(Penang, Saturday):Recently, the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat announced that his Ministry was looking into the matter of issuing licences to Internet subscribers and those with home pages so that the government can have better control on the materials that appear in the Net.
This is the latest example that while the whole country has been exhorted to have a new mindset to take the quantum leap into the Information Age, some of the national leaders are still mired in the pre-IT past.
The worst example is the Information Minister, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat who does not seem to know that he is presiding over one of the most important and strategic ministries if Malaysia is to make the quantum leap into the Information Age and must set the example for the entire government to be more open to ideas and not operate as a closed system.
With his latest pronouncement, Mohamed Rahmat has again demonstrated that he is completely unsuitable to be Information Minister for a country aiming to promote the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and transform Malaysia into an Information Technology power and become an international IT hub, as he also shows his ignorance about Information Technology.
May be, Malaysia can "export" Mohamed Rahmat to countries like Vietnam or Burma which regard IT as an enemy of mankind which should be strictly regulated and where having a fax is a criminal offence.
The cabinet should honour the Bill of Guarantees for the Multimedia Super Corridor - one of which is that there would be no Internet censorship - and declare that there would be no licensing for Internet subscribers and those with homepages as suggested by the Information Minister
At this stage, Malaysia needs an Information Minister who is fully committed to the promotion of IT-consciousness, IT-literacy and IT-fluency among the Malaysian people instead of wondering how to find new ways to impose censorship and introduce new regulations on the Internet.
We want an Information Minister who is prepared to spearhead a "IT For All" nation-wide campaign to popularise IT-literacy, accompanied by a "One Family, One Computer" programme, to educate the people that IT and 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.
The Government should adopt "IT For All" as a national motto and make it the thrust of a national campaign to ensure that every individual - every adult and every student - would be confident in using the latest technology to develop his or her potential and enhance their lives and that all our businesses - large or small - would be in a position to seize the opportunities offered by the latest technology and make it work for them.
National, state, district and local "IT For All" committees should be set up with round-the-year programmes to popularise the IT awareness and use among Malaysians.
An important plank of this nation-wide "IT For All" campaign is to raise the Internet take-up rate of Malaysians, so that Malaysia could be one of the top nations in the world in terms of per capita connection to the Internet. In the United States, which already dominates in having about two-thirds of the world’s internet users, there is a public education campaign involving the US Government to urge Americans to "Get Connected to the Information Age"!
It is a matter of grave concern that the number of Internet subscribers to Jaring have plummeted from a 22 per cent growth a month to some five per cent growth a month.
As a result, there is going to be a great shortfall from an earlier MIMOS estimate that Malaysia would have 150,000 Internet subscribers by the end of 1996 and 500,000 Internet subscribers by the end of this year - as the present estimate for the number of Internet users in Malaysia is only in the region of 80,000 subscribers.
I would seriously urge a 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 14 months ago.
The DAP has been making its contribution to the development of an Information Society by increasing public participation and raising IT-consciousness among the people. This book, "IT For All" is part of the DAP’s on-going contribution to leapfrog Malaysia into the Digital Era.