Government Online Services, Go or No?

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A self-service kiosk found at MBJB

Would you risk relying on outdated and unsecured sites?

At the top header of the website of Department of Agriculture (DOA), you will see options to change font size, font colour, background colour, and even the background image. On the slider at the centre of the site which is to give visitors quick and updated information, are compressed images and too small to read, though by clicking on each slider takes you to a separate page with extensive information. At the footer of the site, a “Contact Us” section with no phone number, only their office address and their email written as “pro[at]doa[dot]gov[dot]my” intended to keep away spam email. A visitor count is proudly displayed at 1.4 million, and a marquee scroll of tiny logos hovered above it. It also lacks an SSL, a Secure Sockets Layer that indicates the website is secure.

A website as I had described above, would have been something I’d have designed as a beginner at nine years of age, where changing background images and playing with the sliders, scrolling marquee, would feel like an accomplishment! I understand the ability to change font sizes and colour as part of an inclusion for visitors with disabilities, but otherwise, changing background image and having a marquee scroll is redundant. A good, updated website is clean and has information I need accessible at the tip of my fingers. Never mind that their main phone number is not listed on the front page of the website, after I found the number and called them, my call was passed from one officer to another where I became a broken record playing the same story again and again. Nothing has changed, and you would have experienced something similar too.

Doing your transaction via over the counter with helpful government officers to assist

Maybe not everybody frequents the website of the Department of Agriculture like I do.

I then remembered I have an unpaid summon for my car. I have always tried to be the better citizen, but having to download different apps to pay for my parking in different areas of Johor, especially feeling bitter from having 500 in credits burned in an app that the municipal previously used, I totally forgot. I went on to eKhidmat, a promising e-service that allows you to pay for your compound online and goodbye to queues! I have used it once and had faith eKhidmat would not let me down.

But it did. Record for my compound was “not found”, and by the side of the address bar (where you key in the domain name), in red it clearly stated “Not Secure”, also lacking the SSL, meaning financial transactions and other information transmitted between me (the user) and the site is not secure. “Not Secure” means it might have loopholes for data pirates to hack and read my information. I was ready to pay for my compound and key in my bank details into this website. Thankfully it has problems, or else I would have risked my information being stolen! eKhidmat’s website is also “Copyright 2016” like DOA, three years behind current time.

Keeping a website updated means enhanced security and improved user experience. A website master is not only responsible for keeping the website up and running, but ensuring good site accessibility with important information across all devices as well. Traditionally, I think our services are good. I enjoy the Malaysian hospitality and warmth provided by the helpful government officers face-to-face. However, if we want to compete on the global scale, having a smooth and secure website, without the superfluous elements would make us at least viewed respectfully. It’s 2019, not 2016!