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[ossig] DAP MALAYSIA: Broadband for all in Malaysia]

this was raised in parliament this morning, and includes both open source 
and software patents. at the very least, MPs will be aware that such an 
animal exists and it may make it easier if we were to start moving towards 
defending malaysia's no-software-patents stand.


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [BUNGARAYA] Broadband for all in Malaysia
Date: Tue,  4 Oct 2005 17:55:32 +0800
From: DAP MALAYSIA <dap.malaysia@pobox.com>
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Speech  (3) by Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP MP for Ipoh Timor
Lim Kit Siang on the 2006 Budget in Parliament on Monday, 3rd October

Broadband For All

The development of information and communication technology in Malaysia is
full of contradictions, and setbacks.

Malaysia was the earliest among developing countries to have a
government-sponsored plan for ICT development, namely the RM 5-billion
Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project. But MSC has failed to live up to
its expectation to become regional IT hub for R&D and other high
value-added activities.

Today, MSC/Cyberjaya has downgraded itself to serve the low-end of global
IT value chain – shared services and outsourcing (SSO) activities. Let us
not to fool ourselves anymore. While it is true that new investments and
jobs accompanied MSC’s transformation into an international call centre,
one should be reminded that such scenario has vastly deviated from MSC’s
original purpose as the engine to drive Malaysia into the high-end of the
IT world.

The Government’s IT policy since mid-1990s is flawed because it only
focuses on one area, not every corner of the country; and it only
intended to serves the interests of multinational corporations (MNCs),
not all ordinary Malaysians.

The government was only interested in land development in Cyberjaya and
attracting investments from MNCs but failed to realize that it is the
local talent pool that matters most. One notable example is that the
success story of India’s Bangalore lies in its ubiquitous institutes of
technology that train numerous capable English-speaking software
engineers. Very few key players in the industry relocated its regional
headquarters to MSC despite generous incentive being dished out.

The Prime Minister now wanted to “re-examine the package of incentives
that we offer to make the MSC a more compelling choice for investors”
(NST 9/9/2005). Instead of showering potential investors with
unrealistically generous packages, isn’t it better to look inwards at why
MSC fails its mission. The lesson from the MSC failure would be useful for
future ventures, such as the biotech sector – the government’s new

In 1997, I told this chamber that “the MSC may be the crown jewel of the
National Information Infrastructure which Malaysia must build if we are
to make the transition to the information society, but it is not the
infrastructure.” I said, “In the ultimate analysis, the IT revolution
must be about people….This is why any national IT policy, strategy and
plan must be people-centred and not project-centred or MSC-centred”
(Debate on Royal Address, 25/3/2997).

The DAP adopted the “IT for All” slogan in that year and called for an
equitable IT development for all without creating a new disparity between
“information-rich” and “information-poor”. (DAP, “IT for All”, 1997).

Sadly, MSC did not turn out to be what it should be and the overall ICT
development in Malaysia is a disappointment. Eight years after MSC was
launched, the government launched the second MSC in Bayan Lepas, Penang
and Kulim, Kedah. Why is there a need for a second-tier MSCs? Shouldn’t
the entire nation have access to facilities available in a MSC after so
many years of government-initiated development in the IT sector?

Broadband for All

A key indicator of ICT development in a country is its broadband
penetration rate. Compared to narrowband, broadband offers speedier
download and better quality of transmission, which will allow more
activities to be conducted via internet at a faster speed.

Sadly, more than five years after broadband was commercially available,
the broadband penetration rate is still below 1 % of Malaysian population
while other countries experienced quantum leap.

Energy, Water and Communications Minster Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik
claimed that the government is open to proposals to boost penetration
rate in broadband service to 30%-40% by 2008, despite the National
Broadband Plan having a modest target of 10% of population. He said,
“even if we cannot reach South Korea’s broadband penetration of more than
60%, languishing at 1% of the population is politically and socially
unacceptable” (Telecom Asia Daily 6/7/2005).

I agree with Keng Yaik that Malaysia is “already ten years behind leaders
such as South Korea.” Whether Malaysia reaches 10% or 40%, others will
not wait for us. Korea will literally achieve “IT for All” and “Broadband
for All” when broadband is rolled out to almost every household in the
next two or three years.

But how did the “politically and socially unacceptable” below-1%-broadband
penetration rate happen? The most important obstacle preventing the rise
of broadband in Malaysia is TM’s delay in opening up the last mile, or
local loop access to consumers. TM owns more than 90% of the last mile

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) finally
mandated TM  to unbundle the local loop in June 2005. In August, Jaring
signed a deal with TM, signaling the opening up of the last mile access.
However, TM is obviously taking its sweet time to comply with MCMC’s
Access List as it is not keen to open up the access to its competitors.

No holder of monopoly would let it go without a fight. It is the onus of
the government and regulatory agency to enforce competition. There is no
point to hope that WiFi or WiMax or any other wireless tools would have
the magical power to increase Malaysia’s broadband penetration rate

The most realistic and inexpensive way to improve the lackluster
performance of the broadband development is to increase competition among
internet service providers (ISPs) and drive down the price.

DAP calls for a “Broadband for All” policy, modeling after the Korean
success, to be included in the 9th Malaysia Plan. The Ministry of Energy,
Water and Communications and MCMC should ensure that TM will not be an
obstacle to the development of a broad-based IT literacy and usage.

Open Source – “kow tow” to Microsoft?

Another example of the government putting corporate interest above the
national goal of broad-based IT literacy is the shelving of a plan to
experiment with open source operating system.

In April 2004, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr.
Jamaludin Jarjis announced that Mimos Bhd was tasked with creating an
operating system for computers using open source software. According to
NST, it is “a move that when completed will make information
communication technology cheaper and accessible to all” (29/4/2004).

Microsoft holds a monopoly on operating systems for personal computers and
charges expensive royalty and fees usage and upgrade. Open-source is
software for which the source code (the instructions for the software) is
available for distribution and modification. The modifier retains the
copyright for his work, but the source code is public domain.

Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea and recently Peru,
among others, have been actively moving toward the Linux operating system
and other open-source alternatives that can mean millions of dollars in
savings. Institute of Information Technology, a Brazilian government
agency working to promote digital inclusion, estimated that Brazil spent
USD 1.1 billion on royalties and licensing fees for imported software
programmes in 2002. According to the same source, Brazilian government
agencies that have adopted free software had their costs reduced to a
mere three percent of what would have been paid for proprietary

Datuk Jamaludin pointed out then that the Government wanted to look at
ways to boost computer literacy among Malaysians without the burden of
paying high fees. Malaysia spent about RM 7.86 billion on IT in 2003, of
which RM 1.8 billion were on software. If the cost of using open-source
software is 10% of Microsoft’s product, the RM 1.6 billion savings could
be utilized to reduce the gap between the “information haves” and
“information haves-not”.

Less than two months after Jamaludin’s announcement, Micosoft’s boss Bill
Gates visited Malaysia, met with the Prime Minister and other ministers,
and donated RM 10 million to some schools.

Since then, the discussion on open source operating system vanishes from
public discourse. It is time for the government to reexamine the
potentials of open-source and stop “kow tow” to Microsoft. Therefore, the
IT policy of Malaysia must be a policy that champions “IT for All”, not
favoring big corporations.

Let me put down some quick thoughts  by a  local IT specialist on several
IT issues facing the country:

1. Allocation of RM29b for education. Hopefully,  this is spent wisely in
ICT training in the schools, universities and colleges. More often than
not, the training in these schools do not prepare the student for proper
ICT literacy but instead are specific to products from a single company,
microsoft. As a result, we're utilizing government/taxpayer funds to
provide training services to a foreign MNC. Ideally the training should
be focussed on the utilization of software tools and be centred around
creating proper letters, documents, presentations and spreadsheet
calculations. This way the student will learn how to  use the software
productively instead of just user training on a specific product.

2. Expansion of the Malaysian Intellectual Property Office capacity. This
is the body which regulates patent approval in the country and is tied to
the software patent issue.  . Software patents are instruments which cover
abstract ideas and as a result many readily used concepts are patented by
large corporations and patent houses in order to prevent others from
performing any innovation in that area. A simple example is the
"one-click patent" from amazon.com where the company has patented the
CONCEPT of a single web click and as a result has locked out  others from
utilizing the same idea even though they may have independently come up
with the idea and independently written the software to implement it.

Software patents should not be confused with software copyrights which
exist today. Software copyrights have been used by all as adequate and
strong protection for software programs under WIPO and intellectual
property laws. Software copyrights protect the source code (i.e. the
blueprints) of a computer program and are the mainstay of software

Software patents go further than software copyrights in that they extend
the lock in to generic and abstract ideas. The risk in this is that due
to the frivolous nature of software patents, large MNCs who have a
portfolio of software patents can cripple the Malaysian software
industry. The only ones who would be able to survive in such a scenario
would be the MNCs themselves, leading to the dissolution of local
software companies and the goals of the MSC. Only nations with huge
patent portfolios will benefit like the US and the UK.

The European Parliament has voted to reject software patents for these

3. Extension of period to carry forward absorbed losses/capital allowance
during pioneer period (tax free period) of MSC companies is laudable and
will further increase the benefits of companies under the MSC. However
this initiative needs to be confined solely to local companies as they
are the ones who're being sidelined in the MSC push today.
Multinationals, including their Malaysian wholly owned subsidiaries,
should not be allowed to enjoy this benefit as it would be counter
productive to the government's aim to build a local technology-centric

4. Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation. Will this be the same as MDC ?
what are the key performance indicators for this corporation and what are
the checks and balances in the system? Will we see another MDC which
continues to give excuses 10 years after the MSC was conceptualized ?

5.Improvement of basic amenities including housing and transport at
cyberjaya is a good thing. A suggestion to increase frequency and
reliability of bus services within cyberjaya to the erl station at
putrajaya in order to make it easier for commuters should be a high

6. What exactly will the ICT Development Institute be doing which is
different from what is provided by our public and private universities?
Wouldnt it be better to concentrate on producing more quality graduates
and skillsets instead of having to set up another institute? Perhaps the
funds spent for the institute may be better spent on redefining the
curricula and teaching methodologies at our secondary schools and
universities instead.

I asked another Malaysian IT pioneer, Bala Pillai, who operates from
Australia, for his thoughts and assessment of the MSC and Malaysia’s IT
plans and ambitions.

He gave a response which is so unconventional but original that I think it
deserves the serious consideration of MPs and policy makers if we are
serious in wanting to propel Malaysia into  an information society,
knowledge economy and  IT superpower.

He encapsulated his thoughts with the title “Problems = Opportunities and
No Problems = No Opportunities”.
This is what he has to say:

“The harder a problem, the greater the reward, the lesser the competition,
and the more uncertain resourcing is.

“The corollary, the easier a problem, the lesser the reward, the greater
the competition, and the more certain resourcing is.

“Low Hanging fruits lie in the sweetspot between ‘not too easy a problem
such that competition makes the rewards so unworthwhile’ and ‘not too
hard a problem such that resourcing is so uncertain’.

“Let us talk about the Low Hanging Fruits for Malaysia in ICT.

“But first let's remind ourselves of the bigger picture.  The Malay
Archipelago was a producer of quantum inventions up to about a thousand
years ago. In fact, up to then, Southeast Asia together with China and
India produced nearly every quantum invention in the world.

“By quantum invention, I mean a significant leap in order of
problem-solving from cave man days up to now. Examples being taming of
fire, domestication of rice and pepper, invention of paper, wheel,
gunpowder, Minangkabau architecture, urban social systems, ocean-going
vessels to Madagascar, printing press, electricity, TV, credit cards, the
Internet – you get the picture.

“What happened? Why did we stop producing these quantum inventions and
their near cousins?

“The government should  engage the deepest and broadest thinkers available
to narrow down the likely causes for this turn of events. Like thousands
of streams flow into tributaries which flow into a few rivers onto the
ocean, let's converge into a few clear schools of thought on why we
stopped producing quantum inventions.

“It is because of a switch from objective perception to subjective
perception. A switch from expecting our world to be roses, thorns and
in-betweens and finding it to be such to expecting our world to be roses
and thus trained to spot thorns. When we all become thorn spotters, in
time it becomes uncomfortable to spot our own thorns. In time, this
breeds greater amounts of disagreements. These disagreements drastically
reduce the social and trust capital that is required for inventiveness.

“If we want a proper solution rather than a quick-fix, we should address
this underlying mental soil issue. Average seeds sown on great soil will
grow but great seeds sown on stone won't. We have to find the inner
strength to ask the tough questions, knowing full well that as painful as
this might be, NOT asking these questions will have even more painful

“In determining Low Hanging Fruits, we would look at our strengths. Let me
point towards some less emphasized aspects

1)   Around 1400 AD, Malaysia or Malacca was the happening place in the
world. The most adventurous brains, Arabs, Indians, Chinese wanted to be
here. In global adventurousness terms, the Spice Trade and Malacca then
was what Silicon Valley and ICT  today is. Even Christopher Columbus if
he had not lost his way, in his pursuit of spices might have ended up
Question: We didn't give any tax credits and yet they came like bees to
honey. How come? I will not answer this, I would like you to reflect on
it. I would like you to reflect on the energy that made us such an
exciting buzz. And which attracted the best self-starters here and
self-starters overseas with fires in their belly to make the world

2)	As the giants India and China rise up, today we are presented with
another opportunity. Like that piece of sand in an oyster, without which
a pearl cannot form, we can be the catalysts for India and China to rise
levels above or faster in their ICT in social entrepreneurship aims.
“Some areas we can consider focusing on are:-

  a)   Microentrepreneur ecosystems – make it much easier for an eager
Instant Messaging using high school student to step that adaptiveness
towards online or Skype or convergence facilitated self-employment.
Knowledge workers.

b)   China and India have a large swell of people who want to be their own
boss. It is as if on a personal level, many want to go back to how things
were a 100 years ago when nearly all of us were self-employed. Let's
consider leading this for ourselves, China and India. For example,
organize frameworks and structures for tele-entrepreneur franchisees to
inhabit, grow and thrive.

c)   India is well known for its movie industry and the Tamil and Hindi
movie industries magnets of attention amongst our citizens. Many would
love the chance to be models, actors, script-writers, producers. The
weakness of these industries are in the capital raising, investments
unitizing and distribution sides. The US has come a long way in
organizing this. Let's flow US expertise with the passion of our
entrepreneurs to streamline these aspects of these industries. In this
ecosystem deepening process, the Malay movie industry will also benefit.

d)	The biggest opportunity in Asia today is in Change Management in the
many forms it takes. For example in identifying the best bang for the
buck in change management. In making change fun. In accrediting trainers.
I urge in depth look into these problem and opportunity areas.”
I commend these and other  thoughts of Pillai to MPs.

-Lim Kit Siang

This e-mail has been sent via JARING webmail at http://www.jaring.my

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