By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — Online protests against Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1 Malaysia email account initiative is increasing by the hour, with more than 24,000 Facebook users now dead set against the RM50 million project.
The prime minister announced yesterday that every Malaysian adult will be given a 1 Malaysia email account to provide a secure channel for communications between the government and citizens.
Like the virtual protests that mushroomed after the RM5 billion Warisan Merdeka tower was unveiled last year, the public has taken to social networking site Facebook to lash out against Najib’s latest 1 Malaysia exercise.
As of writing, the Facebook page “1M Malaysians Who Don’t Want Najib’s 1 Malaysia Email” has attracted 24,012 followers, in barely a day since it was first created.
The page, which was created anonymously, attracted 2,022 followers last night.
Its fans are united in their disgust at what they see as yet more public funds being wasted on an unnecessary service.
“When Gov want to increase Petrol Price — He (Najib) told rakyat that Gov doesn’t have money to give subsidy, and Malaysia will bankrupt if we still using this tokang. But now He got Money to give free email....” said one Facebook user.
Another user, Michael Chiang, questioned why Malaysians needed a 1 Malaysia email address when many Internet users already email accounts of their own.
“The biggest question many are asking is, why do Malaysians need a new email address when most who have Internet access already have one or more email addresses?
“And especially when you consider that many in the rural areas don’t even have Internet access and in some places, not even electricity supply, let alone computers….”
Singapore has introduced a similar plan called “OneInbox” which is aimed at getting Singaporeans to use just one inbox for all government emails by 2012.
Introduced in phases, the aim of OneInbox is to get 30 per cent of Singaporeans using it within three years.
Unlike Malaysia however, 95 per cent of Singaporean homes with school-going children have access to a computer.
Najib, who announced the project yesterday, clarified early this morning that the email account is entirely voluntary.
The PM’s statement came hours after his Performance and Management Delivery Unit (Pemandu) officials also took to the micro-blogging service to quell a furore over the email service, which some said was a waste of the announced RM50 million investment.
“1Msia Email address is NOT compulsory for all Msians. 1Msia Email is a private sector-led initiative by Tricubes (Berhad), with investment from the company & NOT the govt,” said Pemandu through its @etp_roadmap Twitter account.
Both statements contradicted Tricubes Bhd’s filing to the Bursa Malaysia early this month on April 4, in which the IT firm said it had been awarded the email project by the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu).
Guidelines issued by Mampu and shown to The Malaysian Insider said the 1 Malaysia email project under the E-Government initiative is “for each citizen above the age of 18 years to be assigned a unique official email account and ID ... It will provide value-added services such as online bill payment, public record search and others,” it added.
Several firms were invited to bid for the 1 Malaysia email project last November and demonstrate a 100 per cent take-up rate for the service.
The Malaysian Insider understands the key performance indicator (KPI) for the project was a 50 per cent take-up rate for those above 18-years old by 2012, before increasing to 100 per cent by 2015.
The winning bidder also had to demonstrate how it would get 50 per cent of the email account holders to use its value added services such online bill payment and public record searches by 2020, according to a document seen by The Malaysian Insider.
The 1 Malaysia e-mail project was also greeted with widespread derision on micro-blogging site Twitter, where #1malaysiaemail was the second-highest trending topic in Malaysia as of 8.05pm last night.
In addition to the #1malaysiaemail hashtag, terms like “RM50m” and “Tricubes” also made it to the list of Malaysia’s top 10 trending topics on Twitter.
Despite Pemandu’s clarification that the government will not be financing the 1 Malaysia email project and that it would not be made compulsory, questions remain over how Tricubes Bhd, in danger of being delisted from Bursa Malaysia due to financial irregularities, will finance the project.
“It’s not just a free email. Our personal information will be handed to a dodgy company (according to the Securities Commission, it has to be watched for irregularities),” said a Facebook user, Suk Ng.
“No public funds? What is this appointment by the government and why do you need an appointment by the government if it is truly a private initiative?” said another comment on the Facebook page.
The 1 Malaysia email account is part of a new one-stop web portal for government services, which will include social networking features as well as online bill payment and citizen application facilities.
The Malaysia Insider understands that the 1 Malaysia email service will use software from Microsoft, the company that now owns the free Hotmail account service.
The 1 Malaysia email service is part of Najib’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) to achieve developed nation status by 2020.
Najib said that the RM50 million investment will have a gross national income (GNI) impact of RM39 million up to 2015 and will enhance delivery of public services.