Dato' Haji Ibrahim Abdul Rahman - Director

Dato’ Haji Ibrahim Abdul Rahman – Director General Department of Information

Could you please share with us your education and career background, Dato’?

I started serving the Ministry of Information, Communication & Culture (MICC) since I graduated from Universiti Sains Malaysia in 1983. I studied Mass Communication, majored in Broadcasting and my first posting was to the Immigration Department. I was tasked to set up a Public Relations Unit in the department to settle the controversy regarding the awarding of citizenship and my team managed to clear the air.

After that, in 1986 I was transferred to the PR Unit at the head office of MICC to promote drama television programmes and I managed to improve the quality of the broadcasting and I served almost all departments during my service here.

Along my 29 years of service in MICC, I did my Master’s Degree and PhD and from that I started to climb the rank and it has been one year plus since I became the Director General for the Department of Information.

Could you enlighten us on what is the role of the Department of Information and why it is important?

The Department of Information is set up to become the vehicle for the government to reach out to the public when there are new concepts or approaches introduced, for instance the 1Malaysia Concept initiated by the Prime Minister.

We at the Department of Information need to internalise all principles and ideas incorporated in the 1Malaysia concept and process the information received, then disseminate the information into the simplest language possible without changing has now evolved so much that we cannot afford be left behind. Our functions do not only cover the same aspects (as last time) but also have expanded.

Nowadays, the power of social media is unstoppable and the information is accessible at people’s fingertips. We have our army of information conveyors in the social media arena to make sure that we are able to disarm all the negative influences that some irresponsible parties try to plant in our minds. Those days, our aim was to weed out the physical threat from the Communists but today we are facing virtual threat and it is Department of Information’s intention that we win this war. However at the same time, we still should never leave the conventional mediums in real life.

I would like to mention about a theory called Media Richness Theory that proposed three principles: immediate feedback, ability to carry multiple languages and the ability to use the most number of languages. Based on the research conducted by Daft and Lengel, it was found that the most effective media channel is through physical interaction, followed by broadcasting media, while the least effective channel is the one utilising pamphlets and fliers.

This refuted the claim by some parties that someday physical interaction will no longer be relevant due to the advancement of telecommunications technologies. The Department of Information will always function as the linking bridge between the government and the public, employing the latest information technologies and most effective media platforms.

The contents so that all Malaysians, regardless of their ethnic or socioeconomic background, will be able to accept the concept. My department is considered the most crucial part of this ministry because we build the ‘bridge’ between the government and the public by conveying the appropriate messages from the government to the public and vice versa.

We are also tasked to ensure that every single individual in the country is to be considered every time the government strategises in communicating with them. This department collaborates with other ministries to reach out to the people in the cities, suburbs and even the rural areas so that they know what is going on and how are they affected. Department of Information plays a vital role to make sure that the people we target are able to digest the information that we deliver and share the information appropriately.

In line with Malaysia’s vision of becoming an advanced country by 2020, we need to possess certain characteristics that reflect this stature, thus my department will have to reach out to all Malaysians and educate them about this vision and the need for us to grow along with that vision.

How far has the department evolved from its initial days as the Department of Public Relations to today?

When this ministry was named the Department of Public Relations in 1946, we used shadow puppet shows to enlighten the people about the Communists that committed terror in our country that time, which was the most effective propaganda tool that we had at that time.

After 66 years, the world has now evolved so much that we cannot afford be left behind. Our functions do not only cover the same aspects (as last time) but also have expanded. Nowadays, the power of social media is unstoppable and the information is accessible at people’s fingertips.

We have our army of information conveyors in the social media arena to make sure that we are able to disarm all the negative influences that some irresponsible parties try to plant in our minds. Those days, our aim was to weed out the physical threat from the Communists but today we are facing virtual threat and it is Department of Information’s intention that we win this war. However at the same time, we still should never leave the conventional mediums in real life.

I would like to mention about a theory called Media Richness Theory that proposed three principles: immediate feedback, ability to carry multiple languages and the ability to use the most number of languages. Based on the research conducted by Daft and Lengel, it was found that the most effective media channel is through physical interaction, followed by broadcasting media, while the least effective channel is the one utilising pamphlets and fliers.

This refuted the claim by some parties that someday physical interaction will no longer be relevant due to the advancement of telecommunications technologies. The Department of Information will always function as the linking bridge between the government and the public, employing the latest information technologies and most effective media platforms.

How has the Department of Information contributed to the growth of domestic tourism?

To date, the Department of Information has been working very closely with other ministries to reach out to the public and convey precise messages about everything that is happening in the country. We also set up a unit called Corporate Communication Unit (CCU) in all ministries to assist on all information-related matters, Ministry of Tourism included.

Basically, we work closely with the Ministry of Tourism and our CCU officers are always on alert about any information that might jeopardise the positive image of Malaysia’s tourism industry. For instance, we produce media passes to the foreign media representatives to cover our events while taking care of them well during their stay in Malaysia so that they will inform others of their pleasant experience when visiting our country to their country and kinsmen.

We can see huge growth in the number of tourist arrivals to our country from year to year, directly boosting Malaysia’s economy. Other than that, we also come up with the 1Malaysia Community as advocates to promote the 1Malaysia Concept in five identified areas.

Two of those areas are collaborations between the Ministry of Information, Communication & Culture and the Ministry of Tourism, which come in the form of “Rakan Budaya” (Fellows of Culture) to promote the preservation of Malaysian cultural and arts heritage, and “Rakan IT” (Fellows of Information Technology) to actively share information on the Malaysian homestay programmes.

How does the Department of Information develop apt and effective messages for the public?

From time to time, we track and evaluate on the approaches that we use and the information effectiveness. So, there are series of workshops that we organise to improve the areas that we do not perform satisfactorily. Through the workshops too, we are transforming the way that the information is marketed. From the earlier stage of my service, the first thing that I changed was the mindset, from simply conveying the information to marketing the information.

Conveying the information is very easy because we simply disseminate the information when received. However, marketing the information requires us to first digest the information, interpret to a simpler language and package the information in the most interesting way possible so that the public will buy the information. In order to obtain different results, we try to cater to the interests of the targeted public so that they can benefit from the new concepts or ideas initiated by the government.

What are your hopes for the Department of Information and Malaysia’s 55th Independence Day Celebration?

First and foremost, I’m expecting the personnel at the Department of Information to change attitude by becoming more sensitive to the needs and demands of the public and eventually attend to them. The most important part that needs urgent shift is the mindset because we are now in the information era. It is crucial for the employees to adapt to the changes and fully utilise the opportunities presented so that they can be better at their service.

Only with the change of attitude, mindset and capacity upgrading of staff would the Department of Information be able to become a respected and trusted organisation, capable in bridging expectations and forge understanding between the public and government to promote the 1Malaysia concept. As a Malaysian, I firmly believe that our country will become an advanced country by 2020 through the strategies that are put in place and the support from all Malaysians.

There are two most important things that we need to maintain so that our country will not be at risk: unity and political stability. Without these two elements, our dreams of becoming the first Muslim nation ever to achieve the advanced country status will be dashed. Personally, I am confident that we will achieve that goal.

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