerging Internet technology and the way it influences the policies and regulations, the Malaysian government seeks to educate its officials and public servants to be IT literate. In-house trainings have been organized focusing on the use of Internet for their daily official activities as well as familiarizing the regulations and laws pertaining to the Internet. On this project, the Ministry of Energy, Communication and Multimedia joined private sectors and academicians to organize seminars and training

Massive Allocation on ICT Budget 2002

The national ICT agenda aims to create a knowledgeable, informed and ICT–savvy society. The Government has allocated an amount of RM. 112.7 million to implement the E-Government Flagship Project, Rm. 72.3 million for Smart Schools, Rm. 20 million for Telemedicine, Rm. 86.3 million for Smart Card and Rm. 9.5 million for Integrated Application. Apart from this, an amount of RM. 487.67 million is allocated to increase the computerization programme in ministries and departments and Rm. 205.5 million for computerization of schools.[6]

Legal and Regulatory Framework

As touched earlier, the backbone concept and working of E-Government is mainly the Internet-based solutions and service. Therefore, legal certainty in the Internet is a substantial and initial if Malaysia were to achieve its new digital technology perspective. Aware of this, the Government of Malaysia formally pledges its commitment to become a regional leader in Intellectual Property (IP) protection and Cyber laws.

Through the Ministry of Energy, Communication and Multimedia and the parliament, Malaysia has enacted and passed a number of pioneer cyber laws since 1997. Among its pivotal aim is to provide a comprehensive framework of societal and commerce-enabling laws, which encompass aspects concerning security of information and network integrity and reliability.[7] These cyber laws have been designed to create the right environment for the development of the communications and multimedia industry and to position Malaysia as a major hub for the communications and multimedia information and content services.

In the context of e-government application, these laws are also important to enable the smooth running of the governance. Since the government itself would also be subject to the laws, their existence will ensure the process well managed and regulated.

Several cyber laws that have been passed in Malaysia are:

1. Communications and Multimedia Act 1998

Being the most significant legislation that was brought into force on the 1st April 1999, this legislation provides the policy and regulatory framework for convergence of the telecommunications, broadcasting and computer industries. The Act is based on the basic principles of transparency and clarity; more competition and less regulations; bias towards generic rules; regulatory forbearances; emphasis on process rather than content; administrative and sector transparency; and industry self-regulation.

2. Digital Signature Act 1997

This Act regulates the legal recognition and authentication of the originator of an electronic document. It also enumerates several legal effects of digital signature in matters relating to evidence and transaction.

3. Computer Crimes Act 1997

The Act makes offences, among other things, an unauthorized access to computer material, unauthorized modification of the contents of any computer, and wrongful communication. It imposes criminal penalties on fraudulent or dishonest acts even when committed outside of the country.

4. The Copyright (Amendment) Act 1997

Provides copyright protection on-line, including the protection of a computer-related works from being infringed. This is an amendment to the existing Copyright Act. Thus it only gives more powers to be more effective in the wake of digital changes.

5. The Telemedicine Act 1997

Regulates the application of telemedicine in Malaysia as to who may practice it, and how, and also related rights of the patient therefore.

6. Personal Data Protection Bill 2000

This Bill is still in the process of socialization and is not yet tabled and passed by the parliament. The aim of this law is to regulate the collection, possession, processing and use of personal data by any person/organization or even the government so as to provide protection to an individual’s personal data and safeguard the privacy of an individual. It also seeks to establish a set of common rules and guidelines on handling and treatment of personal data by any person / organization

Some Policy Initiatives and Public Awareness

There are basically two players in the implementation of e-government: government themselves and the citizen or the public at large. Thus the application of e-government without active participation of public is meaningless. Public participation is a necessity, and public awareness and familiarity to computers and Internet technology is seen as pre-requisite to the success of e-government. Recent statistics show an increase in the number of computer ownership as well as the number of Internet hosts and Internet subscribers in Malaysia. There are currently about 30 Internet hosts available in Malaysia for every thousand people.[8] And in 1998 at least, the Internet subscribers in Malaysia had reached 450,000 people.[9] All these increase is partly achieved due to government efforts in campaigning the IT and creating an IT literate generation.

To achieve the aimed level of public awareness, various efforts have been done by the Malaysian government. [10]

They have organized seminars, talks, national IT week with a host of activities such as writing competition, quizzes, etc. and used the media such as television, radio and newspapers to promote an IT culture and IT awareness.

Besides, the government has emphasized IT-related education and training and the setting up as well as upgrading of vocational and technical schools to increase the IT literacy rate.

The government restructures the education system to include basic computer literacy for all, and has moved forward on promoting learning with computers.

Local universities have embarked on distance learning program using the Internet and the videoconferencing. The establishment of UNITAR, the virtual university, and Multimedia University has introduced a new educational dimension in IT era and would provide Malaysian citizens more options to upgrade their knowledge and skills.

However, it is highlighted that most of these projects are notably top-down pilot projects started by restricted pilot institutions. It is observed that in many cases these projects remain restricted in the pilot schools and institutions and yet become of nationwide effect. This is the common consequence when a pilot project is not led to a greater impact and abandoned more public participation.

E-Government in Practice

There are mainly five pilot applications for electronic government that have been prioritized.[11] While there are different levels of achievements that have been reached by each of these pilot projects, it is however certain that progresses are underway. Those pilot applications are:

1. Project Monitoring System (PMS)

This assists inert-government collaboration through three phases of Operational Functions, Managerial Functions and best practices knowledge and report generation for decision makers.

  • Progress Reporting
  • Change Control
  • Execution information
  • Decision support

2. Human Resource Management Information System (HRIMS)

It addresses the present and future needs of Human Resource Management in the civil service. Developing applications include automating operational processes and information decimation.

  • Online job postings / application
  • Manpower forecasts

3. Generic Office Environment (GOE)

Provides a fully integrated, distributed and scalable paperless working environment for the Prime Minister’s Office. Staff will have easy and up-to-date access of accurate information.

  • Information management, e.g. scanning, Data repository
  • Communication, e.g. Video conference, Meeting management
  • Collaboration, e.g. Decision Tracking, Groupware

4. Electronic Procurement (EP)

Automates the process for procurement of goods and service between buyers and public sectors via Internet communication.

  • Central Contracts
  • Direct purchases
  • Quotation
  • Tender

5. Electronic Delivery Services (E-Services++)

This is an alternate method for transactions and interactions between the public and the government via electronic delivery channels of Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), Interactive Voice response (IVR), Web TV, Kiosks and Personal Computers.

  • Driver’s license
  • Electricity bills
  • Telephone bills
  • Health Information

Apart from these pilot applications of e-government that has been laid up systematically and gradually, there is another flagship application under the main flagships on the Multimedia Super Corridor project, which is very much related and supportive to the creation and implementation of e-government. That application is called Multi-Purpose Card or MPC.

This application seeks to develop a single and common platform for a card with a chip or microprocessor that has the capability to perform a wide range of functions, including data processing, storage and file management.

Eight applications have been selected for inclusion in the initial MPC roll out, including the National ID, driving license, immigration to complement passports, health card, electronic cash, debit, ATM and credit card.[12]

What Indonesia can Learn from Here

In this final part, It is submitted that Malaysia has taken very proactive and brave measures towards the realization of e-government, which should end in maintaining prosperity of its people with lesser cost of governance through the advancement of the Information Technology. The planning was long and visionary thus reducing the potential cultural shock.

Nevertheless, there are still loopholes to be corrected, and weaknesses to be cured. The most important thing to have is the willingness to try. There are many ways that Indonesia can share and learn from Malaysian experiences. The most notables are the following:

Long-term Planning with Strategic Vision

E-government is a big concept dealing with complicated matters of overall aspects of our life. It is imperative for the Indonesian government to lay down well-planned strategies, short term and long term, with sufficient budget allocation to allow the realization of systematic e-government. Malaysia has started it as early as the beginning of 90’s and projected the planning within at least 30 years towards the Vision 2020.

Decentralization of the Process

The government should bear in mind that the process to an e-government is not solely their own business. It is for all people. Thus efforts need to be combined also from privates sectors, academician, and other communities of society so as to create the sense of belonging for the e-government to be created. Besides, the potentials from different parts of the country need also be considered and joined in the policy making. This is inline with the emerging spirit of autonomy across the country’s regions.

Preparing Skilled Manpower

Manpower is the key of the success that also means quite great amount of investment. The government should prepare the local skilled manpower thus it will reduce burden of hiring costly foreign workers while at the same time enhancing the quality of local workers.

Educational Curriculum

Very much related to the previous point, our educators should rethink the best way to introduce computer and the Internet to the school children. The idea is, the earlier the child being familiar to the IT, the easier the process will be towards e-government in Indonesia.

Cyber Legislation

Regulatory framework should be tabled comprehensively to anticipate all possible problems that might be created due to the Internet transaction. This is important to create an environment supportive to the e-government process and IT-driven civil society. The current attempts of drafting the cyber laws need to be boosted to meet the speedy change brought by the Internet.

Internet Policies under One Roof

The Indonesian government should take measures to enable all Internet-related matters, from the administration to the implementation, be concentrated by one single ministry or agency, instead of scattering them in many different ministries like what we have now.

Maintaining Regional Cooperation

Last but not least, the Indonesian Government should maintain regional cooperation and improve it to the highest possible productivity degree. That is because still many things on e-government projects that can be shared and learned from neighboring countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.


* This paper was presented in National Conference on Electronic Government 2002, Institute of Technology, Bandung, Indonesia.

END NOTES:

[1] The World Bank Group, E*Government Definition, available at http://www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/egov/definition.htm

[2] Based on Current Statistic from the Statistics Department, available at http://www.statistics.gov.my

[3] Mahathir Mohamad, Multimedia Super Corridor, Pelanduk Publications, Kuala Lumpur, 1998, p. 8

[4] Electronic Government Flagship Applications of MSC, available at http://www.msc.com.my/mdc/flagships/eg.asp

[5] Mahathir Mohamad, Regional Cooperation and the Digital Economy, Pelanduk Publication, Kuala Lumpur, 2000, p. 64
[6] Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysian Budget 2002 Speech, available at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/malaysianbudget/fulltext.htm
[7] Ministry of Energy, Communication and Multimedia Malaysia, http://www.ktkm.ntmyne.com.my
[8] The Economist, World in Figures, 2002

[9] Economic Planning Unit Malaysia, Malaysian Quality of Life, 1999, p. 43

[10] Lee Sai-Leong, “National IT Policy and Information Equity: Equalizing the Imbalance,” in Roger W. Harris (ed.), Conference on Information Technology in Asia: Information Equality for the Next Millennium, IFIP, Kuching, 1999, pp. 346-366, at p. 363; also read Siowck-Lee Gan, “An Overview of Information Technology and Education in Malaysia,” in Felix B. Tan (ed.), Information Technology Diffusion in the Asia Pacific: Perspectives on Policy, Electronic Commerce and Education, Idea Group, Hershey, USA, 1999, pp. 208-220

[11] Government Flagship Applications of MSC, available at http://www.msc.com.my/mdc/flagships/eg.asp

[12] Mahathir Mohamad, supra n.3, p. 59

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