December 14, 2011
Computer Professionals Bill: Do we need it?
by Amir Hafiz(12-13-11)
RECENTLY a lot of the information and communication technology (ICT) industry people, and some busybodies, were up in arms — no, they flipped out — over a Computer Professionals Bill (CPB) that allegedly will require anyone and everyone to register if they so much as modify the HTML of their blog post.
Later on, the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti) assured that the bill (now in its second draft) would not include everyone who wants to install Windows on their computer but rather those involved with Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII) projects.
Also, the bill is to create a board that will take the ICT profession in Malaysia to greater heights such as our engineers with their Board of Engineers Malaysia.It sounds reasonable enough.
Not all ICT practitioners are convinced, though, as evidenced by their Facebook and Twitter comments as well as blog posts. I happened to speak to some of them and their concerns seem valid.
Regardless of what it is, any form of regulation on the ICT industry will most probably not be well-received by a majority of the tech community. First of all, why do we need it? Tech companies that want to bid for any government tender already have to get Finance Ministry accreditation.
After that, they have to go through the government’s tender committee, before finally going through yet another committee with the relevant ministry that issued the tender.
A three-level vetting and selection process can only be made even more complicated with another layer of vetting from this board.
These roadblocks keep smaller, unconnected companies from taking on the tenders and projects, even though they might have the talent and capability of delivering a great job.
Maybe the tender regulations themselves need to be scrutinised, to ensure a streamlining of the process.
Mosti states that the bill is to, among other things, “enhance the value” and “raise the standards” of ICT workers. How? Regulation does not ensure this at all and it does not solve the problem of the engagement of a bad contractor.
Mediocre IT companies can still register with the board and even though less-than-capable, still land contracts.Some IT professionals state that this bill was actually suggested by several organisations that do not represent even a sizeable number of ICT professionals, or none at all.
One of the alleged organisations was said to be just a bunch of IT re-sellers with no professionals under them.Furthermore, the ICT people are very anxious concerning what the bill is asking them to do, if they fall under its scope. You have to register your skill set and be tested for each.
Say you know ASP and were registered for that and are now learning HTML 5 — you have to register again for this skill.
In an industry that thrives on innovation and speed as well as quickly adapting to new technologies, imposing such restrictions and bureaucracy will only stifle individual growth, hence the growth of companies and the industry itself. Programmers learn new skills and pick up new programming languages like they buy DVDs — it’s how the industry works.
This industry thrives on the lack of regulation. This is how Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook were created and this is why they thrive.Putting any kind of restriction anywhere on this industry is tantamount to exposing it to radiation — and not the kind that will turn you into a superhero.
It’s the type that might give you cancer. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad understood this and vowed not to censor or control the Internet.
Furthermore, Mosti had stated the bill would only apply to CNII, and a lot of ICT people are a bit worried as the definition of CNII is very vague and wide, even so far as including food and agriculture in its definition (along with “internal security” and “national image”).
Mosti as well as the CGSO (the Chief Government Security Office, a unit under the Prime Minister’s Department), should clarify what is a CNII and whether or not its definition and scope will remain or change over time.
Luckily, this is only the second draft of the act, and top ICT individuals are said to be going to Cyberjaya for Mosti’s open day today to discuss it. Hopefully, there would be some peaceful, collaborative resolution to the matter.
It would be fantastic if all the paranoid talk online about this bill was just that — paranoid talk.God forbid if any opportunists were to politicise the issue. Perhaps the best way is to allow the ICT industry to regulate itself, with participation from the government.
We all want what’s best for the country and the only way towards that is open communication and to work together for a better tomorrow.