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LUNCH TALK BY THE HONOURABLE
BISMILLAHIR RAHMANIR RAHIM
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to address this forum and thanking you all for giving me the opportunity to share Brunei Darussalam’s experience on its journey towards e-government.
In this session I shall give a brief introduction to where I think Brunei Darussalam is on the road of E-Government. I shall then present the conceptual framework within which our e-government initiative is embedded as well as the strategies and challenges that we encounter along this interesting journey.
In this globalisation era, the Info Communication Technology era and the move towards knowledge economy as well as the active interactions between society, culture and politics, we as the government faced many challenges in delivering our services to the public. E-government is the use of IT, in particular the internet to deliver public services in a much more convenient, customer-oriented, cost-effective and altogether a different and better way. It affects a government department’s dealings with citizens, businesses and other public agencies as well as internally that is with the civil servants.
Key Drivers of E-government
There are a number of key drivers of E-government in Brunei Darussalam.
The first main reason for e-government is to modernize or improve the civil service.
Modernising or improving the government with the purpose of ensuring good governance is always the top agenda in His Majesty’s Government. His Majesty personally always stresses in his titah on the need the government machinery to be always efficient, effective, innovative, competitive, productive and proactive as well as customer focused and friendly. ICT is placed in a key position in the modernization of the Brunei Government’s provision of public services.This is stipulated in the 21st Century Civil Service Vision. Through the utilization of ICT and specifically, the internet, provides the opportunity for Brunei Darussalam 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.
In his Titah in the year 2000, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam expressed his view for the establishment of 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) sector is one of the main essential elements to diversify the Brunei Darussalam economy away from its traditional dependence on oil and gas.
The second key driver of e-government is to build a more transparent and accountable government.
E-government enables greater participation of citizens in policy and decision making, which was nearly impossible in the past. Participation enables greater understanding between Government and people and also between people and people. It also helps in creating a sense of responsibility and the Government becomes a true representative of the peoples’ aspirations and will. The concerns over transparency and accountability have taken prominence in the past decade.
The third is to meet the challenges of globalization.
Brunei Darussalam, like most developing countries is committed to enhancing its capacity and competitiveness in meeting the challenges of the globalization mainly caused by emerging new convergent technologies. There has also been for a long time, concerns on the need for the Civil Service to be more flexible.
The fourth reason for adopting e-government is to better prepare ourselves for future crises.
The financial crisis sweeping through Asia in the 1990s brought new urgencies to governments and especially the Public Service to look for new ways of governing that would help lessen the impacts of and indeed prepare for future crises. Echoes of the 1980s for the need to create capacities for responding quickly and efficiently to change especially within public bureaucracy reverberated throughout the developing world.
The development of E-Government in Brunei Darussalam
The building of E-Government framework in Brunei Darussalam started as far back as the 1970s with the financial and telecommunications institutions being the early pioneers in applying IT for data processing to support their business functions and operation.
Set against the background of the key drivers of e-government and in light of the global trend of building national information highway, the Government of Brunei Darussalam has decided to speed up the IT development in various sectors of the national economy ever since 1990s. 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, a specialized IT department called the Department of Information Technology and State Stores (ITSS) was formed.
In 1997, a national IT Strategic Planning framework was formulated and it only took off in the year 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 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 the utilization 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.
But it was in 1998 when the e-government programe first came into being under an initiative through a government IT committee set up by the Prime Minister’s Office. The committee now known as the EGPEC or e-Government Programme Executive Committee as an affiliate of the BIT Council which prioritises and approves e-government initiatives, including appraisal, studies and further proposals of steps in implementation of e-Government program.
The e-Government program was formalized through the formation of Brunei Darussalam Information technology Council (BIT Council) which was formally established in the year 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.
All the parties involved in the government 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.
The focus and attention accorded to the ICT industry was reflected for the first time in the 8th National Plan 2001-2005 with an initial allocation of $526 million of the National Development Plan being increased to more than $900 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 breadth 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.
Vision of E-Government
On the threshold of 21st Century, the Brunei Darussalam government has attached great importance to the application of E-Government, serving as an important part of IT Development Scheme of Brunei Darussalam. The government has set ambitious vision in the implementation of E-Government: “To be an e-smart government in line with the 21st Century Civil Service Vision”. And its mission is that “His Majesty’s government aims to establish electronic governance and services to best serve the nation”
Due Diligence in the implementation of e-Government
Based on the current position of implementing E-Government in Brunei Darussalam, due diligence need to be considered if the above-mentioned government’s vision and mission are to be achieved. Due diligence in this respect takes in the forms 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 tender, the projects to be implemented must therefore take all these into account.
Lessons learnt from other countries –the Best Practices
In the implementation of e-Government initiatives we strongly believe in learning and emulating the best practices which are currently being done in other countries.Our officers visited countries like Malysia, Singapore, Canada and Australia to look and study their E-Government initiatives. Workshops and seminar on e- Government and subjects related to it were also organized in Brunei Darussalam in cooperation with consultants from Korea, the Philippines, Singapore the United States of America and Canada.
Thrust of e-Government
The thrust of the e-Government project therefore is to ensure that the public and business communities will be able to receive efficient and effective services from the Government and at the same time enabling the development and the growth of the economy. This is in line with the spirit of the proclamation of independence in 1984 where His Majesty affirmed that prosperity, security and peace would be the foundations on which this nation would be built. This has been reflected in consecutive national development plans where first and foremost the quality of life of the people is top priority.
Three core strategies have been formulated to realize the vision and mission of the e-Government. Firstly, the e-Government structural framework is instituted to realize 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.
Goals of E-Government
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 initiatives.
The goal on the establishment of the Institutional framework include the formation of various committees and sub-committees, national and ministerial. Significant among these are the E-Government Program Executive Committee; The E-Government Policy, Strategic And Coordinating Working Group; The Organisational Infrastructure Working Group; and the Technological Infrastructure Working Group. Each has been assigned specific roles and responsibilities ranging from the micro to the macro aspects of e-government implementation.
The establishment of the e-Government Architecture provides for the review of existing policies, the legal framework, security framework as well as the architecture framework. These are necessary procedures since they would be the base on which the e-government programme would be coordinated. In establishing Monitoring and Regulatory Mechanisms, it is not the planning process which is the most difficult but it is at the implementation stage where strategies and policies mostly failed.
The goal to establish e-Government infrastructure involves the deployment of both intranet and extranet facilities at ministries and department and the deployment of common e-Government Application and Services entails the setting-up of the EG Centre including the setting up of the Electronic Mail Services and Messaging, Government Official Web site; e-Government Portals; as well as the Disaster Recovery Service.
The goal to deploy Specific e-Government Application and Services encourages ministries and departments to be more involved with, and take initiative in, the development of e-Government by creating their own “flagship” programmes and business plans.
Perhaps the most important goal is the establishment of Knowledge-based Economy and Society Initiatives. This strategy is particularly vital since it focuses on establishing IT skills within the community as well as marketing information society initiatives. Our high investment in technology would have been a failure if the intended users find it difficult to exploit. Therefore it is at both ends that we need to focus – the service provider as well as the service user.
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 Centre, EG Bandwidth and EG Agency.
The EG Centre Services managed by Department of Information Technology and State Stores is designed for the common service such as hosting co-location facilities, facility management, data centre, disaster recovery centre, network operation centre, service operation centre inclisive of certification authority, e-mail services, portals, wbsite customization, 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 centre at their own premises or hosted by EG Centre. The services offered include outsourcing application, multichannel access devices, agency infrastructure, common office environment tool, manpower, training, architecture framework, marketing and quality assurance.
In pursuit of fulfilling these goals, the Government is currently in the process of tendering out 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” programmes and business plans. A number of priority e-government projects have been identified and these constitute the flagship e-government projects. To name but a few, the flagship e-government projects and the lead agencies are as follows:
- Human Resource Management System – Prime Minister's Office;
- Collaborative e-office – all ministries
- Treasury and Accounting Financial Information System (TAFIS) – Ministry of Finance;
- Mukim.net – Ministry of Home affairs;
- E-government Centre – Ministry of Finance;
- E-health – Ministry of Health; and
- E-education – Ministry of Education
Implementation of Strategies
One of the first steps taken by the Brunei Government to implement these strategies was to embark on a programme aimed at preparing, equipping and supporting ministries and lead agencies such as in the formulation and appraisal of their respective Ministerial Information System (IS) / Information Technology (IT) Plans and Government - wide Information System / Iinformation Technology plan.
Concurrently, the government of Brunei Darussalam invested heavily in building its National Information Infrastructure – one of its key priorities in the implementation of the e-government programme. In the Communication Sector, Brunei Darussalam has established a nationwide broadband network called RAGAM 21 – Rangkaian Global Aliran Multimedia (Global Multimedia Network System 21) meaning interconnecting the network to the global multimedia infrastructure. The government is now investing on the EG bandwidth project which aims to provide the last mile connectivity to the government premises. It is a government wide Intranet which will support scalable, secure and reliable info-communication infrastructure to deliver web-enabled e-government services.
The human resource sector requires careful consideration. The Government has realized 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 by 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.
Let me move on then on what are the challenges that we face throughout this journey. Firstly, many of the challenges faced relate to people rather than technology. The ability to change mindsets and consequently behaviours is a key success factor.
Secondly, there is no doubt that governments going online through websites have positive utilities. Yet it would be imprudent to state that -maintaining an online government presence has significantly enhanced the flow of government information of "value" to the public. Thus the need to enhance the "Public Value" of information - to understand the difference between information being provided and information of "value" to the public being provided by the governments.
The third challenge is in ensuring that the e-government initiative did not turn out to be merely a “computerisation” process. Rather we need to look at what we are doing now and review all the processes, including the guiding policies and principles, re-engineer or re-invent those processes and only then look at how ICT can further improve it.
There exist the added pressure on making the right choice of technology to invest in. This is due to the fact that technologies evolve very quickly and equipoment rapidly becomes obsolete. Of particular concern would be the interoperability and interconnectivity of the technologies since each intiative or project may utulise different systems. The experience by some governments at different stages of implementing e-government programs with citizens (G2C), businesses (G2B), and other entities of government (G2G) suggests that a major reason behind the success or failure of e-government projects is the extent to which, first, the governments address technological infrastructure encouraged by appropriate telecommunications policies; and second, the legal and regulatory instruments required for e-government. To meet this technology and integration challenges, emphasis is made on open technology system rather than customized one.
Top management involvement is essential to ensure vertical e-government planning, to acquire the necessary resources, to motivate staff, to support dealings with external partners and stakeholders, and to ensure co-ordination across ministries and agencies. This is also necessary in order to produce an e-Government that is integrated with the general business plan of the organization as well as incorporated into the planning and budget process. To address this, In the e-Government Program Executive Committee the membership comprises of the Permanent Secretaries from respective ministries.
Progress of E-Government Implementation
What have we achieved thus far? A total amount of about B$ 950 million has been allocated for e-Government initiatives under the 8th National Development Plan 2001-2005. This amount has been apportioned to ministries and agencies.
The progress Scorecard as of 2nd March 2005 shows a total of 85.8% of the total value (about $ 814 million) has been submitted by various ministries for endorsement and recommendations by the E-Government Program Executive Committee; and a total of 78% of the total value (about $742 million) has been endorsed and recommended by the Committee to be implemented.
The legal and regulatory foundation for e-Government has been put in place namely the Computer Misue Order, 2000; the Electronic Transactions Order, 2000 ; and the Internet Code of Practice under the Broadcasting Act.
If we look at the stages in the evolution of e-government, Brunei Darussalam is now moving from stage two (enhanced stage) to stage three (the interactive stage) where our customers would eventually be able to access the online services of the government, enter the interactive mode with services to enhance convenience of the consumer such as downloadable forms. Audio and video capability is provided for relevant public information. The government officials can be contacted via email, fax, telephone and post. The site is updated with greater regularity to keep the information current and up to date for the public. There is still a long way to go before we would be able to reach the fifth stage – the networked stage where there will be an integration of G2G, G2B, and G2C interactions.
In conclusion, Brunei is well on its journey of implementing a successful e-Government, although maybe we are slightly behind the target of 2005, as a step towards bringing the country to an era of paperless governance. One can be certain that in our journey to e-Government the glass ceiling has been broken as more projects under e-Government initiatives have been awarded steadily for implementation to both local and foreign vendors.
Most of the challenges in e-government implementation are people issues, or those issues associated with organizational politics and culture. By focusing the attention of Brunei’s civil servants and setting everyone’s sights on the goals to be achieved, any challenge to be faced would be surmountable.
We must change the way we think and conduct day-today business in order to take advantage of what e-government promises and this is our big challenge.
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