Topic : The importance of ICT for Development to my country’s future
In the technology era, as Internet and computers have continued transforming the economy and society, the role of ICT in fostering development is generally getting recognized. In my opinion, ICT is not just the sector for social and economic development but instead is a powerful tool for enhancing people’s basic needs as well as enriching the lives of the poor. While issues of access and the adoption of new ICTs tend to revolve around utopian themes of empowerment and the development potential of ICT, it has also raised the accompanying issue of digital divide and the challenges for developing countries to participate in the global information society.
Malaysia is a newly industrialized country (NIC) that is aiming to bridge the digital divide and be globally competitive. Malaysia has taken a pro-active approach to close the issue of digital divide. It is clearly stated in the 8th and 9th Malaysia plans. The country represents a combination of both ICT as a means to address wider development goals and an opportunity to improve its economic positioning. ICT has grown substantially in Malaysia contributing a gross revenue of RM19 billion to the economy according to a survey made. ICT has been embodied in Government policy since 1991 with the introduction of Vision 2020 in which ICT was prioritized as a key enabler for Malaysia to reach developed- nation status. This is shown through such initiatives such as the Malaysian Smart School Project and Telehealth Flagship Application. As Vision 2020 envisions Malaysians as both contributors and beneficiaries of an increasingly global and knowledge-based economy, Government programmes with an emphasis on inclusion and access have been administered nationwide.
Harnessing the power of ICT will contribute substantially to realizing the international development goals stated at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In conjunction with WSIS in Geneva this year, the focus of the Summit is placed on ICT4D. In my opinion, ICTs are important in developing Malaysia’s economics, serving as a platform to exchange data and information and act as a catalyst as an enabler to development. Recent developments in technologies, lower costs, greater network availability all strengthen the role of ICT for development.
Digital technology affects the lives of an increasing number of people. Due to the uneven development in Malaysia, some areas are underdeveloped especially the rural areas such as the states Kelantan and Terengganu. Most rural areas in Malaysia have had traditional agro-economies and little development in terms of ICT industries. Moreover the lack of infrastructure creates causes for other problems such as bad telecommunication and illiteracy among the people. Else, ICT benefits the economic sector, indirectly creating more job opportunities in the traditional sectors, such as farming and fishing. Community kiosks in the rural areas have been established under programmes like Rural Internet Center or else known as ‘Internet Desa’. Various plans have been initiated to enable Malaysia's growth into a knowledge society such as NITA '96. Regional development has also been promoted and the government had decided to grant more funds for ICT development according to the 9th Malaysia plan.
Farmers in the rural areas have long suffered poverty due to lack of market price information. They are also unable to get the best value for their produce and rely on traders. Information dissemination is a fundamental element as rural areas are often characterized as information-poor. Community Informatics views ICT as a means to empower individuals and communities in rural communities through better access to information and knowledge. This information-based approach can provide benefits not only in accessing information on agricultural practices, crop prices, weather conditions and animal husbandry, but also improve access to educational and health resources. Adopting ICT could increase access to market information and lower transaction costs for poor farmers by providing transparent and timely market information to both buyers and sellers to enhance efficiencies in the agricultural market. Farmers would also able to obtain competitive prices which should result in a higher income therefore a direct poverty alleviation impact. A project case would be Malaysia’s Mobile Internet Unit (MIU).
ICT also plays an important role in the education sector. The growing economy created demand for skilled workers and professionals which is still in short supply. Through ICT-enhanced and distance training of teachers, the number of trained teachers will increase. Moreover, by integrating ICT training into curriculum will provide students the basic knowledge of ICT. The Computer In Education (CIE) Program has provided computer laboratories to 90 secondary schools and 20 primary schools. More than a 1000 teachers are trained to conduct the CIE course. Continuous ICT training can make an essential contribution to. ICT also empowers teachers at the local level and broaden the availability of quality educational materials and resources that will certainly improve the quality of education in Malaysia. This train students to be more creative and innovative which is one of the trait needed in our country’s future leaders. Besides, the use of ICTs to provide schooling and training could be done outside school using the technology such as radio broadcasting.
The promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women are pledged as one of eight areas essential for sustainable human development under the United Nation Millennium Development. ICT for human development is also matched by the growing recognition to reinforce and mainstream gender issues to ensure that women, particularly in developing countries, do not encounter a double divide. Women form the majority of the poor, have less access to basic resources, are economically disadvantaged and experience gender discrimination. ICT works here to improve the ability of women to use and access ICT through several existing women’s organizations in various communities. The women trained will no longer require support, as they have used their newly acquired skills to increase their incomes. The roles of women in Malaysia is changing. Many are now working women and contributes to the development of our country. This can be done through ICT by delivering educational and literacy programs specifically targeted to poor girls and women using the appropriate technologies. Else, vocational and schooling programs could be targeted at girls outside traditional school environment using community centers such as villages and telecenters.
In Malaysia, the rate of child and maternal mortality is also growing at a rapid rate. ICT plays an important role here by increasing monitoring and information sharing on disease and famine. People will have greater access to these information through locally appropriate content in local languages. Other than that, ICT also enhance the delivery of basic and in-service training for health workers. Percentage are greater in the rural areas and could be controlled through remote diagnosis. Malaysia is also involved in the event of HIV/AIDS. The number of HIV carriers have increased in the past few years and the death rates due to HIV are increasing. Again, ICT plays a role in increasing monitoring and information-sharing on the disease.
There exists several international organization which purposes is to monitor the countries trading globally. In accordance to the 8# MDG, developing a global partnership immense challenge to the leaders around the world. In the exception of technology, countries leader will find the task more challenging. Malaysia is in the progress of developing global trade and partnership will indeed no doubt creates more opportunities both economically and socially. Here, ICT is used for information sharing, having discussion groups through the access of specialized databases. Else, ICT could deal comprehensively with the debt problems in Malaysia either through national or international measure in order to make debt sustainable in the long term. Malaysia’s increasing positively grasp in the world’s ICT also benefit its local entrepreneurs and the SMEs (small and medium enterprises). The SMEs are the main driver for our country’s economic growth. SMEs adopting ICT brings enormous benefits both to create business opportunities and combat pressures from competition. It can help firms to communicate faster and cheaper, increases productivity and save costs. Deploying ICT in public-private partnerships could be promoted. The low and high technology are combined to achieve relative ubiquity of access to effective and affordable ICT tools.
According to the studies made, they acknowledge the enormous gaps in data for emerging economies. What is perhaps the most valuable aspect to these works is that they represent a framework of statistical indicator that we are to work towards achieving to measure the impact of the ICT for our development efforts. I would not say that ICT will eliminate all the problems in the country but I would daresay that ICT will play the role of bringing our country closer to diminishing it. The government will continue to implement measures to ensure that Malaysia remains a choice destination for ICT-based investments.
TAN JIA HUEY Malaysian Awardee
International Student Exchange Programme
Between the Republic of Korea and ASEAN Members 2008