Tight squeeze on M'sian e-permit portal

Systems integrator Dagang Net has the next five months to link over 20 government agencies to the national trading gateway.

Efforts are underway to connect 23 permit-issuing agencies in Malaysia to the country's electronic trading system by September.

According to Saifol Shamlan, CEO of Dagang Net, the Malaysian government has earmarked September 2006 as the deadline for agencies to process permits online. Dagang developed Malaysia's ePermit online portal.

Currently, only three agencies--the Federal Agriculture Marketing Authority, the Pesticide Board and the Malaysian Cocoa Board--are connected to the ePermit portal.

It costs between RM60,000 (US$16,236) to RM300,000 (US$81,180) to connect each agency to the ePermit portal engine, which was built at a cost of RM$1.5 million (US$405,900), Saifol said.

Establishing an Internet portal that allows permits to be processed online fulfills the country's vision of building a national trading gateway that facilitates trade, Saifol said. The portal allows importers, exporters and forwarding agents to apply for permits from government agencies and get approval over the Web, he added.

With processing time cut from days to 30 minutes, the ePermit portal can provide enormous benefits to Malaysian traders. However, the project's tight timeline may be daunting to Dagang Net, Saifol acknowledged.

"It has become a super project," he said. "On one hand, it's fantastic that things have been accelerated, but at the same time, the time frame given is very challenging. We are thankful, and sighing about it at the same time."

To gather all the resources it needs to see the project through completion, Dagang Net is boosting its staff strength by another 20 workers in technology and business roles. It has also leased extra infrastructure equipment, including servers and workstations for software development.

"For non-IT parts of the project, we are looking at getting people from sister companies who can do the legwork, as well as contract workers," Saifol said. "We've also redeployed staff from projects that are less crucial."

From now till September, Yong Voon Choon, general manager of Dagang Net, expects to face the same problems encountered with the present agencies on ePermit--change management.

Yong noted that the transition from a paper-based, to an online environment is a challenging move for most agencies.

"Some workers don't even know how to switch on the PC and what a mouse is for," he said. "But this can be overcome with education and promoting awareness. We also have a 24 by 7 helpdesk to guide users if they have problems."

Yong said it typically takes three to six months to get users accustomed to the ePermit portal. "User training is a critical success factor in our implementation."

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