IT lawyers prefer self-regulation to gov’t body

Malaysiakini, 12 Nov 2011: http://www.malaysiakini.com/news/183927

Two legal experts specialising in the information technology (IT) industry said that a self-regulating body to guide the industry was better than a federal government-led body as proposed in the draft Computing Professionals Bill 2011.

In an article on the Loyar Burok website, lawyers Foong Cheng Leong and Joachim Leong wrote that the proposed Board of Computing Professionals Malaysia (BCPM), which will be regulated by the bill, is open to government interference.

Based on the draft version of the bill, the science, technology and innovation (Mosti) minister would have full authority in the selection, remuneration and removal of board members.

“This beckons the question of the independence of the board which should be peer-led as opposed to be decided by the government.

“This gives rise to concern of political interference in a highly dynamic industry or even the appearance with it can put off people from getting involved in the industry,” they said.

According to a Mosti statement on Friday, the BCPM seeks to regulate the IT industry and improve the quality of IT practitioners.

However, critics are up in arms over the requirement for IT professionals to be registered and possess a minimum level of qualification or experience.

Some argue that this was a money-making exercise by the government while others claim this discriminates against hobbyists and those who cannot undertake formal training.

‘Steve Jobs didn’t need BCPM to succeed’

Foong and Leong believe that the BCPM regulatory framework was unnecessary as the quality of IT practitioners cannot be effectively measured by a government body, as compared to end results.

They said the IT industry cannot be compared to other professions as its practitioners are not directly involved in the design of buildings, treating medical patients, dispensing drugs or providing legal advice.

More likely, the BCPM would cause another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy and turn off IT hobbyist from innovating in their spare time.

“The greatest minds in the industry such as Steve Jobs (left), Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak were not even graduates who became the brains behind the giants of the IT industry today namely – Apple and Microsoft.

“They were dropouts who had an opportunity to flourish in an unregulated ecosystem. This bill will have the opposite effect on our IT industry.

“If we are to attempt to take a lead in IT, we should take a page from the Silicon Valley where IT professionals are allowed to innovate with little to no regulation,” they added.

Ambiguity over CNII

The duo also believe that the bill’s definition of the critical national information infrastructure (CNII), the key area which the proposed law seeks to regulate, is ambiguous.

According to the Mosti statement on Friday, the CNII is defined as “those assets, systems and functions that are vital to the nation that their incapacity or destruction would have a devastating impact on national economic strength or national image or national defence and security or government capability to function or public health and safety”.

Furthermore, the same statement said: “The CNII entities will be as identified by the chief government security office (CGSO).”

The two authors said that from the little information available, it is unsure if the scope of the CNII can be changed even without parliamentary input.

“What if one day, they turn around and decided that e-commerce falls within the CNII’s scope as more and more people shift their shopping online?

“What would that mean for the numerous blog shops in Malaysia? Such uncertainty and arbitrariness hangs over the heads of all Malaysians and not just IT professionals,” they said.

No public briefing

An Open Day event would be held at the Mosti headquarters in Putrajaya tomorrow from 9am till 5pm.

A check with ministry officials revealed that there would be no public briefing regarding the bill.

“It will be similar to Pemandu’s open day events with several booths displaying the document. There will be spokespersons present to answer queries,” said a ministry official when contacted.

The spokesperson said there would be forms at the booths to allow the public to provide feedback.

It is understood that several groups representing IT practitioners would be handing in several documents to ask questions about the bill.

The draft bill can be downloaded from the Mosti website.

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