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Malaysian Minister of Communication & Multimedia Ahmad Shabery Cheek on Malaysia’s ICT sector
To what extent does ICT contribute to Malaysian GDP?
CHEEK: Right now, we can say the ICT related economy contributes about 10% - 12% of our GDP, but we are not really happy with that. We are pushing so that the ICT related economy should be able to contribute about 17% to the Malaysian economy by 2020.
What are the priorities of Malaysia's Ministry of Communication & Multimedia?
CHEEK: ICT will definitely ease business and make government more efficient. Of course, we also plan for the future. ICT will make Malaysia greener if people are traveling less, using their vehicles less, and so on. You talk about different uses of ICT in the era of the Internet of things, where people are using ICT in various parts of their way of life with all devices, all connected to the Internet. Right now, education is one of the biggest agendas, and using ICT as a part of education as a tool at all levels. I'm talking from kindergarten to the specialty education and so on. It is in health, in transportation, a bit about entertainment, and of course looking for information and so on. That's where ICT is going to encompass all walks of life.
What are the biggest challenges facing Malaysia’s ICT industry?
CHEEK: I think there are two areas that we are really concerned with. One, Internet infrastructure needs to be connected. We talked about coverage; we talked about penetration. That's something that we are already quite proud of. In terms of penetration, you talk about broadband, it's about 64%. You talk about more mobile penetration, it's more than 140% of the total population and so on. But we have to go more than that, having connected without real capacity, at the most speed and so on, that's going to be something that will be quite a challenge in the future. People need more data and you talk about the data traffic getting bigger and bigger. That is something that we have to handle. Of course you talk about content. You talk about using ICT for business. You talk about ICT services. You talk about content, mobile applications, animation, and so on. How you move the content, you develop the content, and you talk about how Malaysia can be a country that can be the center that produces content that people want it to be. That's also the thing that we have to look at into the future.
Where do you see opportunity for investment in Malaysia’s ICT sector?
CHEEK: Well, infrastructure is one. You talk about the program for the high-speed broadband. We work together, government as well as private sector, because we know that the challenge that we are facing right now is to meet the data demand. It's not only connected to voice alone, but data demand is going to be challenging in the future. The government has put in a lot of money. Now we know that is not enough, and we have to put in more money. Malaysia is a very vast country and some areas are quite sparsely populated, but we know that the concept of ICT has to be ICT for all, not only among the privileged or those people living in the urban areas.
This pavilion is a manifestation that we thought of that. It indicates you don't have to move to the urban area to improve your living or to have a better income and so on. When ICT comes to you, the broadband comes to you, the infrastructure comes to you, you can be where you are and you still can improve. The next thing is about educating people to improve their capacity and ability to use ICT. That's what many people say, that ICT is not to be connected, but how it is going to be functioning, functioning in a way where it can be useful for the people to sell their products, to get other people to come in and to know their places, and so on. These are the things that we have to improve; internet training and capacity building to improve the ability to use whatever there is in the ICT world.
What are your personal goals as Minister?
CHEEK: Digitization is a big thing. You talk about the digital economy in our walk of life. It's a big thing, and as more people get access to it, it's having a bigger role. Still, there are some gaps between the haves and have-nots, the rural and the urban, and so on. The agenda for me is to narrow the gaps. I'm talking about meeting the data demand. Of course, you talk about how to restructure the whole government in the future, because so far we talk about handling ICT. It's no longer about the role of the Ministry of ICT alone. It has to be encompassing other government agencies, government functionary, and so on, that we have to work together. We have to be a part of the whole program for ICT development in the future. These are the things that we have to really sit down and look into.
How successful has ITU Telecom World been for you?
CHEEK: I'm amazed with the congregation of people from different levels and from all walks of life; from different countries and so on, because ICT is about how to get the world connected, how to get you connected to the world to become one global citizen. There are a lot of issues that have to be resolved among member states of different backgrounds and so on. You talk about the problems, the challenges among the small islands in the Pacific for instance, the challenges that have to be faced by a country that has many remote areas where they don’t have the access to the best infrastructure and so on. It's not an easy thing to have it and ICT comes to provide the solution to many of the problems.