CNET : Internet : Regional Dispatches
Digital shift or digital drift?
By Anita Devasahayam
March 28, 2000

LAST month, the Malaysian Minister for Energy, Communications and Multimedia Datuk Amar Leo Moggie launched a national PC Ownership Campaign. The aim of the campaign was to promote the use of computers among the general population, especially those in rural neighborhoods.

The Minister noted that the world average is 35 percent compared to the local 11 percent. Local Net access stands at 5 percent as opposed to the world's 30 percent. Of the 2.5 millions PC owners in Malaysia, 65 percent of them are located in the west coast states of Selangor, Penang and the Federal Territory.

As history shows, the west coast states flourished during the British rule while east coast states lagged behind Banjaran Titiwangsa, the hilly terrain that divided the peninsula. Hence, it was sad to be told that the ubiquitous computer was unable to penetrate the mountainous range and bring technology to the simple folk there. Yet, as a hopeful nation, the powers that be have taken it upon themselves to push the technology envelope.

The mechanics in place, a campaign was born and carried out with a good measure of fanfare and marketing blitz, with the hope that this campaign would address previously failed attempts to push technology to the public. Backed by bigwigs such as Intel, Telekom Malaysia, Pos Malaysia and Maxis Communications, the proponents even offered to conduct tutorials, workshops and even host PC bazaars for the uninitiated. Their initial target was families, students, the youth, pensioners and housewives.

The Government 's agenda included providing bandwidth to spread access to technology, with RM318 million set aside for a wireless local loop for 120,000 rural folk. E-communities were being lined up in several states.

In short, this was a national effort to shift to a knowledge- and information-based economy in order to retain some level of competitiveness in the new millennium.

Dispatch from Malaysia

Here's a nation that has built a first-world infrastructure. But can the country truly lead its people down the Yellow Brick Road to the smart city of tomorrow? Our Dispatch from Malaysia taps into the collective mindshare.

Anita Devasahayam spent a decade in technology journalism and currently plans to live the next one in Ipoh, far from the madding crowd and closer to home and family. When not pottering about the house, she is planting seeds in people's minds about the Internet and journalism as a career.


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