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By Peter Sibon
KUCHING, Nov 25: The digital economy is way to go for Sarawak to catch up with the global economy, said a former US-based scientist Dr Gabriel Walter.
As Sarawak aims to achieve developed status in 2030, he said the Sarawak government’s policy to adopt the digital economy was crucial to manage its resources.
“The mobilisation into the digital economy is extremely important for any country in the world. The digital economy adopted by the Sarawak government, where even Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah is pushing for an entrepreneur-based approach for agriculture is the right thing to do,” Gabriel told DayakDaily here recently.
Gabriel, a 44-year-old Kelabit from Bario who is also the chief executive officer of Qeos Group of Companies and holds a PhD in electrical engineering from Illinois University, United States, reiterated that the advantage of the digital economy for Sarawak which has a small population is that it would allow the state to manage a large geographical area with the least amount of money.
“That’s why we talk about Internet of Things (IoT) systems. Say, for instance I have 100 acres of native customary rights (NCR) land I want to develop into a plantation, then we have to use technology because we are no longer able to import foreign workers.
“So, technology becomes very important, such as using drones, which is IoT. So, the whole idea in using the digital economy is to manage our huge resources and optimise it for individual usage,” he said.
Gabriel said the crucial part for Sarawak’s digital economy is the implementation of the policy.
“It’s how they approach, it is my concern. Policy-wise it is very good but the implementation is the main concern. Because we will have to ask ourselves who we will depend on to execute the policy, where we begin to be mesmerized by the success of other countries.
“What we need are real experts who are honest and passionate about this policy and help to implement it for the benefit of the people, and not taking advantage of this initiative,” he said.
Gabriel also cautioned against implementing an open tender system as it would burden the government to come up with the specifications for certain projects.
“An open tender system is anti-technology. Say the government wants to start a technical project, they have to know their specs up front, and they will have to engage one consulting firm to draft the specs and draft the cost. Then the proposal is put up for price tender. But these are not necessarily well-versed in technology and they are only bringing in one technical perspective. And, in a fast-changing world, there are many technologies available,” he opined.
Gabriel also asserted that open tenders also restricted the choice of technology and solution.
“It fights to reduce, only slightly, budgets which have already been approved. Instead of archaic open tenders for price, with fixed solution methodology, the government should open tender for solutions, at fixed price.
“Furthermore, the tender for solutions can also put weight on the people’s selection or vote, especially for infrastructure projects, to see which proposal the people would want implemented in their area. This will force interested companies to engage with the communities and suggesting community-friendly value-added solutions, effectively making it a “Rakyat Tender”,” said Gabriel.
Using a rural road project costing RM900 million under Highland Development Agency as an example, an open tender for solutions that can be achieved using that funds could unearth surprising possibilities among proposed solutions by innovative companies from all around the world.
“Talking to several large companies, even tar-sealed roads, complete with vehicle rest areas, pre-installed fiber optic cable lines for high speed communication systems along the roads, and road safety monitoring and control can be accomplished with such funds. One even includes 10 years of free maintenance. But under the existing plans of open price tender, the budget is calculated for a fixed specification of upgrading to merely gravel roads. This is a waste,” he pointed out. — DayakDaily