Abdullah should present White Paper in Parliament to explain why MSC has failed to take Malaysia into a quantum leap to become a global hub of technological innovation and is trailing so badly behind not only Bangalore, South Korea but even Dubai Internet City
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament House, Friday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made a heart-felt call when in Bangalore, he welcomed Indian IT professionals to Malaysia and assured them they will be treated well in Malaysia.
He declared: “I give you my word we will treat you well. And I ask Indians and Malaysians to inform my office immediately if anything untoward happens.”
It is to Abdullah’s great credit that he intervened decisively in his capacity as Acting Prime Minister in March 2003 to resolve the Palm Court scandal, where some 270 Indian IT professionals were mistreated by the police and which threatened to explode into a major diplomatic row between India and Malaysia.
Abdullah’s sincerity in wanting to provide the best welcome for Indian IT professionals, as well as the best “global brains”, to help develop Malaysia’s IT prowess cannot be doubted or challenged, although it is legitimate to question whether the system and mechanism is in place to honour and deliver the Prime Minister’s various pledges and undertakings, including immediate access to him through his office to resolve outstanding cases of injustices and discrimination.
Can Indian IT professionals have access to the Prime Minister immediately and directly through the Prime Minister’s Office if they have genuine and serious grievances? I do not think so, as I have myself found it difficult and even impossible in the past few months to get through the ring cordoning the Prime Minister to meet Abdullah about important national issues, whether about Parliamentary business or urgent matters concerning accountability, integrity and good governance.
As Abdullah visited Dubai and Bangalore in his just-concluded overseas trip, he should have ample opportunities to find out the reasons as to why Malaysia has trailed behind so badly as one of the world’s leading ICT centres after such great promises with the establishment of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) eight years ago.
Abdullah should present a White Paper in Parliament to explain why MSC has failed to take Malaysia into a quantum leap to become a global hub of technological innovation and is trailing so badly behind not only Bangalore and South Korea but even Dubai Internet City.
Eight years ago, Malaysia proclaimed the MSC as "a gift to the world" and the centrepiece of the country's strategic initiative to leapfrog the nation into the IT era. Since then, MSC and Malaysia have faded away from the world radar screen as an international IT hot spot while Bangalore had powered on to be named by the United Nations in 2001 as the world’s fourth global hub of technological innovation.
South Korea, which was behind Malaysia when we launched the MSC, has powered ahead to become the first country in the world to become a broadband society.
By 2005, more than 80 per cent of households in South Korea would have access to fast broadband connections of 20 mbps (megabits per second) or more – about the rate needed for high-definition television.
In contrast, Malaysia’s broadband record is a far cry from that of South Korea, not only on penetration rate with only 0.85 per cent, but also broadband speed, with the average South Korean household subscriber getting high-speed Internet connection of 8 mbps, which is more than 22 times faster than the Malaysian broadband speed of 384 kbps or eight times faster than 1 mbps.
The MSC has even lost out to the three-year-old Dubai Internet City, which has started to go global, only last week choosing Koichi in Kerala as its first US$400 million Smart City.
The secret of success for the MSC or any technological ambition for Malaysia lies in the briefing by the Infosys Chief Executive Officer, Nandan M. Nilekanai to Abdullah during the latter’s visit to Bangalore yesterday, i.e. to choose “the best of the best” in the emphasis on knowledge and human capital.
Is Abdullah prepared to totally revamp civil service, education, employment and ICT policies to attract and retain the best and the brightest, to give real meaning to “meritocracy” while tempered by equity considerations, which is the precondition for Malaysia to compete with the rest of the world to become an international technological hub?
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman