High hopes for bringing govt into the digital era
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.