Malaysia to Open E-mail Accounts for Every Adult by 2015

Malaysia plans to offer every adult in the country a free Web-based e-mail account to ensure that tax returns, court documents and other official notices reach the population of 28.3 million.

The government has named Tricubes Berhad, a local smartcard reader and authentication software vendor, as the operator of the service. Starting from July, the company will begin setting up a email account for citizens over 18, with a goal of total coverage by 2015, company officials said.

"The aspiration is for each Malaysian aged 18 and above to have access to a secured communication channel to government e-services on Internet-enabled devices with a single sign-on user ID," Tricubes CEO Khairun Zainal Mokhtar said in a statement.

The email addresses will all end in @myemail.my, and citizens will be able to open an account only after inserting their national identity card in a smartcard reader, or presenting the card in person, the company said. The smartcards carry identity photos and fingerprint data in an embedded chip.

"The authentication process will ensure that government notices reach the correct user," Tricubes' CEO said.

Tricubes will invest 50 million ringgit (US$16.6 million) in setting up the service for the government's "1Malaysia E-mail" project. The e-mail system will be built on Microsoft's Windows Live Hotmail service, the company said.

The myemail.my site advertises a beta test of the service, and the DNS entry for the domain currently directs e-mail traffic to hotmail.com servers run by Microsoft.

The myemail.my accounts will have more data encryption features than a standard Web-based e-mail account, Tricubes said.

Basic e-mail will be free to users, but to recover its costs, Tricubes plans to charge for additional services such as bill and notice presentment, which it says will allow the government to save up to 50 percent on its current postal and printing costs. It will also host job boards, it said. The company hopes that by 2020 half its subscribers will use the value-added services.

The government has said the e-mail accounts will offer a fail-proof way to send tax returns, court summons statements, driver's license renewals and other personalized, potentially sensitive notices.

The e-mail accounts will allow the government to send official notices "quickly and efficiently" with a reduced risk of "compromised" personal information," Tricubes said.

Malaysians who lack their own computers or Internet connections can check e-mail in libraries, on other people's PCs or by using mobile devices, the company said.

The project, first proposed 10 months ago, advances Malaysia's push to for stronger e-government, which officials say will allow policies to take shape more quickly and speed up any enforcement in the developing country that is divided among several races and an ocean channel. Other programs cover government procurement and an electronic exchange between employers and job seekers.

Italy, Germany and Australia have also experimented with government-to-citizen e-mail programs.

The plan has riled many in Malaysia, spawning a Facebook opposition group. Many fear a cumbersome e-mail sign-up process and doubt the government's statement that the project involves only private funding.

"I just wish they came up with something more 21st century and useful," wrote one group member, Jia Yi Har. "Wi-fi hotspots will be nice."

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