`Smart' practices for smart folksCREATING a smart environment may sound like a far-fetched notion to many, but for those moving towards the 21st century, it is not only viable but necessary -- so say the developers at Kulim Hi-Tech Park, who have included what they call "smart practices" and "smart habits" in their definition of an electronic community.
While they agree that there are many electronic communities in Malaysia (namely Bangsar Net), they claim theirs is unique.
"I believe that we must come up with a technology concept, not a technology product, to be viable and successful," says Mazlee Mohd Ramli, group general manager of Kulim Technology Management (KTM).
"Our e-community development here is just the first phase. We are planning for a safe city. An `e-community' is meaningless if it is not secure," he adds.
Digital villageAccording to Mazlee, the idea to build an electronic community in Kulim was mooted way back in 1995. However, it took KTM over two years to convince everyone -- through practice -- of the benefits of embracing an electronic community.
Two months ago KTM launched a pilot project on electronic community involving 200 users, including 20 companies in Kulim Hi-Tech Park (KHTP), as well as in other parts of Kedah and Penang.
"We expect the township here to embrace `e-communities' by the end of this year," Mazlee says, adding that KHTP spent RM10mil to build its intranet infrastructure.
Concurrently, KHTP also launched 400 "smart homes" to attract people to join the electronic community.
"We will use and promote appropriate technology to reinforce practices within our electronic community. For example, if set-top boxes are in, we will use them," he says.
Mazlee claims that the smart homes offered by KHTP are truly "IT," encompassing four main features -- automated, secured, connected and energy saving.
The first three phases of the housing developed at KHTP were snapped up almost immediately, and 80% of the fourth phase has also been sold.
Although the idea of having houses within an industrial estate was to cater to the park tenants, its developers were surprised to discover that most of the interest came from outside.
"Demand is good and the buyers are mainly locals working in Kulim and those who are working in other cities and probably plan to move back or retire here," says Kulim Technology Park Corp managing director Ahmad Shukri Tajuddin.
The initial number of residents will be 130,000, and this is expected to reach 250,000 when the park is fully developed.
Also in the pipeline are two primary schools, a secondary school, an international school and a tertiary institute.
"We even set up a job bank to help draw people here, and a human resources centre for continuous education and training," Shukri says.
Shukri says he does not think that the park posed a challenge to the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), but instead complemented it.
"We like to think that we are the `northern hub' for the MSC," he says.
For the next level of investment, KHTP hopes to snare in some R&D companies to build a set of supporting industries.
IT CentreOn the other hand, Mazlee hopes that KTM will gain returns from the infrastructure, traffic, advertising, membership and other services such as data recovery and training.
The IT centre, which will open for business next month, aims to provide a platform for interaction between industries, R&D institutions and local entrepreneurs.
"The centre will serve both endusers and manufacturers based here," says Mazlee.
Services offered include video-conferencing, CAD/CAM/CIM labs, incubation and network operating facilities.
Apart from these, the centre aims to participate in IT and advanced manufacturing technology projects through equity purchases or joint ventures.
"To date, 15 companies have chosen the centre as their base," claims Mazlee.
The centre will function as a network operating system, clearing house and physical logistic provider to all its users. Eventually, it will link the KHTP community to the outside world.
The centre will also serve as a conduit to link Kedah to the rest of the world.
"A community web will allow people to stay in touch," says Mazlee, adding that an Islamic site has been introduced to cater to the predominantly Muslim community there. - ANITA MATTHEWS
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