Recognising the potential of electronic government (eGovt) as a valuable tool to be used in delivering government services to the rakyat, the Malaysian government included eGovt as one of the flagships of the Multimedia Super Corridor in 1997.
It also resisted the temptation of getting caught up in technology itself. Its focus, rather, was to ensuring that even a computer illiterate can get onto a computer to do the simplest of transaction. “When we can do that as a society, we would have arrived; for technology is no longer seen a fad, only designed for an elite, spunky crowd. Technology is deserving of anyone anywhere – so long as he/she has business to do with the Government,” Tan Sri Sidek Hassan, the former chief secretary to the government said in 2010.
For a quick background, it has been 52 years since the government introduced the usage of technology in the Malaysian public sector. It started on the humble footings of a tool for processing high volume data such as those for utility billings, censor and examination results. In the 1980s, usage evolved to application of passport, driving licenses and vehicle road taxes. Today the use of technology has seeped into Human Resource Management to Electronic Procurement (see: Overcoming the hurdles of e-procurement), Bill Payment to License Applications and Project Monitoring System, to name a few.
But there has been no resting on its laurels and the past two years has seen the launch of e-Tanah system that modernises all activities related to land administration, the Local Authority System (ePBT), AgriBazaar for rural agricultural community to enhance their productivity, e-Syariah on Syariah court management system; and school management system.
These sweeping introductions are also in line with the Economic Transformation Program’s (ETP) Communication, Content and Infrastructure pillar, and the Entry Point Project known as “Deepening the eGovernment by 2015”, which aims to increase the use and availability of online services to engage and empower citizens.
There are many initiatives under this which extend into all sectors, economic, social, infrastructure and security. The essence to these initiatives is for Government to be accessible and mobile.
But another key factor that will underpin their success is measuring the progress of the sites. Not just their development but how the all important users rate the services. This is where the Malaysia Government Portals and Websites Assessment (MGPWA) come into the picture. First introduced in 2005 its aim is to analyse the performance of the then 900 government websites. The December 2012 release of the report assessed almost 1,350 sites.
The sites were evaluated on the same set of pillars as in 2011: Content, Usability, Security, Participation and Services.
Out of the maximum score of 100 points, 25 marks are allocated for Content which focuses on features that help users make use of information inside the portals or websites. Usability, with 45 marks, looks at the ease and user experience when utilizing these sites; while Security (5 marks) concentrated on features that help convince users to make use of online services such as single sign-on. Participation (10 marks) looked at features that allowed users to get involved or share their opinion; while Services (15 marks) looked at automated services, amongst others.
The report, which can be downloaded here, assessed websites linked to http://www.malaysia.gov.my/ (the government’s main single window portal), and the assessment was based on international formats and practices. Studies referred were the United Nations E-Government Survey 2012: E-Government for the People; and the Waseda University 2012 International e-Government Ranking.
The yearly assessment of the websites has ensured that civil servants take ownership of their sites and see it as a critical extension of the work they do in ensuring Malaysians have convenient access to their government.
The government, in 2008, also took a major step to show its seriousness in ensuring its websites were up to standard by giving a contract for over RM200 million to a local technology company, Skali.com, to help upgrade the skill set of the government departments that were running its various websites.
At the end of the day, the best eGovt services ensure that citizens can get done what they need in the simplest, shortest, and most efficient manner.
And that is what the Malaysian government is aiming for. As Sidek said, “If we can do that, at every level of our internal and external transactions, using the best that technology can bring, then we would have taken Public Service delivery to a whole new level altogether.”