1M’sia e-mail: It’s like selling ice to the Eskimos

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Malaysians hope that the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will heed the voice of the rakyat and Malaysian netizens to cancel the provision of free 1Malaysia e-mail accounts and give free wifi instead.

Even though this is now not a government initiative but a private sector initiative, spending RM50 million on duplicating efforts of Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. to provide free e-mail accounts is typical profile of a BN government being penny wise pound foolish.

Giving free e-mail accounts is not the most important service in the world. Somehow the government is missing the wood for the trees. Just like the RM52 billion bumi shares scandal, where RM52 billion worth of shares supposed to be given to ordinary Malays/bumiputera natives went missing.

Instead of setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to serve public interest by investigating and taking action against the culprits responsible for running of RM52 billion worth of shares, the BN government appears more interested in setting up a RCI over some dubious sex video tapes by individuals seeking political vengeance.

Why focus on providing something that is already free? This is just like selling ice to the Eskimos. Focus on providing free wifi or improving broadband speed, quality and reliability. The government should stop the monopoly given to certain companies and should instead open up the industry to competitive bidding so that users can enjoy better connectivity on par with our neighbouring countries.

The Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) should also avoid charges by some net citizens of being deceitful following the quick amendments of details relating to the 1Malaysia e-mail project. There is a big difference on Tuesday in its website and yesterday, as it is now called a private sector initiative when it was previously listed as a government initiative.

Since yesterday, the description of the RM50 million project read: “The 1Malaysia e-mail project which features the domain name of ‘myemail.my’ is a private sector initiative led by Tricubes Berhad to provide a unique and official e-mail account and user ID for interested citizens of Malaysia.” Pemandu should come clean and explain this glaring discrepancy which raises questions about its clarity, certainty and reliability of information released to the public.

Najib had announced the project last Wednesday, saying all Malaysians aged 18 and over would be given a free account to allow for direct andsecure communications between citizens and the government.

There are concerns both about privacy and security of those using these e-mail accounts, who fear not only that their communications may be monitored and intercepted but also whether any messages or transactions made are reliable and trustworthy.

That is probably the reason why there are now close to 40,000 Facebook users joining in a virtual protest against the project run by Tricubes Bhd, which is currently in danger of being delisted from Bursa Malaysia for financial irregularities

Worse is the latest report in Malaysiakini that even though the e-mail account is free, some of the services are not free but fees will be imposed. Instead of clarifying this issue, the BN government should quickly cut its losses and disassociate itself with this private initiative from a company under a “financial cloud”.

The DAP reiterates its appeal to the state government to focus on providing free wifi and improving broadband speed at affordable rates at international standards.

The writer is special assistant to the Chief Minister of Penang


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