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27, Dec 2011

CPB2011 – do we really need it?

According to the Working Draft of Computer Professionals Bill 2011, this bill if passed, will be:-

‘An Act to provide for the establishment of the Board of Computing Professionals Malaysia and for the registration of computing practitioners, computing professionals, sole proprietorships, partnerships and bodies corporate providing Computing Services and for purposes connected therewith.’

In short, the bill, if passed, will form a body called the Board of Computing Professionals Malaysia to regulate computing professionals the same way doctors, accountants and architects are regulated by their respective bodies.

This seems like a good step forward for the computing industry as it aims to raise the level of quality work and professionalism in the industry thus setting an accepted benchmark to be followed.

So let’s first take a look at what this Act covers.

This Act applies to the Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII)

Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII) refers to 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 defense and security or Government capability to function or Public health and safety’

The definition of CNII given is far too vague for anyone’s comfort. Even the panel of experts involved in drafting the Bill admitted that there was no agreed definition of CNII. A lot of things could easily be argued to fall under ‘national image’ or ‘public health and safety’.

The next question would be, who qualifies to be a Registered Computing Professional?

‘any person who is a Computing Graduate or any person who has other qualifications recognised by the board’

And if the Board decides not to recognise a self-taught programmer as having the proper qualifications?

Except as otherwise provided under any other written law, no person or body, other than a Registered Computing Professional who is residing in Malaysia or a Registered Computing Services Provider providing Computing Services that are within the scope stipulated in section 2, shall be entitled to submit proposals, plans, designs, drawings, schemes, reports, studies or others to be determined by the Board to any person or authority in Malaysia.’

Tough luck getting a job in the computing industry, let alone being a freelancer or a startup.

In my opinion, on the surface, the proposed Act seems like a good move forward for the computing industry in the country. I agree it is important to set a level of accepted professionalism and quality of work especially since IT is now used in almost every aspect of our lives, even in hospitals and schools.

But the question remains, is this proposed Act necessary?

Personally, I find CPB2011 unnecessary and prohibitive. Will the appointed Board of Computing Professionals be able to keep up to speed with the changing landscape of the industry? The computing industry moves way too fast and any initiative to regulate it will only slow it down.

Professionalism and quality of work is important, but can it only be done through the passing of a new Act? Before a company or a person is hired to do a job, wouldn’t there be portfolios and SLAs (Service Level Agreement) involved? Isn’t Contract Law enough to regulate shoddy work?

Plus, requiring a computing professional to take a professional assessment examination by the Board and pay fees to be a Registered Computing Professional might drive up the cost of the computing industry. Wouldn’t that prohibit innovation?

The new generation needs to be given space to explore and grow and in the last few years I think we’ve seen more and more young entrepreneurs venturing into IT-related startups. This piece of Act will only serve as deterrence instead of contributing to innovation. Why waste time on creating something that might end up being considered illegal by law?

In US, a 16-year-old boy secured USD250,000 in funding and created an iPhone app that received 17,000 downloads in just 4 days. He’s not academically certified and I’m not sure if he has had any past experiences that would be ‘recognised’ by the Board either. From this example, academic qualification and past experiences do not play a strong role in his success, now does it?

If CPB2011 has been passed when a similar 16-year-old in Malaysia is looking for funding, he would be considered a risky investment as the Board might decide that he’s not qualified to be a Registered Computing Professional, thus not qualified to work on any CNII related projects (which as discussed above, is vague as to what it really covers).

Lastly, if this Bill is passed, they might decide to regulate other professions as well in the future. If one day they decide to govern social media practitioners, I’m not sure if I would ever qualify, as I am a law graduate. I’d rather not see the dawn of that day.

If you would like to petition against the Bill, you may do so here: http://www.change.org/petitions/mosti-stop-computing-professionals-bill-2011-cpb2011

I’ve also gathered some thoughts from other Malaysians regarding the CPB2011:

“It is a good piece of law to manage the way computer industry is run however as the stand is currently maintained by the Bar Council, any piece of law should go to all stakeholders. Political will is needed for the Computer Professionals to show they are capable enough in regulating and raising level of their profession without a piece of law.” – Khairul Anuar, Lawyer and social media enthusiast.

“This Bill doesn’t solve anything but adds more bureaucracy to the innovation hence curbing. CNII is the most important part of the Bill yet there is no clear definition. The Bill is open to interpretation and can become a tool for tyrants in the country to suppress its people. There is also no clear execution plan. There should also be a clause in any bill that if it shows that it is unable to be executed in a stipulated time, it should be made void and not become a useless law to be exploited.”  Michael Foong, IT Professional.

“Is the CPB2011 good? No. Industry professionals don’t need it. Practioners can come from many fields and the IT field is probably the most rapidly changing industry out there. The current scope of CNII is too spread spectrum. It should be reduced and verbose. The focus of projects should be to meet standards, not certification of people building them. All around the world the industry is self-regulated by bodies like ACS, BCS, SCS. We already have the MNCC, we don’t need an act of law. A bill pushed by parties with vested interests must never have effect on this great industry.” – Colin Charles, Computing professional.

“If the government’s aim is to elevate the credibility and image of computing professionals alongside doctors  and engineers through the enactment of CPB, it would be great. However, the definition of CNII, which does not clearly define the limits of ‘nation’s image’ must be clearly defined and government should know that IT industry is an agile industry. Can they keep up with programming technologies that always changes? The government also should ask us, the ones who are doing the hard work rather than asking consultants who I believe hardly codes or the ones who have other agendas behind the enactment of the Bill.” – Ikhwan Nazri, CEO of amanz.my.

“I think the bill is too vague and misguided to make a difference and agree with the opinion of the tech community that it will do more harm than good. The stated goal of the Bill (to raise the quality of IT professionals and practitioners in Malaysia) can and should be achieved by different means like better SLAs and accountability for high value IT projects.” – David Wang, a self-taught entrepreneur providing WordPress solutions.

“As a startup venturing into the IT industry with a mechanical engineering background, I feel that the Bill will likely be an impedance to the fast-paced IT industry environment, of which is poised to gain even more momentum in time. The lack of official certification does not and should not limit imagination and resourcefulness, and instead may open windows to groundbreaking perspective views. Let us also remember that opportunities don’t last, and may be seized by others while the entrepreneur is forced to go back to books instead of developing, testing and perfecting his product.” – Evo Ooi , New Media Entrepreneur.

Mei Ying is the owner of Myris Consultancy, a social media marketing consultancy, and blogs at www.meiyingt.com. She’s also loves interacting on Twitter so follow her @meiyingt.

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