Sunday, December 15

‘Kampung WiFi’ becomes white elephant

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Satellite Internet facility breaks down three days after its installation last Sept 17

KUCHING: The people of Nanga Berkiok at Merurun, Julau cannot be blamed if they thought that the government’s ‘Kampung WiFi’ project recently implemented at Rumah Guntol was a mere publicity stunt.

A satellite dish which was installed in the longhouse last Sept 17 broke down less than a week later.

Till today there is no news from the project master, the Information, Communications and Culture Ministry, or the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) that they would act on the problem.

“We do not know what to do with the dish. Who shall we contact to take care of the problem? If it is about finding spare parts, shouldn’t the government have them ready?” said longhouse chief, Guntol Janggu, to The Borneo Post when contacted on Thursday.

He added that after the project was launched by Information, Communications and Culture Minister Dato Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim, the Internet and communication facilities worked well and the line was very clear.

However, when a heavy thunderstorm hit the village three days later, the system broke down and the satellite dish had no signal since.

Guntol also said that after the villagers reported the problem to the people concerned, two men from a government agency came days later and inspected the dish.

“They took off something from the dish. For further inspection, they said. Till today, we have not received any update from the ministry and the dish just stands there like a white elephant,” he said.

Guntol also joked that some of the villagers were rather sarcastic and enquired whether the dish could be used as a chicken coop.

“Some of the villagers especially the children with their laptops haven’t even used the facility. Hopefully this problem could be solved quickly,” he said.

Ajing Sumbang, 49, from Rumah Sumang nearby stated that the dish was all well at first until the heavy thunderstorm.

Like Guntol, he remembered that the signal disappeared and that the dish failed to function since then.

“Honestly, we were all glad that the government had the intention to improve our lives,” he said.

“But seriously, the government should be thinking of ways to provide our village with electricity first.

“All five longhouses here rely on generators for electricity. We can’t afford to run them for 24 hours a day just to power the dish,” he said.

Altogether, the longhouses at Nanga Berkiok — Rumah Guntol, Rumah Kenawang, Rumah Sumang, Rumah Nalong and Rumah Atau — have over 50 families.

The majority of the villagers are padi and pepper farmers.

Rumah Guntol was the sixth ‘Kampung WiFi’ project in the country.

Before that, the project was implemented at Kampung Gita here; Kampung Bahagia Jaya in Sibu; one in Pagoh, Johor; another in Pulau Banggi, Sabah; and one at Kampung Teriang in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan.

The Information, Communications and Culture Ministry together with MCMC launched the ‘Kampung WiFi’ to accelerate broadband take-up ,while bridging the rural-urban digital divide.

MCMC stated on its website that ‘Kampung WiFi’, an initiative under the National Broadband Initiative (NBI), is expected to help accelerate the national broadband penetration to 50 per cent households by the end of this year.

“With the Kampung WiFi in place, villagers would have complete Internet access. In this way, they would enjoy the positive benefits of advanced communication technologies,” said MCMC.

The satellite dish is supposed to be able to provide broadband Internet access within a radius of 350 metres.