August 19, 2016

Nation Building through ICT application

Sayar Mya

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The author of this article has had an opportunity to stay in Singapore and Australia for about four months in 2014 and 2015. We stayed at our daughter’s condominium at Botanic Gardens View, Taman Serasi, Singapore, in district 10, near Orchard MRT Station. It was amazing to witness that people could carry out day to day tasks with unbelievable ease and comfort through ICT application.
I am taking the liberty to share the experience with the esteemed readers on the advantages of ICT application. For instance, my daughter purchased air tickets for me and my better half for the trip from Singapore to Sydney just using the laptop at home. Flight reservation was made from home and the airfare was settled with credit card from home. Even the seat reservation on board was easily done from home. Since my daughter was busy at the Embassy, she did all these travel arrangements at night time after having dinner. The complete task of purchasing air ticket and securing of seats on board were done within one hour from home. This is just one example on the advantage of ICT application in developed countries. The system is operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.
While staying at the residence of our son at 8 A, Birdsville Crescent, Leumeah, NSW 2560, Australia, we had witnessed that the citizens enjoyed ease and comfort by ICT application. There, my son did exactly the same in purchasing air tickets and securing seats on board for the return journey from Sydney to Singapore for us from home. This is just one example.
The author has great expectation and high impression on the ICT application to be introduced in our beloved country — Myanmar.
The Global New Light of Myanmar printed a news item saying that “ICT event to be held in Yangon this November” in Tuesday 21 June 2016 issue. Learnt that sixty exhibitors have signed up to “Communi Cast” to be held in Yangon this November, and the event is designed to support Myanmar’s developing ICT industry mobile, broadband, satellite and broadcasting markets.
“We are very pleased to be returning to Yangon for the third straight year with 60 exhibitors already signed up, the show is going from strength to strength,” said Rupert Owen, Show Director for “Communi Cast.”
Driving Myanmar’s Digital Future
The third Communi Cast Myanmar show returns to Yangon from 15-17 November to support the country’s development across the ICT solutions, mobile, broadband, satellite and broadcasting markets.
Co-located with the Myanmar Computer Federation’s international ICT Exhibition and incorporating the Myanmar Satellite Forum the event is the proven opportunity to conduct business in one of Asia’s most exciting markets.
As Myanmar steps up its ambitions for satellite sovereignty, the second Myanmar Satellite Forum provides a platform for government, industry and service providers to exchange ideas, develop relationships and build partnerships.
It is indeed a good time to engage with the new government to encourage the ICT or E-Government for the development of the country.
The Importance of a National Strategic Framework for E-Government through ICT application
The implementation of e-government requires strong leadership and vision. It also requires a comprehensive strategy that is not only benchmarked on global best practices, but also sensitive to existing political and economic conditions and realities.
For e-government to become a reality, the central government, in consultation with stakeholders such as all ministries inclusive of states and regions, is advised to develop a National Strategic Framework. It articulates the government’s vision, targets and milestones, technical approach and standards for e-government systems. Such a framework must address information privacy, security, maintenance, and interface standards.
However, it must be said at the outset that a national framework is not a prerequisite to any e-government project. To put this more precisely, critical e-government projects at the ministry / department/organization or local government levels should not be held up simply for lack of a national framework. Too many governments spend years and valuable resources on the process of developing a national strategy, when they could be moving forward on a few critical projects. What governments in developing countries should realize is that a national strategic framework is an ongoing process and not a static document.
What are the two approaches to e-government?
There are two approaches to e-government. The first is the top-down approach. Characterized by a high degree of control by the central government, it usually includes the development of a strategy. The second is the bottom-up approach, in which individual departments and local governments independently move forward with their own projects, common standards are flexible, and overall national strategy is not so important. Singapore and China embody the top-down approach, while the US and the Philippines are closer to the bottom-up approach.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. The top-down approach facilitates integration. However, developing a national strategy, which the approach emphasizes, often takes years of internal strife and the technology decisions tend to be poor. It is therefore, costly and difficult to reverse. The bottom-up approach is less orderly and tends to some redundancy, but it also inspires innovation, resulting in a many grassroots projects.
In the end, the best approach to e-government depends on the individual country, on how its political and economic system works, and on the level of technology competence in each individual government unit.
Moreover, public awareness and support for e-government is critical for its success and its sustainability. Therefore, it requires consultation with the stakeholder in the process. Stakeholders include citizens, NGOs, businesses, various industries and special sectors such as national security, and the administration.
It is likewise important to understand global trends and to study global best practices of e-government projects and strategies. Only from studying other countries’ successes and failures is a country able to effectively design its e-government strategy and avoid pitfalls that cost time, money and resources.
Studying other countries’ experiences will allow governments that are about to embark on developing their e-government strategies to define their priority areas based on their specific political and cultural contexts in the transition to democracy.
How does a country build an appropriate e-government infrastructure?
A Government Information Infrastructure (GII), which is a network that connects all government agencies, is needed to ensure that citizens enjoy the full benefits of e-government. Building a GII is a very expensive undertaking that requires cross-agency, cross-government planning. The following must be considered when building such a government backbone.
The cost implications
A financial feasibility study is necessary for such an endeavor. This cost-benefit analysis can help government decide either to open portions of the government backbone and charge access fees to telecommunications carriers or operators to sustain operations, or to altogether ride on an existing private network due to cost constraints.
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The infrastructure issues
These include the country’s existing infrastructure, current level of Internet penetration, telephone density, and existing speed of technology change, allowances for convergence or connection, and investment in broadband.
The benefits and risks
Having one’s own backbone ensures that government communications are open and secure and operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. However, this may mean regular funding for upgrades and maintenance of the network, and for hiring a team to support the network full time.
Some governments may decide that building their own backbone is too costly and too time-consuming. Building a backbone may take years and billions of dollars to complete, and if governments want to immediately engage in e-government, there may not be enough time or money to do so.
An alternative is to ride on an existing private telecommunications backbone, usually one run by a large telecommunications carrier. This means that government will be entrusting the security of the network to the operator, who will also be assuming the costs of regular network maintenance and technical support and the risks of possible network sabotage.
In order to minimize the threat of security risks, governments who are riding on a private backbone will have to set up the following types of security measures: firewalls, intrusion detection software, encryption, and secure networks such as Virtual Private Networks, Wide Area Networks or Local Area Networks for government departments / agencies that require high levels of security, such as the armed forces.
Government Information Infrastructure: New Korea Net-Government (NKN-G)
The New Korea Net-Government (NKN-G) was constructed to improve the efficiency of government operations and delivery of public services in South Korea. It connects central and local governments, public institutions, research organizations and universities through optical fibers.
The NKN-G was completed in 2015. It was developed within the larger framework of the Korea National Information Infrastructure (NII).  The project was prompted in 1992 by the government’s fear that unless an information infrastructure was built, its basic industries would not be able to compete in the global marketplace.
The NII was seen as part and parcel of Korea’s national economic policy, with the NKN-G allowing for simple and swift delivery of public services in support of the national government’s goal of transparent, accountable, and efficient government.
The construction of the Korean Information Infrastructure — KII involved the development of an advanced information infrastructure that involved not only communications services, but also Internet services, application software, computers and operating systems, as well as information products and services. Through the KII, Korean citizens are able to access information and services and transact business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
What is software architecture and why is it important in e-government development?
Software architecture refers to the high-level organizational structure of a software system. A well planned, secure and flexible e-government platform is necessary for governments to meet the growing demands for services delivered via the Internet and future delivery channels. Building a common architecture for e-government requires secure and trusted inter-operable systems that will adopt existing Internet and World Wide Web standards for all government agencies, at all levels. This is a pragmatic approach that reduces the costs and risks of operating information technology systems while keeping the public sector in step with the global Internet revolution. The idea of an inter-operable system within one government means that agencies can easily “talk to one another”—whether by sending email or exchanging information—without any technical problems that hinder the smooth operation of government.
At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, a global consensus was reached that to achieve our sustainable development goals we need institutions at all levels that are effective, transparent, accountable and democratic. E-government holds tremendous potential to improve the way that governments deliver public services and enhance broad stakeholder involvement in public service.
The people of Myanmar would be more than happy to witness that Myanmar initially steps into the world of ICT industry through “Communi Cast” Myanmar show. Consequently, Myanmar embarks on the existing and reliable private communication backbone with the assistance of friendly countries creating E-Government at least for some government departments and private businesses that deal with the citizens.
By Sayar Mya
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