High hopes for bring­ing govt into the dig­i­tal era

The Myanmar Times - - News - SWAN YE HTUT swanye­htut@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe and Thiri Min Htun

THE sub­ject of e-govern­ment is up for dis­cus­sion again, but par­lia­men­tar­i­ans say there is a no­table ab­sence of any­one to ac­tu­ally im­ple­ment the ba­sic re­quire­ments nec­es­sary for such a sys­tem and drag Myan­mar’s civil ser­vice into the mod­ern age.

The govern­ment has long re­lied on ar­chaic sys­tems, and mod­ernising this will be no small un­der­tak­ing, says U Than Soe Aung, Py­in­mana MP and mem­ber of the lower house’s Transportation, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Con­struc­tion Com­mit­tee.

He says the adop­tion of an e-govern­ment sys­tem would bring Myan­mar into line with in­ter­na­tional norms – as well as of­fer im­prove­ments on trans­parency.

“By ap­ply­ing e-sys­tems, the govern­ment’s ac­tiv­i­ties in each and ev­ery sec­tor in the coun­try would be more trans­par­ent,” U Than Soe Aung said, ex­press­ing op­ti­mism about the pos­si­ble im­pact this could have on cor­rup­tion.

“Ten­ders could not be granted un­der the counter be­cause rel­e­vant min­istries will have to open them on­line. So graft and cor­rup­tion will dis­ap­pear,” he said.

“The sit­u­a­tion will be bet­ter than be­fore be­cause the num­ber of in­ter­net users is more than 40 mil­lion now.”

At present, he says the govern­ment’s meth­ods of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the broader pub­lic are out­moded, as mes­sages are con­veyed by state news­pa­pers, ra­dio and com­mu­nity no­tice­boards.

“Al­most all peo­ple will no­tice an­nounce­ments if they are re­leased on the in­ter­net … Most peo­ple don’t lis­ten to ra­dio or read news­pa­pers,” he said.

This is far from the first ef­fort to push the con­cept of e-govern­ment. In 2000, the mil­i­tary govern­ment an­nounced a bold new di­rec­tion, sign­ing on to the e-ASEAN Frame­work Agree­ment at a sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore.

This spurred the cre­ation of a task­force led by then-prime min­is­ter – and later, de­posed spy­mas­ter – Gen­eral Khin Nyunt. From e-ed­u­ca­tion to e-pass­ports, e-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to e-visas, as well as gen­eral moderni­sa­tion of ICT fa­cil­i­ties, this push was largely un­suc­cess­ful: After some 15 years and bil­lions of dol­lars spent, not a sin­gle govern­ment depart­ment was com­put­erised.

A de facto move toward e-gov­er­nance has in­stead taken place, with many min­istries and politi­cians com­mu­ni­cat­ing di­rectly with the pub­lic via Face­book. The Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion, the Pres­i­dent’s Office and State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi all have ac­tive so­cial me­dia pres­ences.

How­ever, when it comes to Union min­istry web­sites, U Than Soe Aung says there is no uni­for­mity. Some do not up­date their web­sites, he says – de­spite the fact that many min­istries al­ready pur­chased ba­sic re­quire­ments of an e-govern­ment sys­tem.

U Than Soe Aung told The Myan­mar Times there needs to be some sort of co­or­di­na­tion within Union-level min­istries – and a cen­tral over­sight body.

“For ex­am­ple – if the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs is weak in co­op­er­at­ing with this sys­tem, the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions can’t en­cour­age it to ac­tively work with this sys­tem. In this sit­u­a­tion, it would be more suit­able if the cen­tral com­mit­tee urges [MoFA],” said U Than Soe Aung.

A strate­gic plan for e-govern­ment, drawn up by the Min­istry of Trans­port and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is due to be sub­mit­ted to parliament on Novem­ber 16.

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