KUCHING: Sarawak Foundation has RM300 million for bursaries and scholarships at its disposal annually instead of RM9 million, making it possible for the state to send more students for post-graduate studies.
This has been made possible because the state government has increased the premium for the export of logs from 80 sen to RM50 per cubic meter.
“Through Sarawak Foundation we are now able to have more funds to send more of our students to study locally and overseas in various new disciplines. The first batch of 36 students was recently awarded the Tun Taib Bursary to further studies up to PhD level.
“We have also awarded scholarships to 40 students to study medicine at UNIMAS (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak). We will continue to give medical scholarships to students to study at UNIMAS so that in the next five years we will produce 200 doctors,” said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg in his acceptance speech in conjunction him receiving an honorary doctorate at University College of Technology Sarawak which held its second convocation yesterday.
He said the awarding of so many scholarships to Sarawakian students is unprecedented in the history of the state.
“In the last cabinet reshuffle, I created a new Ministry, i.e. the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research to spearhead efforts to upgrade the status of education, the study of STEM subjects and research activities in Sarawak.”
Abang Johari noted that the world today is driven by technology. Digital technologies such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, blockchain and 3D printing are now platforms of economic transformation in many countries.
To him, there is hardly any business that is not getting transformed through technology advancement. Businesses and society at large are closely connected through ever faster communication channels and means of travel.
“I have just come back from Europe yesterday to see first-hand how countries like Estonia, that was once poor during the Soviet era, have boldly embraced digital technologies to totally transform the economy.
“Government services, voting and banking services are all done digitally on mobile devices thus easing transactions, saving time and resources that can be used beneficially somewhere else.
“The present over-the-counter mode of services will be obsolete as transactions can all practically be done on the palm of the hand. We will soon launch our own e-payment system called Sarawakpay and we hope this will provide a platform for many forms of transactions.
“Estonia even has things like e-citizen which allows you to be a citizen of the country and do business there without your physical presence there. This shows how bold and innovative their ideas are which have made them successful in a relatively short period of time.
“This is the direction that Sarawak will take. The old economic development model cannot bring Sarawak to the forefront of digital development that the whole world is trying to arrive at. We cannot wait for others to tell us what to do and we cannot wait for help to come our way. We have to decide our own destiny,” he said.
He added that digitising the whole of Sarawak would not be an easy job but the government was determined to find ways and means to solve the problems.