Entrepreneurs ask for a specific budget for E-government

05 November 2016
Entrepreneurs ask for a specific budget for E-government
Members of parliament sit during Myanmar's Union Parliament regular assembly in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. Photo: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

The new government is planning to implement an E-government or digital government service during their tenure. This will make their public services faster and it will save time and money. 
Entrepreneurs in the ICT sector said they would get economic benefits when the government implements the system. But it is questionable whether the government has a master plan or specific budget for it.
A technology exhibition held this year at the state and government level shows the implementation of an E-government system has already been started. I think the reason computer professionals want the new government to implement the system is because of the economic benefits they will receive from this mega project. 
Khun Oo, the Chairman of Myanmar Computer Federation (MCF), said, “We really have a lot of opportunities. The ICT sector must be developed first if we want to implement an e-government system. The government cannot do all the work by themselves. So they must give contracts to the private sector. These are big opportunities for private sector companies.” 
Thus domestic ICT companies and computer professionals have asked the government to support them. But in this big market, domestic companies will have fierce competition from foreign companies for contracts, it is interesting to see what challenges lie ahead for them or if some domestic companies will win contracts in collaboration with foreign companies. 
Administrative Director Ye Myat Thu of Alpha Info-Tech Co. Ltd said, “There are two parts to this project. If the government gives contracts to incompetent domestic companies, I worry about having another case like the shoddy-car industry project manufactured by domestic car manufacturing plants in industrial zones. And another extreme is opening to all. Our country needs to get technology and on the other hand, there are national security issues. Domestic companies must have the capability to do this job competently. Let’s see who will be competent and to what extent by weighing up these two extremes.” 
His hopes on this growing market can be seen but he also said he is worried that domestic companies may suffer a lot if they are not yet ready for this job. 
“If you ask me we don’t have really competent professionals for this job? I must say most of our professionals in this field are not yet capable. But there are many high-calibre Myanmar IT professionals who are doing this in foreign countries such as US, Singapore etc. If they can come back home and engage in this work difficulties in implementing this project can be resolved to some extent,” he added. 
Atos Co. Ltd. Head of Country for Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar Mr Magnus Alvarsson said, “This is the first step in our effort for the public services sector. Currently, we are focusing on banking and health care services and also we are looking at the telecom sector. So I think we will get opportunities from these sectors first but also we are really trying hard to look into the public services sector.” 
The E-government project started 15 years ago but it has been delayed because of the lack of a concrete policy in government. Another reason is the incompetence of government staff in implementing the project. 
In this regard, Director of E-Government section, Ministry of Transport and Communications, Nwe Ni Soe Yin, explained, “Even under the rule of the previous government the E-Government project was supported and encouraged. In 2000-2005 periods we did the project. We drafted the Myanmar ICT Master Plan in 2005. There were policies, guidelines, visions and a road map in this master plan. But the project lost steam when we faced difficulties because of the lack of a concrete policy, guidelines and unsustainability. So we had to restart the project again and again.” 
If we have to rely only on domestic companies there will be questions in relation to their skills and competency. On the other hand, if we have to rely only on foreign companies there will be huge costs and security issues. Another important thing is a need for a master plan and specific budget allocation. 
Union Minister of Ministry of Transport and Communications Thant Sin Maung who is also on the Myanmar Computer Technology Development Council said that the President and State Counsellor had read the Master Plan.
Myanmar Computer Federation (MCF) and computer professionals in this sector have demanded the government give specific budget allocation for ICT sector. 
MCF Chairman Khun Oo said, “Internationally, the ICT sector is earmarked for 2-3% of total government budget. In our country, even 1% of government budget will be okay for us. But we don’t know yet if the government can earmark just 1% for ICT sector.” 
Let’s see what will happen to the e-government project under the new government. Will it be a success or it will be stopped halfway through as experienced under previous governments.