Email for Everyone?

UPDATE 1: Some of the questions raised has been answered in this FAQ by Tricubes Bhd but still, it is a real wonder why spend so much on something is available for free even it involves sensitive information

UPDATE 2: 05.10.2011 – Loss-making Tricubes Bhd has managed to sign up only 3,000 users for the free web-based myemail.my service — some six months after the company was picked to launch the service. CEO Khairun conceded that the target now looked “very, very stretched,” although he remained confident that the service will get “a couple of million” subscribers by the end of next year (Source)

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(Is there a real and valid reasons to have email address? How about when the Government have decided to create one email for all Malaysians? Image source: http://www.itsngenius.com)

You have read about it in the papers by now and you may be in a state of disbelief.

From Malaysiakini:-

Local IT player Tricubes Bhd will invest RM50 million in the 1Malaysia Email Project to provide an account each for official purposes, to all Malaysians aged 18 and above.

“We will focus on delivery of notices and bills, MYEG is about online payment,” CEO Khairun Zainal Mokhtar told a press conference after the announcement. However the description of the project in handouts distributed during the event, said the 1Malaysia email and portal will be a ‘one-stop centre for government services, providing value-added services such as social networking, checking bills online and payment’.

Khairun also said that his company will own the portal and email infrastructure once it is completed sometime in July. However, he failed to address a question as to how the company will recoup the millions of ringgit in investment. It was also not apparent how having an email system as an Entry Point Project (EPP) will help to drive Malaysia’s transformation to a high-income nation.

I still recall when I got my very first email address 10 years ago. It was a hotmail email, first opened to the public in 1997 and with an email address in my pocket, my steps into the online world looked complete (it was not but back then, I was ignorant on what the internet has to offer as well). The hotmail email was my personal email which I used to communicate with my friends. I also had a company email for formal communications. Fast forward to the present day, it will be almost impossible to get on with working life without an email address (I have 3 email addresses now – 2 personal and 1 company emails).

Yes, it will be difficult to get on with our daily routine and communications without a proper email address. And yet, there are some of us without any email address (one good example, my parents). They don’t see the point of having one – they are not applying for any job online and for communications, they just rely on a good phone call and for official businesses, they rather go to the government office and get things done.

So, it may sound good if the Government is taking the initiatives to get an email address for all Malaysians above 18 years old but there are some questions that need to be answered before we, as the tax-payers and probably the end-user of this 1Malaysia email, can roll out the red-carpet.

1. Before we can even talk about emails, first ask – is high speed internet available for all and at the right rate – enough for lower income Malaysians to use on a regular basis? No point having an email address if you cannot retrieve your emails. No doubt the Government has been working hard to roll-out high speed and cost effective broadband services for all but have all areas have high speed, cheap internet in place?

2. Ok fine, let’s assume we have cheap and fast internet available, what is the percentage of Malaysians without any email address? Is it that bad that the Government had to take the steps to provide Malaysians with one? When most of us have a Facebook account these days, what more of a more basic thing called email? If I already have a valid & working email address, can I decline having this dubious 1Malaysia email?

3. RM50 million may be invested by Tricubes Bhd but how they going to recover this huge investment and cost of maintenance? Some form of reimbursement from the Government? Some form of yearly fees charged to the end-users? Intrusive advertisements in emails? Or tax-payers’ money? These days you register for email from Microsoft, Yahoo or Google for free. Why need to spend RM50 million to create emails for Malaysians then?

4. Just how secure is this 1Malaysia email? I am not talking about secure from hackers and spasm – I am sure that all this would be in place before it is rolled out to the public. I am talking about secure to the end-users. Imagine emails of all Malaysians which contain sensitive information & communications with Government all in one place, controlled by one private company. What is the guarantee that the contents of the email will remain private and not opened for scrutiny by certain Government agencies?

And here’s more trouble news with the whole affair:-

Tricubes Bhd’s RM50 million contract to develop the 1 Malaysia email service could be the financial lifeline of the information technology firm which is at risk of being delisted from Bursa Malaysia as early as October 29 unless it gets its finances in order.

(Source)

Does it sounds like a bail-out? How a company who cannot manage its own finances is entrusted to manage millions of sensitive emails belonging to all Malaysians? Having email address no doubt is necessary and also essential but there are far more important things.

A friend IM-ed me with this interesting but valid point this morning “Sarawakians in the interior with no electricity, education, water, health support and welfare but they have government-granted email accounts that they can’t access. Bull”. A point well made!

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