More support for digital technology


BUDGET 2022 is scheduled to be tabled at the end of this month in Parliament. Other than investing in the economic sectors that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government should increase its expenditure on improving infrastructure in support of digital technology.

During the pandemic, we learned innumerable lessons. When the country was placed under various degrees of the movement control order, it opened our eyes to the fact that many Malaysians, especially those who live in rural areas, still lag behind in being able to access digital technology.

Digital technology has been indispensable in reducing the impact of the pandemic on the economy and society. We could still buy goods during the MCO using various digital platforms. This implies that household expenditure was not enormously affected. Can you imagine the situation in the absence of digital technology?

Despite its advantages, not enough of us have benefited from digital technology for several reasons. The major reason is poor Internet access. Hence, some students had to go to great lengths to get good Internet access to attend online classes, from staying in relatives’ houses to climbing trees, as Veveonah Mosibin famously did to sit for her university exams (“Sabah girl stays in tree to get Internet connection”, The Star, June 17, 2020; online at bit.ly/star_access).

Many B40 (lower income group) students could not afford laptops. Some students had to defer their university studies, and some had to skip their online classes.

Digital technology is of vital importance as it can help cure economic ills such as poverty, unemployment, etc. Households living below the poverty line can avail themselves of digital technology to supplement their income.

Malaysia aims to achieve developed nation status – and digital infrastructure is essential to ensure that we can achieve that aim. In the absence of government support in improving the infrastructure, many Malaysians will continue to lag far behind, especially those who are in the B40 category and those who live in rural areas.

The government should also invest in providing more computers at schools so that students can keep pace with changing technology. They do not need to be solely dependent on their teachers to gain knowledge as they can find vast information at their fingertips on the World Wide Web.

DR MOHD SHAHIDAN SHAARI , Senior Lecturer in Economics Faculty of Applied and Human Sciences Universiti Malaysia Perlis

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