Julian Matthews, Kuala Lumpur
Groundwork Laid for Multimedia Super Corridor
The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project, part of Malaysia's bid to move to a higher value-added economy, will start becoming a reality in late 1998.
The core of MSC is an asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) communication network which will allow the delivery of a host of new generation bandwidth-intensive services using multimedia workstations for medical imaging, video conferencing, video library retrieval and web broadcasting.
Telekom Malaysia Berhad is already laying the optical fiber for the network's backbone which will support data rates of between 2.5 Gbps to 10 Gbps and be linked directly to the US, Europe, Japan and the rest of Southeast Asia.
In late 1998, the first of 66 international and local companies approved so far, will start moving into Cyberjaya, one of two intelligent cities within the MSC.
Parts of the 750-hectare first phase of this strategic hub of the MSC, which will eventually house a population of 240,000, is expected to be ready for occupation by then.
Up to October 1997, among the 66 companies already committed to set up operations there are Nippon Telephone and Telegraph (NTT) Corp, NEC Corp, Sun Microsys-tems Inc, Intel Corp, Oracle Corp, Digital Equipment Corp, Siemens AG and Ericsson Hewlett-Packard Telecommunications AB. Siemens AG is investing up to US$12 million to set up new operations within the MSC.
Siemens Electrical Engineering (M) Sdn Bhd managing director Christian Urbanke said that the new company will have multiple roles and serve as a Southeast Asian regional research and development centre for multimedia products, a regional technical support and service center, and a regional training facility.
He said the initial capital is for equipment, research and development, and human resources training for the new company in the first two years.
The new company to be called Siemens Multimedia is expected to employ about 300 staff when fully operational, 40% of which will be "knowledge workers."
Other companies have also disclosed their plans for the MSC. Sun Microsystems is likely to set up a software design centre for Java applications for use in banking, finance, transport, plant management and other industries.
Internet Exchange Planned
Digital Equipment Corp will locate Asia's first neutral, high-capacity commercial Internet exchange there along the lines of an existing one in Palo Alto, California. The Internet exchange will allow internet service providers (ISP), telcos and corporate servers to access each other and exchange Internet traffic via a neutral party.
Ericsson Hewlett-Packard Telecommunications AB will set up a regional headquarters to support network management systems software, especially for managing telecommunications networks.
Among the local companies, Aims Worldwide (M) Sdn Bhd plans to set up a one-stop virtual healthcare center which will provide services such as teleconferencing, medical imaging, distance medical consultation and management and monitoring of emergency alert services.
IOI Corp Bhd plans to be involved in web publishing, electronic commerce, and the creation of digital effects for post-production and virtual simulation for commercials.
NetCard Corp Sdn Bhd will set up public Internet kiosks, which will allow users to access the Internet and make electronic transactions.
By October 1998, the 7,000 staff of the Prime Minister's Department are also expected to move into Cyberjaya's twin city Putrajaya, about 25km from Kuala Lumpur.
Putrajaya will function as the new administrative capital of the federal government and the hub of the electronic government initiative. Eventually 76,000 government staff will be moved in to occupy 1.5 million square metres of floor space. Electronic government is one of the seven flagship multimedia applications earmarked for development within the MSC.
Successful companies bidding to undertake the design and development of the electronic government and three other main applications multipurpose smartcard, telemedicine and smart schools are expected to be announced in January 1998.
The recent regional currency crisis and stock market turmoil has not blunted Malaysia's MSC plans. Mahathir has stated that there will be no delay in the roll out of the project.
This was despite an earlier decision to shelve or defer major infrastructure projects in the country to reduce imports and relieve the pressure on the nation's growing current account deficit.
He said the MSC's development was mainly fueled by private investors and foreign participation, and as such would not be affected by the economic crisis.