Zaidi (left) briefing members of the Bario community on telecommunication infrastructure development. 

BARIO, 11 October 2022 - Despite the difficulties and challenges of having to top up diesel generator sets to operate telecommunication towers in rural towers in rural areas and contractors having to bring fuel supply by foot to sites, all Sarawakians deserve equal access to good quality telecommunication services, regardless of where they live. 

Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) general manager Ts Dr Zaidi Razak emphasised that this has been the aspiration of the State government, and SMA has been tasked to monitor telecommunication providers to implement these initiatives to bridge the digital gap between rural and urban areas in Sarawak. 

"What we are implementing is not from the top-to-bottom approach but rather from the bottom-to-the-top approach.

"As such it is our aspiration to provide telecommunication facilities equally to both the rural and urban areas," he shared during SMA's community outreach programme at the Immigration Border Post community hall here yesterday, according to a statement.

Zaidi also disclosed both the federal and Sarawak governments have allocated huge budgets for the purpose of improving telecommunication infrastructure and bridging the digital gap in Sarawak. 

"We have more than RM4 billion in allocations from the federal government and more than RM2 billion from the State government to improve our telecommunication infrastructure. So, in order to improve this digital infrastructure, we have two programmes: namely the SMART 300 (SMA Rural Telecommunication 300) and Jendela (under the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commision) programme.

"Under the SMART program, we are going to build 600 new towers. 300 towers have been erected and the remaining 300 towers will be implemented under Phase 2, whereby we have either assigned or awarded the contracts to the contractors for implementation, and not under planning anymore," he said, adding that under Jendela programme, 636 towers will be built in Sarawak, for which the project has been  awarded to the contractors. 

Besides these towers, Zaidi revealed, SMA has also implemented interim solutions such as Saluran VSAT (very small aperture terminal) scattered all over Sarawak and the broadband wireless sensing network located at 523 sites Statewide.

"With these rollout plans, we hope to achieve more than 98 per cent of our community to be connected.

"But in Sarawak, we are facing geological (sic) challenges unlike in the peninsula where the roads and power supply system are much better that we have here.

"Like what Celcom has said, it has to top up diesel generator sets in the rural areas to operate its telecommunication towers and some of our contractors have to bring fuel supply on foot to the sites. These are challenges that we face here in Sarawak," he highlighted.

Zaidi pointed out that in order for Sarawak to have good telecommunication infrastructure, it would take some time for the government to implement the various telecommunication infrastructure.

On the digital economy, Zaidi said, the people have to change their mindset to move forward in order to improve their livelihood.

"In this digital era, we don't have to go down to market physically. Now we can reach the market through online trading using digital platforms such as e-commerce, e-entrepreneur and e-wallet," he added.

He reiterated that Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) has started a project called Telecentre initiated by its first vice-chancellor Professor Dr Zawawi Ismail, Professor Al-Khalid Othman and their team to connect Bario to the outside world via telecommunication. 

"The project has been quite successful and we want to extend it to other places in Sarawak as this is part of digital economy initiative, which is visible to the outside world," he said.

Zaidi also noted the need of the local community in Bario for an automated teller machine (ATM), of which one will be installed soon. 

"For this purpose, we are working with our partners such as MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission), SDEC (Sarawak Digital Economy Corporation), Celcom and also with the commitment of Datuk Gerawat (Gala), we can bring digital communication far better than other places," he said.

Also present at the function were Deputy Minister in the Premier of Sarawak's Office (Labour, Immigration and Project Monitoring)-cum-Mulu assemblyman Datuk Gerawat Gala, SMA's deputy chief scientist and deputy Digital Economy advisor Ts Dr Al-Khalid Othman, community leaders and local residents.

Source: Dayak Daily