13 Sep Moving towards a full digital era
In picture: Khaled (right) at the launch of the Johor Free Wifi programme last week. At a cost of RM12.9 million, the project will see 135 Wifi hotspots created in the state come Jan 1.
Johor is about to enter a new era of information technology (IT). Or is it really so?
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin has just released a slew of information which will take the state to an unprecedented level of being wired up, as they say, in IT lingo.
Free Wifi, at the cost of RM12.9 million, will see 135 hotspots spread across the 10 districts including 13 People’s Housing Programmes. This will come into effect by Jan 1 next year.
What does it really mean for the 3.6 million population in Johor? Does it guarantee easy and unlimited access to the Internet where and whenever needed? Does it mean it is for free without the possibility of being charged for it in future and what will happen when the system is down?
Johor is largely rural and it’s only in the major towns like Kluang, Muar, Batu Pahat and of course the capital Johor Baru that people enjoy proper Internet connection and penetration. As announced by Khaled on the eve of the Merdeka Day celebrations, the WiFi hotspots are all concentrated in the vicinity of the towns, such as at bus stations, tourist spots, shopping malls and commercial areas.
But the ultimate aim is to get every corner of Johor connected, as promised by Khaled.
“The Johor Free Wifi plan was borne out of a research project undertaken by the government in 2013 under the Voices from the Heart Plan. At least 30 per cent of those surveyed felt the telecommunication facilities in the state must be upgraded,”
“That’s why we decided providing free Wifi, covering as many areas as possible, is our responsibility.”
So where does Johor stand as far as Internet access is concerned compared to other states?
Dr Ali Selamat, a professor in software engineering from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s faculty of computing said the Internet penetration rate in the state can be assessed based on the data issued by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.
“Johor has it at 74.3 per cent based according to the latest data released, that is up to the first quarter of 2015. It places the state in the seventh position out of 13 states and federal territories in the country. Although the data is not specified with the particular areas receiving Internet, we assume it is the town areas which are enjoying most of the Internet services and penetration.
Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur and Labuan lead the top spots for having the highest Internet penetration followed by Selangor, Perlis and Malacca.
“But thanks to the current technology, especially smartphones, even those in remote areas can now surf the Internet,”
Does Ali see the possibility of the entire state enjoying good connectivity in the near future?
“With rapid advancement, particularly in communications technology and the many ISPs (Internet service providers) in Malaysia, it is not impossible for communities throughout Johor and even the country to enjoy the convenience of the Internet regardless of where they are. What is more important is to lower the cost of access,” he said.
Khaled believes free connectivity will help people gain better access to social media, which in turn will broaden their minds as we move into a seamless world. He said the public will also find it easier to deal with government agencies through online portals.
“But there are different schools of thought. The benefits of providing free Wifi to facilitate Internet access depend on an individual’s sense of purpose for accessing the Internet and the information that is made available.
“I am a firm believer that social media can become the basis for a large networking system and if used sensibly, can make a person become more open-minded.
“And there is the opportunity for the state government to offer better services to the people through online services which are easier and quicker, and to disseminate relevant information through portals and websites. What is crucial is for the content and application to be enhanced, in addition to being easily accessible, used and understood.
“This will result in people no longer having to waste time queueing to obtain a particular service. However, officers involved must be knowledgeable and skillful with these new online services offered,” he added.
So therein lies a new set of problems. Trained IT personnel is what the government needs.
Does the state government need to upgrade or build new infrastructures to cope with the demand for Internet access, given Johor’s rapid development?
Ali said: “Based on the trend and development of technology, which are moving towards a full digital era, the state government should be sensitive towards these developments, particularly in relation to future information delivery methods. This can be achieved by improving the infrastructure from time to time.
“The current and future generations are those born with immediate exposure to technology. They are the ones who will continue to seek and demand enhanced services, in tandem with the rapid pace of technology development and the government must cater to their needs and demands.”
Who can live without the Internet?
Not many in today’s society can do so, and Khaled knows it too well.
Source: Malay Mail