On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Going is heavy in bid to become IT-savvy

The Government may expect most Malaysians to pick up the booklets
at petrol stations and bookstores but it should be serious about the electronic
version, too.

There are many overseas Malaysians who are following closely the dispute
between Malaysia and Singapore over the water issue, and these people depend entirely
on the Internet to read the contents of the booklet.

To fight the propaganda war in this time and age, the Government would have to
depend a lot on the Internet to reach the widest audience. But to do so
efficiently, it needs people who understand and are able to use computers

It is no use setting up a website and then leaving it to collect cobwebs.

The inability of some of our government departments to cope with information
technology is embarrassing. With the help of some friends and colleagues, we
found plenty of dead websites. By that, I am talking about websites that are
not updated.

But there are websites that do not need much updating and one case is the
national archives at www.arkib.gov.my. The department has all the time in the
world but its website is disappointing.

Most of the time, the website doesn't work and most of the important speeches
of our leaders, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, cannot
be found.

In fairness, there are also good and fast government sites such as the Public
Complaints Bureau, the Economic Planning Unit, Statistics Department and
Parliament that are efficient although slow at times in updating. At least,
these websites work.

According to fellow surfers, most government websites suffer from poor
navigation, slow updates and are not user-friendly. Many of them do not install
an internal search engine to enable the user to get their information

With the exception of the offices of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister,
the Finance Ministry and Bank Negara, many officers who deal with the media
have not got around to providing information in diskettes or via e-mail. They
still prefer to hand out bulky printed sheets.

The reason why I am talking about IT is because Malaysia has won the right to
host the World Congress Information Technology (WCIT) in Kuala Lumpur

The event, which is regarded as the most prestigious ICT conference in the
world, is set to put Malaysia on the world map. For a start, we need to instil
in the minds of Malaysians, particularly civil servants, that computers have
become an integral part of society.

The absence of IT culture is also prevalent among many employers in the private
sector, with managers still insisting on written reports when computers are
sitting in front of them. Many cannot break out of their ''black-and-white
mentality.'' Unless we double our efforts to show that we are an e-society, the
only thing for WCIT delegates to see are structures and buildings in Putrajaya and

The congress presents a chance for us to show the world that we have arrived in
the IT age. By that, we mean that delegates must remember KL as a city where
the people have easy access to computers and are able to use IT well.

It is not very encouraging to read about delays in the completion of school
computer laboratories and low safety standards.

Recently, Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu disclosed that 487 out of 600
computer laboratories built under phase one of the computerisation of primary
and secondary schools for eastern zone (Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan) were
found to be unsafe, including 87 that were regarded as dangerous.

Under phases one and two of the project, 2,315 laboratories were supposed to be
built nationwide and scheduled to be completed two years ago. To date, only
1,449 laboratories are fully operational. For the record, the Government has
allocated RM762mil for the computer laboratory projects, of which RM507mil has
been spent. Malaysians have every right to ask about the obvious

The Anti-Corruption Agency should step in to investigate the blunders in the
construction of these laboratories and the purchase of computers for schools.
There have been rumblings in the IT industry over the costing involved but no
investigations have been made, presumably because no reports have been lodged
or no one is prepared to provide evidence.

We have started well in making most Malaysians realise the importance of
becoming connected in the IT age. Equally important is making sure we are
efficient and competent.