(Klang, Thursday): Yesterday, in answer to my question in Parliament, the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding, said that as of 1st March 1997, there are 80,927 Internet subscribers in Malaysia, made up of 55,472 with Jaring and 25,455 with TMnet.
This is a major shortfall from earlier forecast of the growth of Internet subscribers in Malaysia. As recent as April last year, a top government official had estimated that at the then rate of growth of Jaring subscribers, there would be 150,000 Internet subscribers by the end of 1996 and that the total would touch 500,000 by the end of 1997.
However, at the end of 1996, the total number of Internet subscribers did not reach 150,000 as forecast in April last year, but only 65,097, made up of 51,329 with Jaring and 13,768 with TMnet.
The actual total number of Internet subscribers is less than 65,097, as there are Jaring subscribers who also register with TMnet. There had been several reasons for this drastic shortfall in the rate of increase of Internet subscribers, the chief of which was the severe hike in telephone rates.
In my parliamentary question, I had also asked whether the government plans to launch a nation-wide campaign to achieve a higher Internet take-up rate in the country to prepare Malaysians to face the Information Era in the new millennium. In his reply, the Minister said that a major campaign would be launched in May to encourage Malaysians to hook up to the Internet once the installation of the 45 mbps leaseline between Malaysia and America has been finalised.
I would call on Minister for Science, Technology and Environment to involve all sectors of the population in a nation-wide drive to popularise Internet and Information Technology to achieve the objective of "IT For All" to convince Malaysians of all ages that computers are nothing to be afraid of and to remove the social, educational and psychological barriers to people who would like to know more about using the information technologies.
This nation-wide drive should have as a second limb the mottor of "One Family, One Computer" so that Malaysians - whether adult or child - could use the latest information technology to develop their potential and enhance their lives and where businesses - large and small - could seize the opportunities offered by the latest technologies.
I would seriously urge the nation-wide drive to encourage a higher Internet uptake among Malaysians to set the target of achieving 300,000 Internet subscribers by the end of 1997 - which is still far short of the previous estimate of 500,000 Internet subscribers only 12 months ago.
I would propose that the multi-party Parliamentary IT Committee, which was formed recently, be fully involved in the nation-wide campaign to popularise the IT and Internet access by Malaysians.