AS the digital lifestyle becomes the norm and virtual services become more mainstream, there is a real need for a more reliable digital infrastructure in the country.
In order to continue the momentum towards a developed digital economy, there will be added focus on strengthening and upgrading basic telecommunications networks.
When tabling Budget 2021 earlier this month, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz announced that the Government now recognised telecommunication networks as the third utility.
To further develop the national digital agenda, RM9.4bil has been allocated in Budget 2021 for this purpose, encompassing various sectors including education, employment and digital transformation, said the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).
Teaching in schools has been taken out of classroom settings and moved to digital platforms due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The unplanned and rapid transition to home-learning suggests that online education may well be here to stay even after the current health crisis.
To expedite digital growth, the Government has allocated RM500mil for the implementation of the national digital infrastructure plan known as Jalinan Digital Negara (Jendela) to ensure connectivity of 430 schools nationwide in all the states.
In addition, government-linked companies (GLCs) and government-linked investment companies (GLICs) will contribute RM150mil to Tabung Cerdik to provide laptops for 150,000 students in 500 schools in a pilot project supervised by Yayasan Hasanah.
To alleviate the burden of the B40 group, the Government will put aside RM1.5bil for the Jaringan Prihatin (Network) Programme whereby eight million individuals will get RM180 telecommunication credit each for Internet subscription, or help defray the cost of a new mobile phone. Telcos Maxis, Celcom and Digi will be doing their part by providing free data and other benefits matching the RM1.5bil.
"We will continue to collaborate and work closely with all relevant parties in finalising a range of products and services, which will benefit our B40 customers," Celcom chief executive officer Idham Nawawi said in a statement (The Star, Nov 6).
The Communications and Multimedia Malaysia Ministry via MCMC will be upgrading the broadband services and expanding them to the rural areas with the allocated budget of RM7.4bil.
Under Phase One of Jendela, ongoing efforts until 2022 will see 4G mobile broadband coverage expanded from 91.8% to 96.9% in populated areas, reaching up to speeds of 35Mbps.
The plan is to provide access to broadband services with a speed of up to one gigabit to 7.5 million premises by then, laying the groundwork for 5G. This will be a boon to businesses hoping to leverage on 5G to improve automation and processes, and grow their operations.
In its move to prioritise automation and digitalisation, the Government is introducing a RM1bil industrial digitalisation transformation scheme to boost digitalisation activities.
Startups and SMEs will be allocated RM150mil towards economic recovery which will help businesses in their efforts to adopt digital technologies and increase productivity.
To ensure business continuity, Budget 2021 has allocated RM100mil for the maintenance of infrastructure of industrial parks and RM42mil under Jendela to improve Internet connectivity in 25 industrial parks.
Reskilling and upskilling programmes will continue in the Government’s move to reduce unemployment, with RM100mil being channelled to Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) for the transitioning of the existing workforce into the ICT industry.
MDEC chief executive officer Surina Shukri was quoted as saying that the corporation will work with other stakeholders to expand its digital talent development programmes beyond the current initiatives for students from premier digital tech institutions.
She added that MDEC would support businesses to adopt automation and digitisation through various new funds like the SME Digitalisation Grant Scheme and Smart Automation Grant (The Star, Nov 16).
To encourage the adoption of e-commerce, RM150mil will be spent on training programmes and digital equipment for 100,000 local entrepreneurs.
Lazada Malaysia chief executive officer Leo Chow lauded the Government’s various initiatives and programmes for encouraging SMEs.
He said that the RM75mil allocation for the eBelia programme to promote a cashless lifestyle was a positive move towards secure, convenient and light-speed digital transactions (The Star, Nov 10).
The allocations to improve digital connectivity through Jendela and other contributions to increase Internet access for the B40 segment will create a more inclusive digital society, added Chow.
With these measures in place, hopefully Malaysia will able to be a regional digital hub leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industrial Revolution 4.0).
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