Digital infrastructure: Sarawak has to take initiative because not seen as priority by telco players, says CM

KUCHING, July 21: Sarawak will take its own initiative and work with Brunei to improve its digital services because Telekom Malaysia (TM) and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) have not been very responsive in helping Sarawak in realising its digital economic efforts.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Tun Openg said of course, telco service providers in the country would only help build or upgrade the state’s digital infrastructure if there are economic returns to it, and as for MCMC they receive levy payments from these telco service providers.

However, because the population in Sarawak is small, only at around 2.8 million, with a huge land mass of about 124,000 square kilometres, returns from any huge investments in the state by telco companies would be too small, and thus efforts to develop or upgrade Sarawak’s digital infrastructure would not be considered a priority for them, according to Abang Johari.

“The problem is like this. They (MCMC) take the levi from the telcos. Then we ask to use that money to do our infrastructure. But they will give back to the telcos to develop (the infrastructure). But the telcos have their own way to make sure there is a return on that particular investment. What happened was our population very small, so the sale is not there, the return is quite slow. So they thought “no need to do yet, the return is slow”.”

“So we are in a dilemma. So what we do now we have to use the government’s injection, own money. The infrastructure cost is very high. So it would take time to recover (investment), so we had no option but to spend our own money for the sake of our people – our farmers, students and rural schools,” he told a press conference after officiating at the Sarawak Beyond Paradigm Summit 2019 here this morning.

Abang Johari (centre) speaking to reporters after officiating at the Sarawak Beyond Paradigm Shift 2019 in Kuching this morning. To the left is Serba Dinamik Sdn Bhd Dato Dr Ir Mohd Abdul Karim Abdullah and right Serba Dinamik Sdn Bhd chairman Abdul Kadier Sahib.

Abang Johari said one of the much needed infrastructures for Sarawak’s digital economy is a direct international gateway for its Internet.

Because Sarawak is an island, its Internet is currently connected through an undersea cable to the Peninsula, he explained.

“Because we are an island, we need to be linked with the international cable and our own gateway. Now we only depend on TM, only one. We are bottlenecking there.

“That’s why we are working with Brunei’s Datastream Technology Sdn Bhd (DST) who has that international gateway that links directly to Hong Kong,” he said.

During the launching ceremony of the summit, Abang Johari in his opening address urged MCMC to not just keep the levi paid by the telcos all to themselves, and contribute some for the development of Sarawak’s digital infrastructure.

“Otherwise Sarawak will be left behind. But where to get the money? Later some minister will say Sarawak will go bankrupt.

“Luckily we have the right to impose sales tax on our oil and gas resources. Then this money we can spend on this infrastructure because the future of Sarawak and Malaysia depend on technology,” he said. — DayakDaily