DAP supports Multimedia Super Corridor but wants assurance that the national IT strategy would be people-centred rather than MSC-centred

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The announcement by the Barisan Nasional Secretary-General and Information Minister, Datuk Mohamad Rahmat on Wednesday that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad would give a special briefing on the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) to four groups of people on March 11, namely members of supreme councils of Barisan Nasional component parties, Senators, Members of Parliament and Barisan Nasional State Assemblymen is both heartening and disheartening news.

It is heartening news because it is a recognition of the importance of getting the support of opinion leaders at various level of society to support the country’s effort at a quantum leap into the Information Age.

But it is also disappointing because such recognition came so late and even now, is confined to such restricted circles as the four groups mentioned, when a full national campaign to secure the understanding and support of all opinion-makers in all strata of society should have been in full swing.

It is not only all political leaders, MPs and Assemblymen, regardless of political party, but also Malaysians as a whole who are entitled to the fullest briefing about the Multimedia Super Corridor as well as the government plans for the country to make the quantum leap into the information era.

If the Prime Minister’s television interview at the end of last month is any guide, it is likely that Mahathir’s special briefing to Barisan Nasional supreme council members, MPs and Assemblymen would be focussing on why Malaysia should join the race into the Information Age rather than on the Multimedia Super Corridor.

The DAP supports the concept of the Multimedia Super Corridor to make Malaysia an international Information Technology (IT) hub in the new millennium so that the country can benefit from the latest cutting-edge information and communications technologies but we want an assurance that the national IT strategy would be people-centred rather than MSC-centred

This is because a MSC-centred National IT strategy might not serve the interests of all Malaysians and is likely to create a new disparity of information-rich and information-poor among the people as well as the regions, while a people-centred National IT strategy would ensure that the MSC is part of a balanced development of the information infrastructures in the country benefitting all Malaysians.

A MSC-centred National IT strategy, for instance, would give priority to attracting the best knowledge workers from all over the world, while a people-centred National IT strategy would give the greatest priority to raise a high IT literacy rate across all sectors of the population and create a pool of highly trained IT professionals among Malaysians.

The Multimedia Development Corporation homepage promised to allow leading multimedia/IT companies the opportunity to participate in the shaping of the cyberlaws in the country, and that “the laws that will be enforced will make Malaysia the regional leader in intellectual property protection and free information exchange”.

It is not known whether the proposed cyberlaws to be presented to Parliament later this month have been circulated to the leading multimedia/IT companies in the world to involve them in a process of consultation, but a people-centred National IT strategy would have ensured that there would be the fullest participation by Malaysians at all levels of the formulation of Malaysia’s first cyberlaws. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as Members of Parliament who are expected to legislate the cyberlaws in the coming Parliamentary meeting have not seen the bills yet.

With the advent of the information age, the government should be prepared to adopt new ways of doing things. For a start, it should post the proposed cyberbills on the Internet and give at least one month to welcome feedbacks, reactions and discussions on the Internet


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong