Liberalisation answer to cheap Internet, says CM

Abang Johari greets participants as he arrives for the closing ceremony.

MALACCA: It is possible to provide cheap and widely available high-speed telecommunication and multi-media service in Sarawak if the cost of building the infrastructure and operation could be reduced, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He expressed his belief that this could be done if there was a liberal policy in the use of existing and future infrastructure that would allow multi-players’ participation in the provision of such service.

“If the price is high (and) not within the affordability of the users, they won’t change to digital (platforms). So this has to be done through multi-player (approach),” he said.

The chief minister was speaking at the closing of a retreat for Sarawak heads of departments and senior officers at leading hotel here yesterday.

About 170 officers took part in the three-day retreat primarily to chart the way forward in Sarawak’s quest to leapfrog from a conventional to a digital economy.

Earlier, State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohammad Morshidi Abdul Ghani presented a resolution that had been the result of labs covering 17 areas tailored towards achieving the goal of transformation towards a digital economy.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas was also present at the ceremony.

Abang Johari pointed out that existing Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) high voltage towers, which carry fibre optics cables, should be open to use to other telcos as a practical solution to reduce the cost of providing fast Internet in the State.

It would be a waste of resources not to optimise the use of SEB towers to carry fibre optics cables to transmit large volume of data which is vital to support a digital economy, he added.

He said the soon-to-be-launched Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) will be the agency to integrate and govern the multi-player services.

A similar approach worked in other countries like Estonia where the multi-player environment had successfully allowed 4G Internet to be widely available, he told the participants of the retreat.

He expressed confidence that the liberalisation policy, once put in place, would help to greatly reduce the cost of providing a state-wide Internet infrastructure and international gateways to the outside world.

An allocation of RM1 billion from the state coffers was approved in the last State Legislative Assembly sitting and an additional RM500 million would come from the federal government to provide high-speed Internet infrastructure in the state.

He reiterated that the state had to capitalise on digital technology to transform itself into a digital economy as the traditional incremental approach would not put the state on par with the digitalised economies of the world.

He said Sarawak needed to achieve a GDP growth of six per cent annually in order to become a high-income developed economy by 2030 and the digitalisation of the economy would be a much-needed enabler.

The chief minister (seated centre) in a group photograph with participants of the retreat.

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