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  CNET : News : Story Thursday, May 20, 1999 

Malaysia's e-government details emerge
By Julian Matthews
Thursday, May 20 1999

KUALA LUMPUR--Microsoft says it will design an entirely new product specifically for Malaysia, an automated office system for the government, beginning with the Prime Minister's office.

A customized desktop environment--called the Generic Office Environment (GOE)--will allow government users to collaborate, access and manage information in more meaningful ways, said Benedict Lee, managing director of Microsoft Knowledge Capital Center, the local representative company of the Seattle giant.

"The GOE will be a super-automated office system designed specifically for the government and government users.

"For example, when users come in in the morning, there would be an intelligent agent reminding him or her on activities and tasks for the day," he said.

Users' desktops can be personalized and specific information or news will be pushed automatically onto their desktops based on their preference. "They can schedule meetings, access other databases, or do video-conferencing via the same desktop," said Lee.

He added the GOE will also be integrated with Microsoft Office Suite applications.

The basis of the GOE was a demo shown by chairman Bill Gates in front of a live audience in the capital city in March 1998, he said.

Gates' solution featured voice-synthesized wizards to help users keep track of email, news items and incoming data, as well as integration with word processor and spreadsheet applications.

Microsoft is part of a nine-company consortium led by Sapura Advanced Systems, a little-known subsidiary of the local IT and telecommunications group Sapura, which was awarded the 35 million ringgit (US$9.2 million) contract last week for the pilot phase to develop the new product.

For the GOE, Lee explained that Sapura will be the prime systems integrator, while Microsoft will provide the software and architectural design expertise.

Two other key partners are Hewlett Packard Co, which will provide the hardware and peripherals, and Electronic Data Systems Corporation, which will lend its business process re-engineering services to the project.

The GOE is part of "electronic government", a flagship application for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project. The aim of e-government is to create a completely paperless environment for the new federal administrative center being built in Putrajaya, 25 km south of Kuala Lumpur.

The MSC, marred by delays last year, spans a 750 sq km high-tech zone south of the capital which Malaysia hopes to attract global technology companies to test and develop new products and services.

When Gates first pitched the GOE solution for the MSC, Mahathir expressed caution saying the proposal needed "careful evaluation".

That lukewarm response--and worries of government's seriousness in tackling its high software piracy rate--may have slowed the software giant's commitment to the MSC.

However, the recent crackdowns on piracy, and the awarding of MSC contracts to Microsoft indicate Mahathir's government might have had a change of heart.

Microsoft's involvement is seen as pivotal to lending the MSC credibility, while the contracts related to the project have long-term payoffs for the Gates' juggernaut. If the pilot phase is successfully implemented, the government is likely to extend the system nationwide involving 850,000 government employees.

Lee also confirmed Microsoft had bid and won, with separate consortia, two other contracts, worth US$39.2 million, for other components of the MSC's electronic government application.

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