Sarawak counts on data and innovation to drive post-Covid-19 recovery

Abang Johari Tun Openg speaking at the launch of IDECS 2020 in Kuching today (Oct 7, 2020). Photo credit: Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas)

KUCHING, Oct 7: Sarawak’s post-Covid-19 economic growth will be driven by data and innovation, as such the digital economy as the key in achieving the state’s 2030 Economic Agenda.

Sarawak’s Digital Economy Strategy (2018-2022) was launched by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg in Dec 2017, not long after he took office.

“The strategy saw the progress in digitalising our economy. It was also put under test and has successfully addressed most of the issues raised by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As always with any strategy, certain aspects such as digital sovereignty, interoperability, ease of doing business, cybersecurity, digital readiness and supporting digital transformation of the private sector could be further strengthened to accelerate our post-Covid-19 Economic Agenda,” Abang Johari said at the launch of International Digital Economy Conference Sarawak (IDECS) 2020 here today.

In 2017, the state government established Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) under the Sarawak Multimedia Authority Ordinance 2017, a regulatory body to administer and manage the development and execution of communication and multimedia policies to lead the state’s Digital Economy Agenda.

SMA will also be responsible for digital infrastructure, government data management and cybersecurity.

Abang Johari added that three key agencies were part of Sarawak’s Digital Economy ecosystem responsible for the implementation of the state’s digital economy strategies.

“The Sarawak Digital Economy Corporation (SDEC) has been entrusted to lead the implementation of Sarawak’s digital economy initiatives focusing on private sector economy, while the Sarawak Information Systems (Sains) was entrusted to focus on government services.

“Centexs (Centre of Technical Excellence) Digital Academy is entrusted to provide industry-relevant training and skills development in digital and data science focusing on school leavers, graduates and industry employees to meet the workforce needs of digital economy,” he said.

Another strategy by the state government is the rolling out of SMA300 telecommunication tower initiative.

A total of 184 towers have been completed and the remaining 116 are expected for completion by the 3rd quarter of 2021.

Abang Johari said the first fully operational tower telecommunication service at Luban Ulu, Betong was launched on Sept 26.

“The rural community there will now enjoy 3G or 4G service, compared to the Edge service in the past and this will be duplicated in the underserved areas throughout Sarawak.

“However, putting up these towers hasn’t been without their challenges. It doesn’t mean that the government can simply put up a tower as we like, no matter how well-intended the project is to the under served community.

“We had to go through great effort to get the buy-ins of landowners and acquire land where potential sites were identified. Then, there are still relevant laws and regulatory processes to comply with,” he revealed, adding that the project has been delayed owing to the Covid-19 pandemic Movement Control Order (MCO).

Abang Johari (centre) activating a gimmick to launch IDECS 2020 in Kuching today (Oct 7, 2020). Photo credit: Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas)

Despite current handicaps, Abang Johari gave assurance that the state government has the political will to enhance connectivity through new policies and initiatives.

An example he shared was the RM3 million allocated to upgrade Internet connectivity in nine national parks of Sarawak, with Semenggok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre being the first.

The state government has also established free Wi-Fi connectivity for quite a number of villages or longhouses to accelerate Internet connectivity for the under served rural communities.

Through this initiative, Abang Johari said each village will share a bandwidth of 30Mbps and to-date 20 villages and longhouses have been digitally connected to access Internet and government services as well as Sarawak Pay.

Meanwhile, the installation of mini satellite stations (VSAT) was also implemented as he believed that this is the best way to solve the problem of poor Internet connectivity in rural areas. — DayakDaily