Journey to become Smart Nation

Izah Azahari

April 2020 saw the launch of the Ministry of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) 2025 Strategic Plan to align with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s aspiration for the country to transform into a Smart Nation.

With its new vision of a ‘Connected Smart Nation’ and the mission of ‘Enhancing Connectivity for Great Socio-Economic Opportunities, Innovation and High Quality of Life’, the plan is also in concert with the three goals of Brunei Vision 2035: ensuring high quality of life; boasting highly educated and skilled workforce; and having a sustainable and dynamic economy.

The ministry’s approach is guided by six core strategies, first of which is digital transformation by showing efforts in achieving the status of a ‘Smart Nation’ based on digital government, establishing digital society and digital economy platforms, ensuring sustainability of the transport and information and communications technology (ICT) sectors, bringing about smart transportation through electric vehicles and making use of Intelligent Transport System (ITS) pilot projects to improve the public transport system.

Secondly, the ministry also aims to support active participation and innovation from stakeholders in ICT, through its Brunei ICT Awards (BICTA), not only for domestic use but for the international market.

Thirdly, the ministry will continue efforts to ensure safety standards are in place in transport and ICT sectors by reducing road fatality rates while upholding the safety and preparedness standards and compliance for all agencies under it for the safety, security and well-being of all users and passengers.

The fourth strategy ensures that the policy and regulatory framework is conducive to investments and businesses by actively pursuing initiatives, joint ventures and collaboration with stakeholders to consolidate policy suggestions and recommendations for formulation and review to further facilitate industry and investment development.

The fifth area of focus is the organisational transformation, which is the transformation of management and operations with new approaches in achieving service efficiency and effectiveness for the public, especially in postal services, civil aviation and land transport sectors.

For the sixth and final strategy, the ministry aims at enhancing international cooperation through regional and international forums, such as the ASEAN Transport Ministers’ Meeting (ATM) and the ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting (ADGMIN), where regional agreements can be pursued bilaterally and multilaterally for the benefit of all parties in the fields of training and capacity-building in the transport and ICT sectors.

In June 2020, the Digital Economy Council launched the Digital Economy Masterplan 2025. Guided by Maqasid Syariah, the objectives are a vibrant and sustainable economy; a digital and future-ready society; and a digitally conducive ecosystem. To support the mission and vision, four thrusts have been identified: industry digitalisation; government digitalisation; a thriving digital industry; and manpower and talent development.

The council focusses on the implementation of key projects under the nine priority clusters expected to have significant impacts on economic growth: logistics and transportation; energy; business services; tourism; financial services; health; agri-food; education; and Halal industry.

Meanwhile, December 2020 saw the launch of the Brunei Darussalam Road Safety Strategic Plan 2025 by the National Road Safety Council (MKKJR) with the vision of achieving ‘zero road accident fatalities’ in line with MTIC’s Strategic Plan, which was a follow-up to the Brunei Darussalam Blueprint Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020.

There are five strategic outcomes that support the mission and vision of the plan. First is ‘Progressive Road Safety Culture for All’, which drives to produce individuals who are instilled with the culture of maintaining safety not only for oneself but also other road users at all times.

Another is ‘Progressive Road Safety for All on the Move’, a strategic outcome towards producing road users who always ensure their own and public safety while on the road by complying to the road rules and regulations.

Thirdly is ‘High Safety Standard For All Road Vehicles’, which aims at achieving regional and international standards for vehicles used on the road is roadworthy to guarantee safety of the road users.

Fourth is ‘Recognised Safe Road Infrastructure’, which aims to achieve international standard by ensuring the roads are equipped with safe and sufficient infrastructure.

The fifth is ‘Dependable, Timely and Reliable Emergency Response’, a strategic outcome towards producing emergency response services that are fast, efficient and always ready and equipped with adequate and effective equipment.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020, the MTIC urged the public to use online services for renewing vehicle and driving licences through the TransportBN application, in alignment with the social distancing measures to keep the outbreak under tight lid.

Several improvements were made to the app, including the ability for the public to renew their expired licences and to pay late penalty charges online.

In October 2020, the foreign vehicle pass stickers were introduced by the MTIC through the Land Transport Department (JPD) to control the entry of foreign vehicles into the country. The initiative was coordinated with support from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Royal Customs and Excise Department (RCED), Royal Brunei Police Force (RBPF) and Immigration and National Registration Department (INRD) and under advise and instructions from the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib said these pass stickers help to identify foreign vehicles that have been permitted by the RCED to be in the country.

In December 2020, it was announced an electric vehicle (EV) pilot project would be introduced in the first half of 2021, for the next two years, in line with the vision of Brunei Darussalam National Climate Change Policy (BNCCP) to tackle climate change.

Last month, Dato Seri Setia Awang Abdul Mutalib revealed that Authority for Info-communications Technology Industry of Brunei Darussalam (AITI) was preparing a law and planning the framework for personal data protection governance.

Meanwhile, His Majesty consented to the implementation of a 5G pilot project at several locations in the first quarter of 2021.

On e-learning, the minister said AITI played a crucial role in putting together a donation drive for computers and tablets from April 13 to May 14 last year at Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) Sultan Saiful Rijal Campus, Jalan Muara and IBTE Jefri Bolkiah Campus, Kuala Belait.

Ten local part-time workers were employed to provide technical assistance to AITI in carrying out repair works and maintenance of computer equipment to support online learning under the Ministry of Education (MoE).

Some 1,482 computers were received from private companies and the public before being handed over to the MoE.

Amid the digital revolution, he said, AITI and DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) also launched www.eKadaiBrunei.bn, on April 1, 2020. The online directory provides an e-commerce platform to delivery and logistics service providers as well as One Village, One Product (1K1P) entrepreneurs. Up until December 2020, 46 vendors had joined the platform.

AITI also carried out a programme to educate and encourage small businesses to make use of the online platform.

The programme, previously open only to senior citizens, attracted 86 participants. Following the workshop, between August 24 and November 25 last year, 35 participants showed increased understanding in e-commerce. In terms of cybersecurity, the minister said, “His Majesty consented to the establishment of Cyber Security Brunei (CSB) on August 1, 2020. It is one of the strategic enabler towards digital transformation by providing three services – BruCert, National Digital Forensic Laboratory and Cyber Watch Centre (CWC).”