Wednesday, December 14, 2011


by Wern Shen
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 04:46 PM

The scene at this morning’s “open house” discussion between ICT professionals and members of the board behind the controversial Computing Professionals Bill was nothing short of explosive. Since the doors swung open at 9.30am, the hall of building C4 was filled to the brim with more than 50 ICT practitioners, all equally upset at the arbitrary draft which emerged last week.

Hosting the “open house” debate were four panelists (seated from left to right above) – Professor Zaharin Yusoff (UNIMAS), En. Shaifubahrim Saleh (PIKOM), Professor Dr. Halimah Badioze Zaman (National Professors Council), and Dato Dr. Raja Malik Raja Mohamed (Malaysian National Computer Confederation) – who tried to steer the proceedings of the morning’s discussions. Unfortunately for them, the band of ICT professionals in attendance weren’t sparing any punches, and tempers flared as simple questions were met with seemingly scripted answers.

Story continues after the jump.
“The intention was never to restrict the ICT community,” urged Professor Zaharin when questioned over the potential implications which could arise from the Bill’s restriction on unqualified ICT workers. “In fact, this bill was drafted to push the profile of the Malaysian ICT community. By implementing these kinds of standards, we can get our people to be recognized internationally.”

“We need this to set the standards,” added Professor Dr. Halimah in reference to the current crop of unemployed IT graduates. “The ICT industry is in trouble and is nowhere near as strong as it was in ‘94. Back then, we had the cream of the crop working the industry,” she added. “With this Bill, studying IT would be just as appealing as studying medicine or engineering, because the graduates can call themselves professionals.”

Needless to say, these statements didn’t go down well with the crowd. An attendee making a point during this morning's proceedings.

“That’s ridiculous,” shouted an attendee in retaliation. “We should move away from the mindset that only graduates can be professionals! I have worked in the industry for more than 10 years without your certification. Does that mean that I am not a professional?”

“That’s why we are opening up membership to existing computing professionals too. It isn’t only open to graduates,” interjected Professor Zaharin.

Although his response holds true, the path for “membership” under the current draft is an uncertain one. Existing IT professionals without BCPM (Board of Computing Professionals Malaysia) accredited qualifications will first have to be reviewed by the board before they can be considered a registered computing practitioner.

“What about our existing certifications,” shouted yet another disgruntled attendee. “My certification is recognized by the USDOD. It is recognized worldwide. Why do I need your certification to work?” he exclaimed.

“We understand your worries, but like we said in the draft, this Bill will only affect people who are involved with CNII,” explained En. Shaifubrahim. “We also know that the current definition of CNII isn’t clear. MOSTI, Cybersecurity and several other parties all have their own definition of what falls under CNII, and this is one area of ambiguity which we will work on clearing up,” he assured.

The vague blanket of CNII was one of the key areas of concern that was shared by today’s attendees. According to Cyber Security Malaysia, Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII) is defined as those assets (real and virtual), systems and functions that are vital to the nations that their incapacity or destruction would have a devastating impact on national economic strength, national image, national defense and security, government capability to function, and public health and safety.

”Don’t harp on the CNII now,” urged Professor Zaharin. “We will hold more rounds of discussions to address this issue. If this Bill goes into effect, it will only apply to those involved with CNII. For the rest of the industry, it is business as usual.”

A large portion of the crowd in attendance were not impressed by the ambiguous and indirect answers from the panel.

A quick look around the Malaysian blogosphere reveals that a number of people in attendance for this morning’s proceedings seemed less than happy with the outcome.

“We have discussed this issue extensively over social media,” began yet another question from the floor. “Why hasn’t anyone from the board or MOSTI participated in the discussion?”

“We can’t respond to everyone,” answered Dato Dr. Raja Malik. “Appoint a representative, and we’ll talk to him.”

“The fight (against the Bill) is still a long one,” said Daniel Cerventus, an IT professional who is based in KL. “We didn’t get many answers today, just parties pushing the blame around.”

Feedback forms were distributed throughout the session. No word on how well these were received.

The board which was moderating this morning’s session came from varying backgrounds, but noticeably missing from the lineup was a representative from MOSTI. Although they did entertain the lion share of today’s questions, their indirect and indecisive answers just went to show how lightly they were treading on this issue.

We left this morning’s session with the assurance that this was the first of many open ended discussions that would be held in regards to the drafted Bill, and that it would not be passed before consulting more industry players.

Whether or not the promise will be kept is a different story. We do know however, that Malaysian ICT professionals are a united group of people who are fighting for a common goal, and that is the freedom to practice their trade without unreasonable restrictions.

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