More than just a `tech park'

By ANITA MATTHEWS

MOST high technology parks merely want to be a "technology free trade zone," but the folks at the Kulim Hi-Tech Park want to go beyond that, and are trying hard to "infuse" technology into the day-to-day lives of the tenants and residents.

There was a time when the park, first introduced in 1989, suffered several setbacks. Kulim Technology Park Corp (KTPC) managing director Ahmad Shukri Tajuddin attributed it to the lack of good infrastructure.

"We resolved all that by December 1994, and now have the best infrastructure any company can dream off -- you can just bring your briefcase here, plug in your notebook PC and you're in business," he says.

Power outages, water shortages, pothole roads and static phone lines are a thing of the past. The park -- situated in the quiet and largely agricultural state of Kedah -- is a four-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur and a mere 30 minutes from the Penang port.

With 27 Japanese and American companies under his belt, Shukri is confident of signing an additional three foreign manufacturers by June.

Intel Products (M) Sdn Bhd, Empak (M) Sdn Bhd, Akashic Kubota Technologies Sdn Bhd, Hamadatec Sdn Bhd and AIC Semiconductor Sdn Bhd are among the seven which have started operations.

Other tenants in progress of starting up are NSC Electron (M) Sdn Bhd, Fuji Electric (M) Sdn Bhd, Kedah Wafer Emas Sdn Bhd, Wafer Technology (M) Sdn Bhd, Irradation Research Centre Sdn Bhd, LKT Industrial Bhd, Wong Engineering Sdn Bhd, Nucleus Semtek Sdn Bhd, Bakti Comintel Manufacturing Sdn Bhd, Rodel Technology Sdn Bhd, MEMC Kulim Electronic Materials Sdn Bhd, Arms Technologies Sdn Bhd and Pernec Corp.

Sitt Tatt Industrial Gases Sdn Bhd and Northern Utilities Resources Sdn Bhd have also set up operations there to generate and distribute 24-hour gas and power respectively across the 250 hectare area.

Two manufacturers, MMK Technology and Toyo Memory, have also began piling works in their respective lots in Phase 2 of the park.

Two local research-related organisations -- Mimos Bhd and Sirim Bhd -- have also selected the park for R&D work.

And a toxic waste dump is built within its premises for the convenience of tenants.

Now that he has got a fair bit of investment, to the tune of RM18bil, Shukri is looking at enhancing the park's offerings.

Electronic community

In tandem with Kulim Hi-Tech Park's development, a full spectrum of leisure and commercial activities have been planned, says Mazlee Mohd Ramli, group general manager of Kulim Technology Management (KTM) which manages the park.

While the manufacturing facilities can be likened to pale grey sardine cans dotting the landscape, the rest of the park will make up for the lack of aesthetics. The park's blueprint includes "smart homes" and commercial centres.

KTM, a joint venture between KTPC and Universiti Sains Malaysia, will be responsible for introducing, promoting and sustaining an electronic community in its quest of building a "knowledge-based society."

According to Mazlee, all the facilities and infrastructure available are not limited to users, but are meant for the providers of the park as well.

"As a `Science City,' we have the responsibility of creating the community of a modern city," he says, adding that KTM will also act as a channel for its partners.

For Mazlee, an electronic society must embody all "smart" elements -- encompassing everything from the workplace to the home. Providing the proper infrastructure, he reckons, would hasten its widespread adoption and use.

"We plan to build an electronic community here to bring IT to the people, doing your chores and work electronically so you can have more time for creative pursuits," he says.

A virtual private network (VPN) will be the backbone linking all the elements that will be connected either via wireless, fibre optic, dial-up or leased lines.

The network would be linked to the central monitoring system at the park's RM16mil Information Technology Centre (ITC).

"Everyone in KHTP (Kulim Hi-Tech Park) should be connected -- either through their own computers or through smartcards," he says, adding that KTM will also act as the service provider.

KTM, adds Mazlee, has also tied up with Mimos to provide Internet related services.

The intranet services available at KHTP will also be extended beyond its vicinity and can be accessed through smartcards or wireless connections by those living outside the area.

"With what we are offering, there is no excuse for you not to be connected," Mazlee adds.


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