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Killing techies, the Malaysian way
December 8, 2011 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Malaysia is proposing a Computing Professionals Bill, based on the Registration of Engineers Act [.PDF] which makes it mandatory for all practicing "computing professionals" to be registered with a government body. Dealing in the IT industry, including sending “proposals, plans, designs, drawings, schemes, reports, studies or others to be determined by the Board to any person or authority in Malaysia” without being registered will incur a fine not exceeding RM20,000 (~US$6380) or 6 months in jail. Malaysian IT professionals and geeks are up in arms, and similarities have been drawn to Nigeria's law on computing professionals.
posted by divabat (26 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Malaysia's backasswards UMNO leadership strike again. I was living there during the Anwar stuff ten years ago and saw firsthand that these guys are crooks. I am not surprised.
posted by dazed_one at 12:41 PM on December 8, 2011


I can almost understand something like this for people making say, pacemaker firmware or aircraft control systems.

But as deplorable as crappy websites, crappy mobile games, etc are, I don't think requiring licenses to make them is necessary. Not to mention there's no guarantee quality would go up anyway.
posted by kmz at 12:42 PM on December 8, 2011


Well, that's a pretty surefire way to stifle innovation.
posted by atbash at 12:44 PM on December 8, 2011


Any idea how a Malaysian asylum seeker sells this regulation U.S., E.U., etc. immigration authorities? There is no "professional discrimination" category in the asylum treaties, but obviously the law exists to control speech. Also : Don't tell Joe Lieberman!
posted by jeffburdges at 12:49 PM on December 8, 2011


Completely unrelated, I saw in Ars Technica that there's a bill in the U.S. Congress to change labor laws by eliminating overtime for hourly IT professionals.
posted by XMLicious at 12:53 PM on December 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Any sufficiently ignorant politician in a society with advanced technology is indistinguishable from a witch-hunt participant.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:54 PM on December 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sometimes I have to wonder if technology isn't really just making people stupider.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:00 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is interesting, given that it is set in one of the locales where the open source movement has become very political.

This is about government respond to dissent.
posted by clvrmnky at 1:01 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be surprised if we see this kind of law almost everywhere soon. Relative to older professions, computer work is underregulated -- I don't mean that it should be regulated more than it is, but that empirically it is subject to little regulation where older professions -- from medicine to cosmetics -- are vigorously regulated.

Huge technological advances in the last few decades have meant that the tech sector has kept ahead of government to some extent. But there's a lot of money to be had, so government is going to catch up.
posted by grobstein at 1:04 PM on December 8, 2011


I wonder if there are any actual statistics on the racial divide as applied to professions in Malaysia, because this is certainly about that too.

Anecdotally - but it's sort of visually obvious - it's generally considered that Chinese, and increasingly Indians, comprise most of the business and technical job demographics, while Malays(the majority) tend to take jobs in civil service and other jobs which "bumiputra" laws favor. The bumiputra laws are worth reading up on - it's pretty much state sanctioned racism. More politely, it can be called affirmative action for the majority population.

Anyway, another way to look at this is pretty much an attack on the primarily Chinese and Indian controlled tech industry, by a Malay government.
posted by sawdustbear at 1:06 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


This restricts the supply of labor and should therefore lead to higher pay for IT professionals.
posted by caddis at 1:09 PM on December 8, 2011


This restricts the supply of labor and should therefore lead to higher pay for IT professionals.

Or outsourcing and local layoffs.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:20 PM on December 8, 2011


Randomly executing programmers would also restrict the supply of labor and lead to higher pay for IT professionals - the surviving ones, anyway - but that doesn't mean it is a good idea.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:21 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, outsourcing is the wrong word. In software development, studios could cease to be as internationally competitive, which could result in being able to successfully win fewer contracts, which would lead to companies going out of business, and other countries taking that slice of the pie.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:22 PM on December 8, 2011


Ooh, maybe the USA is in with a chance?
posted by -harlequin- at 1:23 PM on December 8, 2011


Randomly executing programmers would also restrict the supply of labor and lead to higher pay for IT professionals - the surviving ones, anyway - but that doesn't mean it is a good idea.

Selectively executing programmers (say, those who program spambots and Zynga games) on the other hand...
posted by kmz at 1:25 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wasn't aware there was enough official corruption in Malaysia for them to be this worried about having it exposed.
posted by jamjam at 1:32 PM on December 8, 2011


A lot of times these professional certification things are about protecting incumbents from new competition. This is something Matt Yglesias used to talk about on his blog quite a bit. Basically incumbents will setup licensing systems to create an artificial scarcity of them so that they can keep prices high.

But, can you imagine a problem with a country having a scarcity of IT people?

Plus the line right now is pretty blurry. At what point are you doing "IT work"? Editing a word document doesn't count, but what if you save that word doc as HTML and put it on a server? What if you edit HTML yourself?

If you say "if you get paid for it" lots of office workers deal with IT and might be doing "IT related" things like designing Access queries.

So yeah this is a terrible, and corrupt idea from the start. The only argument you could make is that slowing down IT in general would slow the loss of jobs due to automation. But if only one country does it, their industries will just be crushed by foreign workers.
posted by delmoi at 2:00 PM on December 8, 2011


(er, crushed by foreign companies with cheaper IT I should say)
posted by delmoi at 2:00 PM on December 8, 2011


Sometimes I have to wonder if technology isn't really just making people stupider.

No, they've always been this stupid. Technology just makes it easier to see it happening worldwide.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:15 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


delmoi: The other part of this proposed bill is that it would be illegal for registered professionals to work outside of their registered skill. So if you were registered as a coder, say, you couldn't also do business as a designer. Problem is, as you noted, what counts as a "IT professional" is fuzzy, never mind the separate skillsets!
posted by divabat at 2:56 PM on December 8, 2011


Any sufficiently ignorant politician in a society with advanced technology is indistinguishable from a witch-hunt participant.

And Inspector.gadget with yet another corrolary of Clarke's Third Law. We need to register that.
posted by mephron at 5:14 PM on December 8, 2011


Technology just makes the stupid happen faster.
posted by sfts2 at 5:34 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


A few years ago Ontario destroyed its entire craft food industry by imposing industrial safety standards and industrial inspection regimes on small food businesses. So, this kind of corrupt legislation is widespread, and don't be surprised if it reaches your jurisdiction within your lifetime. It is good for big business though, so it must be good. Oh ya, and it is "safer"...

I understand that there are many advantages to a professionalization. The negative aspects are inherently harder to measure.. To me, in this day and age, the negatives are more important to consider. Just look at the various MetaTalk debates about whether legal or medical questions are okay on AskMe. You can start with ikkyu2's classic question: Where should I, a physician, draw the line at commenting on health-related posts in AskMe?. I wouldn't miss a prominent MeFi lawyer's attempt to demonstrate that any amateur legal discussion is inherently illegal and punishable, and the fantastic collective tear down of that self serving opinion. I don't know exactly where to link into that thread, so I'll just by "using my "everybody needs a hug" filter set on eleven." The thing is, torn down or not, you can see that some people would have our society go even further in that direction.

All this is similar to conversations about privatization of public spaces that i first learned about through Maude Barlow. And, in looking for a link on that, I'm reminded of a famous quote:
"There are those who intend that one day everything will be owned by somebody and we’re not just talking goods here. We’re talking human rights, human services, essential services for life. Education, public health, social assistance, pensions, housing."
And also similar to debates about intellectual property, see another thread on the front page right now.

This may be starting in Malaysia and Nigeria, but it is part of the western capitalist system. It absolutely is not just some crack pot scheme. I hope one day small business and socialism will realize how closely their interests are aligned..
posted by Chuckles at 9:44 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thing is, from the language it sounds as if people outside of Malaysia who work in IT won't be able to communicate with those inside the country without registering - or am I misunderstanding that point too? Either way, this is a stupid, shortsighted idea.

I am a research scientist. I also maintain the lab computers and do some basic coding - HTML and Perl and some other command-one poking around in *NIX systems. So if I live in Malysia I'd be in violation of this law, and really wouldn't be able to legally do the things I am already doing at work. Stupid. Shortsighted, and it will probably end badly.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:52 PM on December 9, 2011


The proposed pathway chart for computer specialist accreditation
posted by divabat at 12:46 AM on December 13, 2011


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