The Internet World '96 7 March 1996

The Internet offers us an excellent opportunity to share information in hitherto unknown ways, traditional modes being dramatically replaced by the new technology. Indeed, the Internet is offering us a new paradigm that derives its strength from an unconventional source: information.

As information is a significant factor in a functioning democracy, its spread and accessibility is important for the survival of democratic institutions in any society. It is, therefore, in the interest of democratic tradition in Malaysia that we uphold and promote instruments of freedom and democracy. The Internet is one such instrument.

The Internet is unique in its interplay of technology and social transformation. From its role as the conventional news media through personal publishing to multimedia products, it makes access to information extremely efficient and instantaneous. This globalization of information is fundamental to the process of empowerment, a prelude to the democratic expression.

The economic dimension of the Internet is all the more important given the vibrant economies of the Asian countries. It is not only the ideological empowerment that lurks behind but the economic choice that makes the Internet a powerful tool in the hands of the masses. The combined force of globalization, instantaneity and freedom calls for innovative trade practices in a virtually unlimited market. In the Asian context, the competitive edge will be a function of the information edge. Thus, Net literacy would define the course of our economic and financial growth and sustainability. For this reason, our corporate world must rise to the occasion in getting, as the say, "wired" to the Net.

It must be emphasized that getting wired is not a pastime and should not be treated as a fad. In the case of the Internet, there is a lot to be learnt and exploited because not only it is a new tool of communication but that it is also going to be the dominant mode of learning across the world. Just like the movable type machine Gutenberg press changed the European society forever, the Internet is going to bring the global society to a new threshold of knowing and interacting.

The interactive value of the Internet has raised some concerns. We have been alerted about the issues of privacy and individual freedom. These are genuine problems and we must find a collective solution. However, censoring the Internet is not the solution. Simply closing our doors will not only hurt us but push us back in the race for growth and prosperity. Let us not forget that an informed citizenry is also a responsible citizenry. We should, therefore, utilize the Internet to reinforce social responsibility among citizens.

The Internet is projected to grow exponentially. For mass utilization of this resource certain infrastructure has to be in place, such as appropriate telecommunication linkages, hardware and software. In Malaysia, the government encourages the use of equipment that facilitates such networking and provides easy and economical access to the Internet. Since the last year or so, we are witnessing the participation of more and more individuals. However, we would like these numbers to grow particularly among educational and corporate sectors.

The Internet provides a splendid opportunity for us to work for innovative techniques of learning and teaching, and could become an integral part of our school and college curricula, equipping our students to master the latest technology while learning the essentials of their education.

Given a myriad of functions the Internet can perform in our society, from personal communication through economic progress and educational development we must prepare ourselves to become proficient in the use of this technology. At the same time, we should encourage our netizens to make positive contributions to this great global resource of knowledge and technique.

It is the government's clear commitment to support the growth of the Internet in Malaysia and to ensure equitable and affordable access by all the population of Malaysia irrespective of where they live. MIMOS has already started working to expand the coverage of JARING - which is the Internet backbone in Malaysia, to enable access through local calls by mid 1997. This means that all people with telephone sets can access Internet at the same cost.

Our international connectivity will also continuously be expanded. I understand that MIMOS has just commissioned the second line at a speed of 2 megabits per second only last week and this line will be upgraded to a much higher speed, possibly at 45 megabits per second to cater for future growth. As it is today, our national Internet infrastructure geographical coverage is the biggest in this region. A balanced approach has been taken to ensure access by individuals as well as corporate users. A single high speed national backbone Internet infrastructure (rather than a fragmented one) will enable us to leap-frog into the future multimedia based advanced applications. Obviously, the Internet will be the major communication infrastructure within the Multimedia Super-Corridor (MSC) which is currently being implemented. It is our vision to make the MSC a major multimedia communication hub for the world.

Let me assure the business community that the government will continue to strongly support the development of telecommunication and the Internet infrastructure to facilitate more efficient and cost effective business transactions. We have chosen the Multimedia Super Corridor as a starting point to create a modern business environment which will be expanded to other parts of the country.

The information content within the Internet today is very much dominated by western culture and values. I believe that the Internet can be a very strong threat to our own culture, values and business systems. Nevertheless at the same time, the Internet can be regarded as a powerful tool to project our own culture and values to the global community as well as to expand our business reach. The choice is ours.

We must remember that the critical success factors in the new global competition is the information contents and human creativity. By the nature of Internet, there is no single point of control of what can be done and what should not be done. It is through this foundation that new ideas and technologies were created on the Internet which fuelled its own growth. New ways of thinking and doing things were initiated through discussion and information on the Internet. The physical access to the Internet can and should be taken for granted. It is quite easy to lay the cables and work out their costs. However, without a proper strategy to develop the contents, we will remain as mere users and our minds will be dominated by foreign values. It is based on this argument that we want to use the Internet as a tool to create more creative people. This is being done by expanding Internet coverage and making it affordable to the whole population. On this note, I now declare INTERNET WORLD '96 open.

Thank you.