Wednesday, 3 June 2015


Now what did I say about Cyberutopians in my blog post here on 17th or May, 2015?

Just to recap, back in the 1990s, starry eyed Cyberutopians touted the claim that the Internet would enable ordinary folks like you, me and a galaxy of startup companies to "challenge and defeat the power of governments and the dominance of monopolies" in "David versus Goliath" fashion.

They claimed that the Internet would create a level playing field where a small Internet business anywhere would have an equal presence in Cyberspace as the largest corporate and multinational giants.

Click to read My earlier post

Around 1995 I interviewed a starry-eyed Malaysian Cyberutopian resident in Perth, Australia who gave me a press release quoting a fellow starry-eyed Cyberutopian who waxed ecstatic about how the Internet "would enable the best people to flee corporations for free agency in Cyberspace", leaving corporations with the mediocre staff, ultimately resulting in their downfall.

Dunno what that guy was smoking but it must have been pretty strong. Anyway, that's the kind of crap (or "scheiss") I have repeatedly heard so many times before.

Well today, about 20 years later, it has turned out that some of those Internet startups have metamorphosised into giant Internet corporations upon which many Internet startups and small businesses are dependent upon for their survival and it is a handful of these new global giants who are causing governments to be concerned over their monopoly power as revealed by the Reuters report below as carried by The Star.


German vice chancellor worried about market power of Internet giants

BERLIN: German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said he was worried the market power of firms like Google was hurting competition on the Internet.

Gabriel, who is also economy minister, has repeatedly voiced concern about the dominance of US software companies and last year suggested firms like Google should be broken up if they abuse dominant market positions.

"How can it be that in order to have Google's (mobile operating system) Android you need to pre-install Google Search, Google Browser, Google Mail, Google You-Tube and its app store on the device?" Gabriel said at an event in Berlin.

He welcomed a decision by the European Commission in April to launch an antitrust investigation into Google's Android system over concerns anti-competitive constraints imposed by the company were hampering markets.

Gabriel said agreements needed to be reviewed to ensure that customers were not being barred from using competing browsers and web services and locked into "Google Internet".

Market power should not just refer to individual services but should also be assessed according to the value chain on the Internet, he added.

In Germany, fears of digital domination by firms like Google are linked with wider concerns of US cyber espionage since the revelations in 2013 of mass US surveillance on German citizens.

A report published on Monday by the Monopolies Commission, which advises the government, advised against the need for special regulation regarding the provision of Internet search and instead recommended adjusting existing competition law. — Reuters


The German Vice Chancellor's statement above brings to mind how people used to accuse Microsoft of abuse of its dominant market power with its Windows operating system and its Internet Explorer Web browser on desktop PCs but today Google holds much more dominance on Android phones and tablets and on the Internet as well, such as this free Blogger blog site which is provided by Google.

Information is power those who own and control the gateways to information have ultimate power to shape our understanding and perception of our world.

Anyway, chic and trendy as they were, I never bought into those Cyberutopian myths and illusions.


Monday, 1 June 2015


I share with you my comment to the article "When you ‘Touch ‘n Go’ and don’t get to go" in The Ant Daily.


Thanks. Now you know why I dub myself "IT.Scheiss".

I have reported what various government and private companies have claimed about their IT-based facilities and services for about 20 years and the problems you have mentioned suggest that systems and facilities which worked well when introduced years ago are now breaking down and in need of maintenance.

This is clearly a matter of "a new broom sweeps clean".

Also please note that Prasarana introduced its own MyRapid contactless payment card similar to Touch nGo for use on the RapidKL LRT, KL Monorail and buses about two or three years ago, so now Prasarana and Touch nGo are competitors, even though you can still use Touch nGo cards to pay fares on Prasarana transport.

This is what the MyRapid website says about the difference between the MyRapid and Touch nGo cards.

"What is the difference between a TnG and myrapid card? MyRapid card can be used as a stored value card on RapidKL LRT, Monorail and Bus services as well as in our Park & Ride facilities at Gombak & Ampang LRT station. MyRapid cards holders also enjoys great discounts through its MyRapid card Privileges Program. The TnG card can be used for public transport and other TnG-based facilities."

KTM (Malayan Railways) is not on that list, so it must be working with Touch nGo, which is also used to pay highway tolls, for parking and to make purchase at participating retailers.

That said, which party is responsible for the maintenance of contactless payment terminals and the payments system on Prasarana's transport such as its buses, and which party is responsible for the maintenance of the contactless payments system used by KTM?

The EZ-LINK contactless card system in Singapore is operated by EZ-LINK Pte. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of that country's Land Transport Authority.

"EZ-Link was established by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on 8 January 2002 as its wholly owned subsidiary, to manage Singapore’s single largest contactless Stored Value Smart Card System that has been mainly used for payments on public buses and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) trains since April 2002. The company is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Public Transport Council."

I have also used my EZ-LINK card to buy a coffee at Dome in Singapore and it can also be used to for purchases at convenience stores.

Would it be better if Malaysia's counterpart SPAD (Public Land Transport Commission) were given the sole authority to issue contactless payment cards and to manage and maintain the system but even if they were, I wonder whether they would be able to keep it operating in top form years later, or would their system go downhill over time?

Tell you what. Let's go back to human attendants in booths who collect payments and issue tickets.

After all, with an estimated 130,000 unemployed graduates in Malaysia out of a total of around 419,000 unemployed in  2014 (correction 2013), I'm sure this measure would help ease the unemployment problem.

"The latest Labour Force Survey report by the Department of Statistics released in June 2014 revealed that one third (31%) of unemployed in Malaysia had a tertiary education. This amount to about 130,000 persons. (Source: Labour Force Survey Report, 2013, p. 143)"


The Ant Daily's article follows below.



When you ‘Touch ‘n Go’ and don’t get to go

by Sonia Ramachandran
PETALING JAYA: Cashless transactions for public transport and toll booths on highways are convenient, fast and prevent long queues.

That is, of course, if the machines work efficiently.

Not surprisingly, glitches do occur and the occasional malfunctioning machine is not out of the ordinary.

But it is another matter altogether if the machines not just malfunction for long periods but actually cause monetary losses to consumers and financial gain to the companies who run the machines.

National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) director T Saravanan is a victim of just such a situation.

For the past two weeks, his trips on the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Komuter trains have not been pleasant ones.

A journey that usually costs RM2 has ended up costing him up to RM20 through no fault of his.

“When I touched my Touch ‘n Go card to the scanning machine at the Taman Dato Harun station, there was a beep that indicated the card was read, when in actual fact it wasn’t.

“When I exited the train at the Bank Negara station and touched my card, I found that RM20 was deducted from my credit on top of the RM2 usual fare, as the card had not been read on my entry.

“The second time this happened to me, RM10 was deducted on top of the fare.  There seems to be no consistency even in terms of the deductions,” he told Theantdaily.

Upon checking with the KTM counter, he was asked to refer the matter to Touch ‘n Go Sdn Bhd.

“But it is their (KTM’s) service and it is their terminal. NCCC is going to pursue this matter,” said Saravanan.

He said his colleague went through a similar scenario using the light rain transit (LRT) where he was charged RM17 for a trip that cost a couple of ringgit.

“We want the relevant authorities to prominently display a number for us to call when faced with this kind of situations where we will get attended to promptly.

“If KTM Bhd or Prasarana Malaysia  Bhd are providing the service, they should make sure it works. Otherwise do not provide it,” said Saravanan.

He is right. It is daylight robbery otherwise.

For journalist Shahful Shaffiq Mohd Saleh, his issue is with using the Touch ‘n Go for Rapid KL buses in the last two years which has fleeced him of a pretty penny.

“Scanning the Touch ‘n Go card at the front of the bus is usually not a problem but while exiting, the scanning machine will prompt you to try and try again.

“Sometimes the machine will still not be able to read your card even after four or five scans, and the driver has already closed the door and you have to ring the bell for it to be opened again.

“By this time the driver is already impatient as you are holding up the bus and other passengers, not to mention traffic, so you just get off the bus with your card not having been scanned,” he said.

Only upon scanning the Touch ‘n Go card the next time would one realise that more than the usual fare has been deducted from the card’s credit.

“The next time you scan your card you will realise that instead of paying RM1.50 or RM2, a full trip’s maximum fare has been deducted from your card’s credit as it does not take into account the fact that you alighted from the bus at a midway stop,” said Shaffiq.

This has happened to Shaffiq more than 200 times and because of this, he now starts scanning his card one kilometre before his stop in the hopes that it would be read before the bus reaches his destination and he would not lose more money due to faulty machines.

In spite of that however, the machines still sometimes do not work.

Shaffiq wants the companies providing this service to ensure they have quality machines in place before offering such services.

SmartTAG users also face problems with such machines.

Touted as the faster and more efficient alternative to the Touch ‘n Go, cars stuck at the SmartTAG lane at toll booths because of faulty machines are a common sight.

While you wait for the toll booth personnel to come and solve the problems, cars would have started honking and a long line of cars would have lined up behind you.

Shaffiq and Saravanan are right.

There is no point in pointing fingers. The transport provider and the card provider are the ones providing the service and profiting together and they should be the ones ensuring consumers are not left facing situations like these.

In the cases of Saravanan and Shaffiq, not only are they inconvenienced by faulty or inefficient machines but they also end up losing money due to no fault of theirs.

Cashless transactions are supposed to provide efficiency, speed and convenience to consumers but what is the point of having it if it does the exact opposite?