I was reading my complimentary copy of The Sun while waiting for my delayed FireFly flight to Kuching, and I couldn’t help but feel somewhat amused by reports on the 1MY Email project. I remembered when I first heard of the 1MY Email project – a ‘special’ 1Malaysia email account for every citizen of Malaysia – I felt like the government has been receiving very poor advices. I mean, what is so special about giving each and every citizen of Malaysia a 1Malaysia-branded email account?
I quote the report in The Sun (dated April 21st), on one paragraph it reported that a high-official from the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) said: “...all Malaysians will benefit from the 1Malaysia email system and have better correspondence on government-related matters.”
I am puzzled, as I am sure many of us are; what benefit will Malaysians get from the 1Malaysia email? First of all, what is so special about the 1Malaysia email system? What makes the 1Malaysia email system stand out so obviously good that it will encourage email users to switch from using popular and free email service providers such as Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc.? And what’s with the 1Malaysia email system going to benefit “all Malaysians”? That’s an ignorant statement, coming from someone at MDeC. Last year (2010) the statistic for Internet usage among Malaysians is estimated around 60%. There are still one thirds of the people in this country who do not use Internet. Another thing, although the statistic is considerably high at 60%, we must also take into consideration that there are still lots of people in this country who are not IT-savvy, even amongst those 60% of Internet users. I remember having to give a step-by-step guide to an 18-year-old acquaintance of mine, last year, on how to attach a file in emails. So, how can giving an email account (or another one for most) to each and every Malaysians will benefit them? I just don’t see how.
And what about “having better correspondence on government-related matters”? Yes, there are problems in correspondence between the people and the government, but not because the people do not have email accounts owned by the government! Even if everyone were provided an account, what guarantee is there that people will use it? – over their current and already-well-known email addresses? If people do not use the provided 1MY email, how then can it improve correspondence? Even if indeed emails is the way to allow better correspondence between the government and the people, wouldn’t it be just as tedious to just get everyone to register their current email addresses, create a database of email addresses – and the just blast whatever information the government has got to spread to those email addresses?
The news report further said: “He said the issue should be seen as a positive development for Malaysians because it will encourage more Malaysians to use ICT to conduct transactions with the government. ‘Currently, there is a tendency among Malaysians to carry out transactions or other government-related matters over the counter,’”. As disappointed I am with such a simplistic view on matters, it’s quite understandable as it has always been the government’s style to make simplistic decisions.
Okay, it is a positive development that all Malaysians will have their own email account. (Wow!) But, again, how can giving a 1Malaysia email encourage more Malaysians to use ICT to conduct transactions with the government? That is a very simplistic view! First off, most Malaysians already do have their own email accounts, and so do every government agencies – and we even have MYeG nowadays – and yet still most people prefer to do over-the-counter transactions. Why? It’s not because they don’t have government emails! It’s because: (1) some people are still not IT-savvy, thus using emails to correspond to them is more difficult than going over to the counter; (2) people who do correspond via emails get late responses, thus going to the counter where they can get on-the-spot responses is only logical; (3) not everything can be done online. I remember a few years back I attended a briefing at the Ministry of Youth & Sports on how to use their new online system to request for funding for youth programs – and it turned out, as so many have complained – that using the online system to request for funding makes things much more tedious and takes even longer to process than the good old over-the-counter procedures.
And then there’s issue of privacy. There are lots of Hollywood movies to get everyone become paranoid enough to think that an email account provided by the government, will almost definitely be spied upon by the government – for “national security”, of course.
Really, I do not understand how the 1MY Email will help boost ICT usage.
So, instead of the 1MY Email project, the government and the company responsible for running this project – Tricubes Bhd. – will do much more good with the RM50 million investment if they, instead, focus on projects such as:
(1) Setting up free WiFi hotspots in every city and town in this country. Without Internet access, even with an email account, how will people even open their inbox? Seriously, instead of an email account, free WiFi hotspots will do much better in boosting ICT development as more and more people will have access to the Internet, thus making more and more people comfortable using it.
(2) Develop a huge system for the government that would connect and synchronize the information network for government agencies. This is a big loophole for current government agencies. One of the reasons why people do not correspond well with the government is because of all the red-tapes and the tedious procedures that they have to go through over and over again. The government should have one large infrastructure of information network that would synchronize information between government agencies. If such a network can be developed, it would make things much easier for the government, and for the people. For example, citizens who has turned 21 can be automatically registered as a voter with the Elections Commission – using information from the National Information Department. So much procedural cost can be saved, and people would find that interacting with government agencies is much easier and faster.
(3) Spend the money to conduct more educational programs, and build more infrastructures to spur ICT development. There are still lots of areas in this country where people do not know how to use the Internet; and there are still so many who do not know how to use the Internet “properly”. Conducting educational programs all around the country – teach the people how to fully utilize the Internet – and encourage the brilliant minds to explore and become great programmers and developers – will give the ICT industry in this country a giant leap.
So, Datuk Seri Najib, please think again on the 1MY Email project. There are better things you can do. It’s not a crime to admit that you made a mistake – especially before it’s too late and before RM50 million goes to waste.