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PRESENTATION BY
DATO PADUKA HAJI HAZAIR BIN HAJI ABDULLAH
PERMANENT SECRETARY, PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE TO
SINGAPORE'S ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS
AT THE CIVIL SERVICE INSTITUTE
8 DECEMBER 2003

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim
Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh

[Salutations]

It is indeed an honour and a privilege for me to be able to greet all of you and welcome you to Brunei Darussalam.

I was made to understand that you are only here for a very short visit but I do hope that during your very short stay in Brunei Darussalam, you were able to see closely and have a good understanding of our country, government and its people.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

For this session, I will be presenting a short briefing entitled e-Government: Brunei Darussalam’s Experience.

In this paper, I will be highlighting our experiences in e-government and also to provide a review of ICT development in the Brunei Civil Service under the e-Government program.

In this presentation, as part of our experiences, I will firstly touch upon the historical background of how e-government or ICT came into being, secondly, the organisational infrastructure in carrying out e-government, thirdly, our strategies, fourthly, where Brunei Darussalam is and what it has achieved and the stage we are in now.

I will try to be as brief as possible in my presentation and if there is any thing which you want to clarify, I will be most pleased to answer them or my officers from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Information Technology and State Stores Department will also be at hand to answer them.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In 2000, in one of his speeches, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah expressed his view for establishing e-Brunei, aimed at a paperless society by guiding Brunei into the mainstream of global Information Technology. Efforts to establish e-Government and e-Business were highlighted with the aim of developing Brunei economy beyond its traditional reliance on oil and gas reserves. The Brunei Darussalam Economic Council (BDEC) report published in late 1999 also reinforced that Information Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the main essential elements to diversify the Brunei Darussalam economy away from its traditional dependence on oil and gas.

The Government has taken necessary measures in the development of the ICT sector by placing ICT into a key position in the modernisation of the Brunei Government’s provision of public services. Through the utilisation of ICT and specifically, the Internet, provides the opportunity for Brunei to develop a wide range of e-Government strategies, plans and initiatives. ICT-related programmes aim to open up new opportunities, contribute to growth, employment and innovation and to advance the nation into a state of global competitiveness in a Global Digital Economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me outline the history of ICT development in Brunei Darussalam. The Government of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam realised that an efficient and effective public administration system is essential to the achievement of national development goals and objectives. This realisation was put to practice as far back as the 1970s when computerisation of the civil service commenced. However the computerization initiatives were relatively ad hoc up to early 1990s.

In 1993, the various computer units in key government agencies from the Ministry of Finance notably the Brunei Investment Agency, the Treasury and the Economic Planning Unit were combined to become the Information Technology Section under the Ministry of Finance.

In 1995, the Information Technology Programme or Teknologi Maklumat (TEMA) was introduced for the civil service. It aimed to raise IT usage and awareness, promoting planned IT programmes for various ministries and improve service levels to the citizens.

In January 1996, the Information Technology Section in the Ministry of Finance was merged with the State Stores Department and became a full pledged department, known as the Department of Information Technology and State Stores (ITSS).

In 1997, a national IT strategic planning framework was formulated and the first National IT Strategic Plan took off starting in 2000. The National Strategic IT Plan, IT 2000 and Beyond, aims to promote effective application of IT in the public and private sectors, raising the level of IT literacy, and ensuring supply of IT skilled manpower to fuel growth. The plan highlights three core strategies in creating a paperless society with the result of paperless governance and services through utilisation of multimedia technologies to allow for information or data. It also targets the introduction of electronic government through better training programs and IT coordination as well as creating better incentives for IT adoption and e-Business deployment in the public sector.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The e-Government program first came into being under an initiative through an early government IT committee set up by the Prime Minister’s Office sometime late 1998. The committee later became the EGPEC or E-Government Program Executive Committee as an affiliate of the BIT Council which prioritises and implements e-Government initiatives, including appraisal, studies and further proposals of steps in implementation of e-Government program. The key message which the Government seeks to deliver and follow is “EG21 Governance and Services Online” with its vision of the public sector services being “an e-smart Government in line with the 21st century civil service vision”.

The e-Government program was formalised through the formation of the Brunei Darussalam Information Technology Council (BIT Council) which was formally established in 2000 to spearhead and provide guidance on the implementation of the National IT Strategic Plan. Through the BIT Council, the Government aims to lead and facilitate the strategic development and diffusion of state-of-the-art IT for the entire nation. Chaired by the Minister of Communications and made up of representatives from the government, the private sector, IT sector, academia and community representatives, the Council established ten goals that covered areas such as: Leadership, needs, IT literacy, manpower, applications, Research and Development, Links, economy, business and relevance, to achieve its overall mission.

Another committee complemented the EGPEC called the EBPEC or E-Business Program Executive Committee focuses on commerce rather than government.

The Department of Information Technology and State Stores served as the Secretariat for the BIT Council, EGPEC and EBPEC. The BIT Secretariat role is to support the activities of the BIT Council, monitors the implementation of the National Strategic IT Plan, spearheads the formulation and implementation of the national IT policy and plans, nurtures alliances with ICT clusters and appropriate organisations, and manages corporate communications and publicity.

All the parties above share one common aim which is to move Brunei towards paperless governance and services, through the use of multimedia technologies for information/ data exchange, with public sector drive towards e-Government and a private sector drive towards e-Business programmes.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The focus and attention accorded to the ICT industry was reflected for the first time in the 8th National Development Plan 2001-2005 with an initial allocation of $526 million of the National Development Plan being increased to more than $800 million for the development and implementation of infrastructure for the e-Government initiative to apply IT to the daily working operations of government by creating a world-class physical and information infrastructure, which would serve as the backbone of Brunei’s information superhighway.

The e-Government initiative expand the breath and depth of the ICT industry in Brunei from merely piecemeal projects addressing vertical needs, to multi-million dollar projects, which address the horizontal needs of the government. To this end, the Government has announced 2005 as a target for full implementation of the electronic Government.

In carrying out the projects by EGPEC, several committees were formed - the EgSPEC or the E-Government Strategic, Policy and Coordinating Group assisted the EGPEC in carrying out its work; the TIWG or Technological Infrastructure Working Group which reviews and recommends e-Government technological infrastructure; the OIWG or Organisational Infrastructure Working Group reviews and recommends the e-Government Organisational Infrastructure; the KKT or the e-Government Implementation Guideline Working Committee and at the ministerial level or ground level, the key e-Government implementation organisational structure consists of the Ministerial e-Government Steering Committee chaired by the Permanent Secretary.

The Ministerial Committees are also assisted by several smaller committees such as Organizational Working Group (OWG); Technical Working Group (TWG) and Implementation Working Group (IWG).

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Under the e-Government programs, there are three core strategies. Firstly, the e-Government structural framework is instituted to realise and sustain bona fide outcomes through development of the institutional infrastructure and putting monitoring and regulatory mechanisms in place. The second core strategy concerns injecting smart capital to build reliable e-Government infrastructure, and common and specific e-Government applications and services. The third developmental stage relates to societal resources to leverage capacity, capability and innovation at the forefront of an ICT-led economy.

Under each Core strategy, several goals were identified. Under Core Strategy 1, the goals are to establish institutional infrastructure, e-Government Architecture and monitoring and regulating mechanism. Under Core Strategy 2, the goals are to establish e-Government Infrastructure, Common e-Government Application and Services and Specific e-Government Application and Services. Under Core Strategy 3, the goals are to establish knowledge based economy and society initiatives.

An EG Value Chain Implementation Blueprint has also been developed to provide effective alternatives for supporting the government ministries and agencies in their e-Government projects. The services framework outlined in this blueprint comprises three areas: the EG Center, EG Bandwidth and EG Agency.

The EG Center Services managed by Department of Information Technology and State Stores is designed for the common services such as hosting co-location facilities, facility management, data center, disaster recovery center, network operation center, service operation center inclusive of certification authority, e-mail services, portals, website customisation, gateway and common business services.

The EG Bandwidth Services managed by the Ministry of Communication is a Government-Wide Intranet, that will supports scalable, secure and reliable info-communication infrastructure to deliver web-enabled e-Government services to its citizens and employees. It will provide outsourcing of broadband network connectivity up to the routers and switches.

The EG Agency Services provides the option for ministry or department users to host their IT center at their own premises or hosted by EG center. The services offered include outsourcing application, multi channel access devices, agency infrastructure, common office environment tool, manpower, training, architecture framework, marketing and quality assurance.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In pursuit of fulfilling these aims, the Government is currently in the process of tendering out the various electronic projects. Ministries and departments are encouraged to be more involved with, and take initiative in, the development of e-Government by creating their own “flagship” programs and business plans.

The Government of Brunei Darussalam has also invested heavily in building its National Information Infrastructure as one of its key priority areas in the implementation of the e-Government program as well as to keep pace with the needs of the nation. In the Communication Sector, Brunei has established a nationwide broadband network called RAGAM 21. RAGAM is the acronym for Rangkaian Global Aliran Multimedia (Global Multimedia Network System 21), meaning 'interconnecting the network to the global multimedia infrastructure’. The availability of high bandwidth and high performance network infrastructure effectively enables the economy to prepare for the new age of global multimedia network.

Building upon the RAGAM 21 infrastructure, the Government has embarked on the EG bandwidth project. The aim of this EG bandwidth project is to provide the last mile connectivity to the Government premises. It is a Government-Wide Intranet, which will supports scalable, secure and reliable info-communication infrastructure to deliver web-enabled e-Government services to its citizens and employees.

Concurrently, new laws based on international practices have been enacted. This included the formation of the Authority for Information and Communications Technology Industry (AiTi) under the Authority for Information and Communications Technology Industry Order 2001, an independent statutory body responsible for regulating and developing the ICT industry in Brunei Darussalam.

Other legal changes included enactment of the Trade Marks Act and Copyright Act, the Computer Misuse Order, the Electronic Transactions Order 2000, the Patent Order 2000, Evidence Act to accept “computer evidence”, the Class License Notification and Internet Code of Practices.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

So, what have we achieved? In terms of the maturity of e-government, Brunei should be in lower to mid level moving up in the commonly used maturity levels of e-government services. If you are unfamiliar with the various e-government service maturity levels, the first levels are basically services published on-line with passive relationship - the user does not communicate but just read what is available on the internet, the next level would be some form of active interaction where the user can communicate electronically but the agency does not necessarily reply electronically, this include being able to submit applications etc. Higher levels allow active communications and active transactions between the public and the providing agency.

We believe strongly in implementing and emulating the best practises which are currently being done in other countries. The EGPEC committee members have visited both Singapore and Malaysia , the two most prominent countries in the region promoting and using IT-centric civil services, and other agencies have also gone elsewhere in the world. What we have learnt, we have brought home and use that or tailor made them to fit into our context.

As a result, we have identified a number of essential flagship projects which are projects cutting across government agencies. Among others, the projects are TAFIS (Treasury, Accounting, Financial Information System), MSC (Multipurpose Smart Cards), HRMS (Human Resource Management System) and Mukim.Net which is an e-Citizen portal.

We are currently in the process of preparing a government wide IT plan where we have signed up a $4.75 million contract with Accenture to provide the consultancy as well as to help prepare a government wide IT plan. Under this contract, conferences and workshops have been conducted for the top level of every single government agencies to bring awareness in what they need to prepare for an IT plan for their agencies as well as to help and guide them in the preparation of the plans. On top of that we have allocated more than $1 million to the Civil Service Institute to bring awareness and increase the level of IT literacy to the rest of the civil service.

One major project conducted by the Ministry of Finance called TAFIS (Treasury, Accounting and Financial Information System) has taken off and is currently completing Milestone 2. The system, a joint venture between Accenture and a government company, allows for real time on-line transactions between the government agencies and financial institutions.

Another major project implemented is the Multipurpose Smartcard (MSC). The MSC is actually the first identity card to use biometric features. The card replaces the old identity card or NRIC as Singapore would term it. Our IC incorporates an 8 bit chip and in it, we are able to store not just the normal information normally associated with the identification of a person but also his biometric information, in this case, his fingerprints. This card can be used by other agencies. One agency which is using it currently is the Employees Trust Fund, more commonly known as CPF in Singapore . Members of the fund can go into any of the fund’s kiosk to find out about the amount of savings they have and whether their contributions have been paid. This eliminated the fund’s need to produce a separate identification card for their members.

In terms of spending, to this date we have spent only a very small percentage out of the $800 million allocated in the 8th National Development Plan. This will change in 2004 as a number of projects have now been identified and a number have actually been tendered out and will be implemented.

For the Prime Minister’s Office alone, we will shortly sign a $23.5 million dollar contract with a local company who will work together with one of the biggest IT company in the world. This contract will allow PMONet to come into being, linking all the 22 agencies under PMO and providing the infrastructure background needed for real communications between all the agencies and to the PMO. PMO will also award a HRM system consultancy work to be followed up by another tender to set up the system. This multi million dollar project will ensure one HRMS system throughout the civil service.

What is actually important of what we have achieved is that we have brought the level of awareness of e-government from ground zero to a very high level. Agencies now more or less understood of how they can benefit from the e-government revolution in improving the agencies administration and how this can translate into better services to the public at large.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

What have we learned?

The success of implementation of the e-Government Programme into the Brunei civil service as a massive national agenda item depends heavily on the commitment and collaboration of the Civil Service as a whole. It also depends greatly on what challenges are anticipated and how all challenges, whether anticipated or not, are met.

We need a very strong leadership and a very strong commitment to make change. E-Government requires not merely transforming a paper based procedural system into an electronic system but it is much more than that. The mission and the vision of what needed to be achieved must be clear and stated. We must make sure we know who are to benefit and how they are going to benefit. At the same time, commitment from all levels are essential as well as continuous learning and assessment by all parties involved as technology is not static but very dynamic.

In the implementation of the e-government projects, due diligence have to be considered. Due diligence in this respect takes many form including that of socio-economic (benefits to various levels of society), business (benefits to be gained), technology (correct technology to be used), market (demand for services) and security. Due diligence therefore means that in the implementation of e-government including the award of the tender, the projects to be implemented must therefore take all these into account.

I reiterate again that we believe strongly in implementing and emulating the best practises which are currently being done in other countries.

By being the prime “mover” in Brunei Darussalam’s development programmes, civil servants are expected to be able to cope with and manage the challenges ahead. Major challenges lie in the need for the Civil Service to transform itself from its traditional role to a more supportive and catalytic role in the wake of growing regional as well as international competition and emerging domestic resource constraint.

Presently, the civil service comprises of 12 ministries and approximately 38,000 civil servants. The ongoing ICT programmes and work will require the development of IT literacy among all 38,000 employees and will affect all the ministries and departments. It is therefore vital that there is timely-coordination and cooperation between all ministries, departments and employees to ensure that the ICT are implemented as scheduled.

Many of the challenges faced relate to people rather than technology. The ability to change mindsets, and consequently behaviors, is a key success factor.

Another factor that requires consideration lies in the human resource sector. The Government has realised the need to develop professionals able to service the ICT industry. This need necessitated the Government introducing ICT infrastructure into the education systems. An e-Education Roadmap has been formulated to the Ministry of Education which will drive the e-Education programmes on EDUNET, e-Learning, Education Information System (EIS), Digital Library and Human and Capacity Building to address the potential lack of ‘human capital’ by exposing and training the public early on in their education life.

Brunei is well on its journey of implementing a successful e-Government as a step towards bringing the country to an era of paperless governance. By focusing the attention of Brunei ’s civil servants and setting everyone’s sights on the goals to be achieved, any challenges to be faced would be surmountable.

(c) Pehin Hazair/Rozan Yunos