Malaysia reforms via the Internet & bridging the digital divide
As a Malaysian growing up & living in Kuala Lumpur, East Malaysia was always just further away and a place where you didn’t quite visit. It always seemed mystical to me. I met children of timber tycoons in Melbourne making me curious of the land. Finally, it was a book I read which talked about midin in Borneo that made me want to visit Sarawak in 2006.
Sarawak is a beautiful place (as is Sabah which I saw a little later). It was however nothing like KL, despite being a rich state. For a city slicker, this was rather eye-opening.
Today I saw the video Inside Malaysia’s Shadow State. If you are a Malaysian, I urge you to spend 20 minutes watching the video, then taking action (signing the petition, tweeting & posting it to your Facebook friends). Then share this.
First up, a big kudos to Global Witness. This kind of investigative undercover journalism shows that they have big goals.
Next, while the old man, Dr. Mahathir is mostly spewing garbage these days, we have to thank him for one thing: the promise of no Internet censorship that he made in 1996 when he launched the MSC Malaysia initiative. It only took three years before Malaysiakini started, thus having a pretty good run on press freedom. By 2008, this stuff got more mainstream with the launch of the free Malaysian Insider.
Social media is big these days. People talk to more people & have touch points with more people.
One thing that is clear about the video that stood out to me is how the poor are exploited. They lack information. They lack access to knowing their rights. They are fed with propaganda and are expected to be happy. They are affected by the digital divide, that needs to be bridged.
Overall, I’m quite excited about people getting connected to the Internet. Malaysia nearly has 29 million people, however statistics suggest:
- 1.7 million DSL connections exist as of June 2012 (source) [or maybe its 2 million from this source]
- 16.9 million Internet users (source) as of early 2010 (though I believe this statistic includes Internet users via mobile broadband, cell phones & possibly dial-up)
- 17.5 million Internet users as of 2011 (source)
- 30.4 million cell phones (yes, people have more than one)
- 7.4 million 3G subscribers (likely to increase with smartphone rebates)
From what I can tell, that’s a huge population that needs to get connected. Connections are just pipes that allow free-flow of information.
The next thing to focus on: getting information out to citizens. Keeping them informed. Allowing them to make informed decisions.
Overall, Malaysia is going to change. It is an interesting system to watch as the Internet becomes more pervasive and the digital divide is bridged. The system is headed for a reboot.