Complexity approach to national IT policy making: The case of Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)

Abdul Wahab, Amirudin (2004). Complexity approach to national IT policy making: The case of Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) PhD Thesis, School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland.

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Author Abdul Wahab, Amirudin
Thesis Title Complexity approach to national IT policy making: The case of Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)
School, Centre or Institute School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2004
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor M. Brereton
T. Mandeville
Total pages 328
Collection year 2004
Language eng
Subjects L
360203 Research, Science and Technology Policy
700199 Computer software and services not elsewhere classified
729901 Technological and organisational innovation
Abstract/Summary ABSTRACT This dissertation examines the design and implementation of Malaysia's national Information Technology (IT) policy with a focus on the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project. Qualitative research methods, including in-depth interviews, document analysis and literature analysis, were used to build an understanding of the development of the MSC. The analysis adopts a holistic approach that draws upon the multidisciplinary perspectives of complex adaptive systems in order to understand how social, economic, political and institutional forces interact in a changing environment. This research contributes a policy framework called Goal-Policy-Implementation-Outcome (GPIO), which is used to understand, describe and assess the MSC policy design and methods. It is one of the first public studies of the MSC and one of very few complex systems analyses of a socio-economic system in a developing country. It has been argued that many countries around the world are competing rapidly to produce 'visionary' reports and policy statements on the future of their nations and societies in the 'Information Age'. This is due to the belief that IT can play critical role in stimulating the socio-economic growth of the countries. In Malaysia, the government embarked on an ambitious program to establish the MSC as an attempt to achieve Vision 2020, a national vision and Malaysia's statement of national goals that articulates the country's objective for developed-nation status, while moving towards the creation of an information-rich society by the year 2020. Despite the importance of national IT policies and the major commitment of resources to implement them, there are few critical studies of the positive and negative impacts of 'post-industrial' or 'information society' policy, particularly in the developing countries like Malaysia. This study seeks in part to fill this gap by providing a critical assessment of a Malaysian national IT policy. This research argues that IT policy for national development must be viewed holistically, taking into consideration innovations needed in the social, economic, political and institutional spheres, rather than taking limited view of IT as an economic growth engine. This is a paradigm shift that represents a movement from the traditional worldview (TWV), that was based on the Cartesian/Newtonian paradigm into new ways of thinking and action that is labelled here as the emerging worldview (EMV). The EMV is grounded in complexity theory, an interdisciplinary endeavour that draws upon ideas from a number of fields and seeks to understand and model systems with many interacting parts. This approach can help policy makers and analysts to understand, assess and develop a more balanced and comprehensive policy for the evolution of new technology such as IT and to tackle the complexity of socio-economic change of a dynamic real world setting. The data collection method is from in-depth, open-ended interviews and document analysis. This qualitative exploratory approach was chosen to understand and capture the points of view of other people without specifically limiting the lines of inquiry through questionnaires etc. This research was influenced by multiple theoretical frameworks, because taking one framework alone in analysing the complex issues involved in ICT would not provide a comprehensive understanding of the interplay of the socio-technical and techno-economic paradigms. This resulted in the contribution of a policy framework called Goal-Policy-Implementation-Outcome (GPIO), which is used to understand, describe and assess the MSC policy design and method. This research found that the MSC policy plan and process were not working as intended to achieve the goals of Vision 2020. The strategy of clustering businesses in one physical location to establish synergy did not work as anticipated because: (1) Cyberjaya was not yet fully ready with all the necessary people, infrastructure and community since many basic amenities have yet to be competed; (2) The distance of Cyberjaya to key cities were perceived to be too far; (3) Operational costs in Cyberjaya were perceived as high; (4) The Cyberjaya ecosystem lacks attractive incentives; and (5) Most of the current and potential MSC firms, customers and suppliers were already located outside Cyberjaya with existing networks of people and facilities in other locations. (6) The current environment of the MSC was also found not to be conducive to facilitating a self-organizing system due to the lack of a wide consultative and participatory process. Consequently, drastic changes to the organizational structure and behaviour are needed before success can happen. It was found that the key challenges and barriers to the transformation process in and through the MSC lie in the nature of the existing mindset, the operational practice, culture and power structural arrangements within and among the policy, people and institutions of the MSC. Discussion on the MSC tends to be centred on the technological and commercial without recognizing that technological change relies on concomitant social and political shifts. By succumbing to technology driven views and 'information society' rhetoric, policy makers are allowing real economic and social choices to be smothered. This dissertation argues that instead of presenting technology as something which is external to the society, with a dynamics of its own, and to which society must learn to adapt, effective debate about new technology must acknowledge the related political choices, power relationships and value judgments about the shape and direction of the society using the technology. Consequently, there is an urgent need to develop policies to ensure that the economic benefits and social engineering associated with Malaysia’s knowledge economy are managed through participatory and partnership methods at all levels of the country. This research has shown that complex systems analysis can lay the groundwork for a new approach that more accurately represents societal choices and outcomes than past approaches. Few researchers have undertaken complex systems analyses of social systems, with still fewer examining the context of a national public IT policy in a developing country like Malaysia. Further, there are very few thorough public studies done of the MSC itself, with most studies on the MSC either being done in confidence and/or being conducted by foreign consultants appointed by the government or by the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC). As such, public accessibility to critical studies on the MSC or public documents on them is rarely available. This research, if not the first, is one of the first attempts made to provide a thorough constructive critical study on the MSC policy project since its official launch in 1996. It is also, if not the first, one of the first attempts made to apply the emerging paradigm or the new science of complexity in a real world national policy case study, specifically the MSC policy project. Moreover, there is a huge lacking of research done on behalf of 'marginalized communities'. This research is not carried out on behalf of private enterprise or national governments but rather it is done on behalf of its citizens.
Keyword Multimedia Super Corridor
IT Policy

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 17:19:41 EST