Julian Matthews, Kuala Lumpur
MSC May Secure
Speaking at the third convening of the international advisory panel for the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project, Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir expressed confidence in the project and that it is, indeed on track. Any pioneering initiative will have its share of detractors and cynics. However, our success to date speaks for itself, he said.
The annual meeting had threatened to be a fiasco when renowned futurist Alvin Toffler said he was boycotting it just weeks prior in protest to recent political developments. Another key panel member, management guru Kenichi Ohmae, could not attend as he was involved in an accident. In the end only 12 of the 43 members showed up. Fourteen others sent representatives, but the poor attendance did little to mar the proceedings.
Attendees appeared to be impressed. Hewlett-Packard Co chairman and CEO Lewis Platt said he was pleasantly surprised, British Telecommunication Plc CEO Sir Peter Bonfield said the progress was remarkable, and Madge Networks NV chairman Robert Madge described it as amazing. To its credit, Malaysia had delivered on much of its promise in the 18 months since the last meeting. It passed and enforced laws governing computer crime, multimedia convergence, intellectual property, and digital signatures.
The project managed to draw 228 companies to invest in the MSC including 32 well-known entities such as Ericsson AB, Siemens AG, Motorola Inc, Lucent Technologies Inc, Lotus Development Corp, Oracle Corp, Fujitsu Ltd, Intel Corp, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp, Compaq Computer Corp, NEC, British Telecommunications, Electronic Data Systems Corp and Unisys Corp.
It built up Cyberjaya, the city to host the MSC companies. It also set up the Multimedia University offering courses in creative multimedia and digital animation, the Malaysian Technology Park to house small and medium-sized companies, and the MSC Central Incubator to seed and grow new companies. And all this during financial and political turmoil.
At the press conference after the meeting, Dr Mahathir brushed off criticism that the project was extravagant and described the Malaysian government as financially conservative. We didnt borrow money from anyone. When we budgeted for this, the ringgit was strong at 2.5 to the US dollar. If we had to do it again it would have cost twice as much, he said referring to Malaysias controversial peg of the ringgit at 3.8 to one US dollar in September, 1998.
Dr Mahathir said the MSC is the next engine of growth to rebuild Malaysias battered economy which went into recession for the first time in 13 years last year.
He described Cyberjaya as the MSCs crown jewel and listed its main draws as the 2.5 Gbytes/s fiber optic backbone network, eco-friendly environment, close proximity to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and the presence of three universities.
MSC companies can reap the power of association. The presence of the three universities will seek to emulate the Standford-inspired setting of Silicon Valley and create a networked, productive society in Cyberjaya, he added.
On completion, researchers, scientists and engineers and students are expected to mingle and work in Cyberjaya to turn software applications into marketable global products. Twenty one companies have already moved into 2,800 hectare flagship zone while the rest are expected to move in by June, 2000.