The candidate should be someone well rounded, well experienced, not too old or too young
FOR some time now, there has been talk on whether culture is a good fit for the Information, Communications and Culture Ministry (MICC). Some believe culture would be better off parked under the Tourism Ministry.
Culture and tourism, to them, are lines out of the same song not quite jiving with communications or information.
Then, there is talk of some areas of duplication between MICC and the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti). Both should merge as there are common areas, it has been said.
These ministries aside, some folk have been lobbying that a new ministry, the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) Ministry, be set up with the MICC being done away with.
All this talk has resurfaced now that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, fresh off his election win, is busy selecting candidates for his new Cabinet line-up that might be announced in the coming days.
There is certainly some overlap between Mosti and MICC, making sense for them to be merged into one entity. Arts, on the other hand, could be part of the Youth and Sports Ministry or spun off into a new ministry under Arts and Heritage.
It is not an easy decision, but whatever the outcome, one things is for sure Malaysia’s Cabinet should not be bigger than China’s, which has a population of 1.6 billion, as opposed to our 28 million.
Australia and Singapore have gone though the same phase that Malaysia is going through now in terms of merging and segregating its various ministries. In 2001, Singapore’s Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) was expanded to include Arts.
Over a decade later, the Arts and Heritage portfolios became a part of the culture ministry. At present, the role of the MCI is to oversee the development of the ICT, media and design sectors, public libraries and the government’s information and public communications policies.
On a similar note, Australia expanded its Communications Ministry to include Arts in 1994. Four years later, the ministry expanded to include information technology (IT).
However, in 2007, Arts became a part of the Environment/Heritage Ministry. The Communications/IT Ministry was renamed as the Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy.
Even the United Nations has a specialised agency to deal with technology in the form of the International Telecommunication Union because the role of the Internet and broadband transcends all boundaries.
The vision of Malaysia’s MICC is to be a pioneer in promoting the 1Malaysia Concept based on national principles to achieve a harmonious and gracious nation. The ministry’s main aspiration is to enhance Malaysia as a global ICT hub in the region, to ensure information from all sources of media is accurate and precise and to preserve and promote Malaysia’s heritage and culture to the world.
Culture preservation is vital in the era of the social media, but once there is widespread awareness, culture can be placed under the Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry, or could even be one of the units under the Prime Minister’s Department or the Tourism Ministry.
There are even suggestions that MICC be part of the Prime Minister’s Department so that it would fall directly under the Prime Minister’s purview. However, whether this is feasible remains to be seen.
Communications and information have become vital because of the digital era, and their role in Malaysia might need to be reviewed. Australia and Singapore felt the “need to change because of the need to redistribute and re-focus its ministerial workload to improve public communications and engagement for an increasingly diverse society in the age of social media and rapid technology progress”.
All this brings us to the next question: Who is best to lead the MICC?
There are many talented people out there, but the industry feels the choice of candidate should encompass someone “well rounded, well experienced, but not too old or too young”. The person, while having sound knowledge of Law and Economics, should also fulfil the most important criterion being savvy enough about the workings of the Internet and the new/social media.
The choice of candidate is important because there is no room for mistakes, unlike the blunders made in the past over spectrum allocation and technology choices. Most importantly, the candidate should not regress but rather, take the nation forward on the digital path.
● Deputy news editor B K Sidhu has some candidates in mind, but they are not politicians.