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MGG: Smart Cards to Make Life Difficult For All
By M.G.G. Pillai
28/9/2001 5:54 am Fri
Those who thought that having a Touch 'nGo card would make using
the privatised highways painless and carefree paid about RM200 to
have it. With a credit card or an authorisation to their bank,
they would never have to queue to topup their cards, it would be
increased automatically when it fell below a cut-off point.
They could go through the special lanes at toll booths, and not
have to stop and personally top up the limit every time it dries.
The convenience made several hundred thousand sign up. This is
called, not surprisingly, "Auto Reload". But it is important in
Bolehland that one should not be too successful. The highly
computerised company at the cutting edge of technology finds this
all a terrible administrative problem. It cannot cope with its
success. So, it must shut Auto Reload down.
Touch nGo writes a letter to all holders of the card on 1
September 2001 to admit it is damned by its success and by
extension, even if it does not spell it out so starkly, its own
gross incompetence, that Auto Reload is suspended from 1 October
2001. Another reason it does not mention: the idea that the
normal Malaysian can get a serve without hassle is too galling
for a privatised entity to take that it must ensure he is
inconvenienced as much as he possible could. There are so many
ways out of this simple problem: Let the driver use the card for
whatever distance for the balance in his card but tell him he
cannot use it again without topping up. But that means providing
a service. Touch 'nGo is not about to do that.
Why is Auto Reload suspended? Surinder Grewal, the Chief
Operating Officer of Touch nGo, says in the circular: "Over the
years, you may be aware of some problems with the Auto Reload
facility ... However with the tremendous growth of the Auto
Reload facility card base and the high volume of auto reloads
daily, we find that we are unable to efficiently handle the
process of debiting your account with your Financial Institution.
Therefore we have no choice but to diable the Auto Reload
facility effective 1 October 2001."
In other words, the convenience for which many motorists
paid the huge unrefundable money upfront (a conservative estimate
is about RM60 million) is taken away without by your leave.
Mind you, "your card can still be used to pay for your toll, LRT,
bus and parking fares after the above date. The ONLY difference
is that you have to "top-up" your balance manually at any
sales/reload counter ith cash." And if you don't accept this
change, you lose the RM200 you paid up front. Touch 'nGo is not
about to return you that money. The convenience you thought
Touch 'nGo provides is taken away and you now have to queue at
toll booths if you forget to "top up" in its few selected places
or you live too far from them. So, if your card runs out of cash
at the booth, you have to park your car at the area where no
place for parking is provided, queue up and laboriously have it
upgraded manually. The advantage you gained in having the card
is taken away and if you are rushing to a meeting, well, Touch
'nGo does not care. The price of progress in Bolehland after all
is pressures like these.
This is one low-level example for the mess we now face in
this unthinking rush into electronic cards to control our lives.
We all know of the smart schools. The minister's wife had the
contract, she could not deliver it on time, the minister moved to
another, the new minister had no interest in it, and the scheme
collapsed spectacularly. This lurch into an electronic world is
done fitfully, more for the money the cronies, courtiers and
siblings would make than for the practical use it can be put to.
So, the de facto minister for law tells us the RM20 million
computerisation of the courts is dead because the consultant did
not what it entailed. We have an inbuilt desire to make sure
projects fail be appointing thoroughly unqualified fellows and
companies to do it.
Computerisation in Bolehland is for some people to make
money, not to ensure that what is promised is delivered. The
latest computerisation fiasco -- and I can promise it even before
it starts -- is this first-in-the-world smart card the government
wants to make all Malaysians to have: it would contain the
person's life history on a card, and every thing the government
needs to know to keep him in electronic slavery. The Prime
Minister is gung ho about it. The deputy prime minister, as the
home minister, is ecstatic that the country has at last a system
which the police can use with impunity to track those they
consider dissidents. But would it fly? I doubt it. But some
lorry driver or insurance agent turned computer conman would get
the contract and collect his new million-ringgit Mercedes, new
wife and house with the initial payment. But then when the
insurance agent gets to privatise sewage, lorry driver to
build dams, chauffeurs steel plants, why not a satay seller
provide expert service on computerisation of the courts?
This smart card would go the way of the driving licence, the
identity card, the computerised cameras at road junctions to snap
photos of offending motorists. These instruments of eventual
torture for the resident are implemented for no reason than that
they represent "progress" and some interested party close to the
Establishment to make money. Our light rapid system is designed
to lose money: the original concessionaires proved it. We have
three imcompatible systems which would become more expensive with
the passing years. The citizen would pay for all this. If he is
put to great disservice and pressure, then so much the better.
For at the base of it all is this desire in the government to
inconvenience the citizen as much as he could be. Touch 'nGo
Auto Reload is but the latest. The Smart Idiot is here to stay.