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Thursday, July 01, 1999
Malaysian Web sites still not error-free
KUALA LUMPUR--The government of Malaysia touts the benefits of the Internet through its Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) initiative but is still unable to meet a basic requirement of the medium--regularly updated Web pages.
Ironically, Web sites maintained by the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC), the government agency in charge of the MSC, were among those found wanting.
Last week, CNET Malaysia pointed out that two lists of members of an international advisory panel for the MSC were not updated and even contained false information.
Four prominent personalities were mistakenly listed as advisors to the panel, while others were not given correct managerial designations, even though some of these had changed over a year ago.
Following the story, MDC made an attempt to correct the situation. It took down its mirror site in the US which had incorrect information, and updated its Malaysian site.
Unfortunately, CNET Malaysia discovered yet another site endorsed by MDC which still holds the inaccurate and outdated information.
The MSC Web sites are the official sources of information for updates on the project and the panel, a who's who of global IT players, is set to meet in three weeks time.
CNET Malaysia has also found examples of erroneous information on other government Web sites. A prime example is the listing of ousted deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim as deputy chairman of ruling National Front coalition at its official Web site.
Anwar was expelled as deputy president of the United Malays National Organization (Umno), the dominant party in the ruling National Front coalition last September, thereby relinquishing all his other positions in government.
Anwar, whose trial for sodomy began last Monday, is currently serving a six-year sentence following his April conviction for using his position to get police to quash allegations of sexual misconduct.
At the same site, Lee Kim Sai is listed as a vice chairman of the coalition representing the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) party although he left his position as deputy president of the party in 1996, suggesting the site had not been updated in three years.
In the Ministry of Information Web site, Mohamed Rahmat is still listed as Minister of Information despite being dropped from the Cabinet in a reshuffle on May 20.
The Information Ministry's stated main objective is "to ensure the dissemination of accurate and quality information on the government".
Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, who replaced Sabbaruddin Chik as Tourism Minister, is still listed as deputy Home Minister at his previous ministry's site.
Under its organizational chart the site makes no mention of Azmi Khalid who took over Kadir's position as Deputy Home Minister. If he's not on the homepage does that mean he's not in the Home Ministry? Perhaps he's still at home.
Over at another repository of supposedly accurate information, the National Archives of Malaysia Web site, there is no mention of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who replaced Anwar as deputy premier under its listing of Deputy Prime Ministers.
In January, the Chief Secretary to the Government rapped heads of the department in the civil service for not updating their Web sites. This was in response to a local news report highlighting the fact that some had been left to languish after the initial euphoria of the Internet had died down.
Six months later--a lifetime in the online world--some sites still remain unchanged.
The Information Ministry site lists last September's Commonwealth Games as its most recent event under its News and Eventssection .
At the official homepage of the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board in New York, the "Calendar of Events" shows only a 1998 Sports Calendar.
Under its Getting There section, the site states that "most international flights land in the Subang airport" even though almost all international flights have been landing at the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, over 50 km away, since last June.
However, maybe that is because the Sepang airport is still under construction according to the Malaysia Airports site.
Malaysia Airports is a government-owned company which operates and manages the airport along with five other international and 14 domestic airports. Let's hope it manages airports better than it does its Web site.
Dead people also have a way of remaining alive on some Malaysian Web sites. Until February this year, a Web site of the Malacca Municipal Council listed the Chief Minister of that State as Mohd Zin Abdul Ghani. Mohd Zin had passed away in May 1996.
The page was quickly removed when a local newspaper The Star pointed out the flaw.
Yahaya Ahmad, chairman of conglomerate DRB-Hicom group, was listed as a member of the Malaysian Business Council at the Web site of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), a government-linked think tank, long after he died in a helicopter crash in March 1997.
The site states one of the council's primary objectives is "to facilitate a productive flow of information among the key actors of Malaysia Inc".
That would be difficult when the site has not been updated in over six months, and all its members-even those alive-are not listed. When contacted, an ISIS spokesman said the site has been a constant source of embarassment for them and apologized for the outdated information.
He said ISIS has not been able to expend the resources to update the site.
Web site developer Andrew Wong says inaccurate and outdated information on Web sites are symptoms of the lack of understanding of the demands of the new medium.
"It is also prevalent in US, Europe and other Asian sites. If you go looking, you can definitely find booboos both in government and corporate sites," said Wong, the managing director of MIR Communications. MIR developed the government's Y2K Web site which is updated regularly.
Wong says when Web sites are maintained in-house, it is usually not assigned to the communications person but a programmer or IT person. When it is outsourced, often web developers are more concerned with design rather than the accuracy of content.
"Site owners should treat the medium more seriously as a communications tool. Put the right person on the job and allocate the resources," he said.
Wong, however, is optimistic that things are changing for the better. With the advent of e-commerce applications, more and more companies see the Internet as a means to interact with suppliers and customers. Government agencies would do well to follow suit.
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