By Adrian Lim
SARIKEI, July 23: The state government will ensure that schools and villages in rural areas will be equipped with Internet connectivity in the future.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said Internet services are a necessity nowadays for everyone including students in rural areas who need it for online learning.
“Internet services are not just for businesses. It is also for other services such as in schools for online education, so our schools in villages, longhouses and rural areas will be connected with the Internet,” he told reporters during a press conference after officiating at the launching of the second phase of the Jalan Pakan or Ulu Kota road here today.
Abang Johari added he has requested the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia to grant an Internet Service Provider (ISP) licence to Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) following a discussion with its Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah who paid a courtesy call on him recently.
Abang Johari said through SMA’s subsidiaries, a state-owned telecommunications company will operate in rural areas.
With this, he asserted, telecommunication charges will be lower as they will be subsidised by the state government.
Following studies by SMA, Abang Johari said it is possible for the state government to provide subsidised rates for those who utilise Internet services in rural areas.
He revealed SMA has planned for 170 telecommunication towers to be built throughout Sarawak.
Abang Johari said existing telecommunications services providers are unwilling to build and operate in rural areas due to low economies of scale.
Earlier in his speech, Abang Johari said Pakan has huge potential for agriculture development.
He believed local vegetables such as ‘midin’ can be exported to Singapore due to strong demand there.
He also said Pakan can be turned into a hub for agricultural produce between Sarikei and Sibu.
Meanwhile, Abang Johari noted the second phase of the Jalan Pakan or Ulu Kota road spanning 15.4km starting from Rh Sigie to Rh Ragai includes roads heading to two schools — SK Sembawang and SK Ng Dayu.
He said the second phase of the road project is a continuation from the first phase which linked Rh Andrew and Rh Buing spanning across 13.3 kilometre.
He said the state government is prepared to approve the third phase of the road project spanning 8km with an estimated cost of RM139 million which will link Pakan district to Ulu Krian in Saratok district.
Meanwhile, Pakan assemblyman Tan Sri William Mawan in his speech highlighted that one of the issues faced by the residents in Pakan is the low Internet penetration rate.
As such, he hoped the state government would look into telecommunications development in Pakan so that the youth there could participate in the digital economy.
He cited these activities include participating in the digital economy, modern agriculture such as the Internet of Things (IoT), upstream and downstream activities, online marketing or becoming creative and innovative entrepreneurs using digital apps.
On another note, Mawan asserted that Pakan still lacks certain infrastructure and public amenities compared to other districts.
Hence, he hoped that the state government will approve more development projects in Pakan so that the district will continue to prosper in the future.
Among those present at the launching of the Jalan Pakan or Ulu Kota phase two road include Assistant Minister of Infrastructure and Port Development Datuk Julaihi Narawi, Deputy State Secretary Datuk Seri Mohamad Abu Bakar Marzuki, Meluan assemblyman Rolland Duat, Repok assemblyman Datuk Seri Huang Tiong Sii and Sarikei Resident Felicia Tan. — DayakDaily