Wednesday, December 21, 2011

ICT empowering citizens of Malaysia Development with Destiny

Malaysia, an upper-middle economic state in SouthEast Asia, found its connectivity with the world with the installation of the first telephone line in 1874. The country developed its first computer system in 1966 and since then several initiatives to facilitate the integration of ICT in different areas have been introduced. The privatisation of the telecom sector in 1987, and the formation of the NTP (National Telecom policy) in 1994, led to the full liberalisation of the market. The enactment of the Communi-cations and Multimedia act in 1998 established the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (regulator) in support of national policy objectives. The regulator provides for economic, technical, consumer and social regulation ensuring competitiveness, licensing, frequency allocation, affordability and availability of ICT technologies and services. Framework for development (FID) is a five year rolling plan for ICT development. The country now faces the dilemma of ensuring global competitiveness as well as access to all.


Facing challenges
ICT infrastructure development in Malaysia has been concentrated mainly in the urban areas. Even in the urban sector itself some areas are highly developed as compared to others. Regional differences in economic development and population density across the country have also resulted in some areas are considerably lagging behind. About 89 out of 136 districts in the country have been identified as undeserved. According to MEWC, about 3000 villages are not connected to the country's communication infrastructure.


The divide exists due to illiteracy, low incomes, amongst physically challenged people and due to difference in ethnicity, gender marginalising people whose access to ICT services is limited. Relatively low PC ownership has also been a reason for low access. The urban-poor of the country are also disadvantaged digitally.


The country is a federation of 13 states and 3 federal states. According to estimates the 'Bumiputeras' have low incomes and low education levels and suffer the most due to knowledge divide as well as digital divide. Data suggests that the states of Kedah, Sabah, Sarawak, Terengganu, Kelantan, Perlis and Pehang have more than 50 percent people in rural areas and also the highest percentage of 'Bumiputeras' in their population constitution. Thus they lag behind the rest of the country in terms of ICT.


Political instability is also sometimes experienced, especially in the states like Sabah which has the chief minister changing after every two years (so that all ethnic communities are equally represented) and Kelantan which is the only state not ruled by the BN party alliance.  It is evident that political stability poses great hindrance to the growth in most countries around the developing world. Also, according to sources, Sabah has had an inequitable distribution of wealth between the state and federal government, which has adversely affected progress. The state of ICT in these states is below the national level. These states have low tele-density values and high number of undeserved areas. Sabah and Sarawak are the poorest states in Malaysia with the highest unemployment rates and have been the targets for many a development schemes.


'Vision' with ICT – mission for knowledge
In the recent past, there has been lot of arguments on how to close the digital divide, while access to all is essential, it doesn't meet the purpose. Effectively, meaning that when people on the wrong side of the digital divide will be able to use technology to their benefit in a manner similar to everyone else, only then the gap will close.


Malaysia has taken a pro-active approach to solve the issue. This is especially evident in the 8th and 9th Malaysia plans wherein the government has taken policy initiatives and with the help of private partners, several programmes for deploying ICT infrastructure have been started in remote areas. To enable Malaysia's growth into a knowledge society, various plans- NITA '96 and Vision 2020 have been initiated. ICT has been recommended as being strategic for development.


The Vision 2020 plan envisions Malaysia as a developed country by 2020 with the establishment of a K (knowledge)-community. Special emphasis has been given to development of infrastructure and potential human capital by involving state, local governments as well as the private-public community. ICT plans for universal access, content development, affordability, lifelong learning have been started. RM 1098 million was allocated for ICT- related activities for bridging the Digital Divide with RM10 million for local content development in the 8th Malaysian plan.


A Strategic Thrust Implementation Committee (STIC) has been set up to monitor the implementation of plans. 60 initiatives have been implemented upto 2002. Malaysian Administration, Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) has been set up within the Prime Minister's office as the lead agency in the public sector for ICT development. MSC has also established some key projects: e-Governance, multipurpose cards, smart schools, tele-health, R&D clusters, e-Business, etc.

ICT malaysia

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