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ICT as the key to a nation's development
In late February 1991, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, then Prime Minister and Chairman of the Malaysian Business Council (MBC), delivered a speech to the MBC's inaugural meeting that became known as Wawasan 2020 (Vision 2020). This was the seed for an impressive project to transform Malaysia into a 'developed' and post-industrial knowledge society by the year 2020.

Headed by former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir, the National Information Technology Council (NITC) was established in 1994, bringing together government officials and Malaysian corporate leaders to formulate and implement the national IT strategy. Malaysia was one of the pioneers among Asian countries to establish a new federal ministry, the Ministry of Energy, Communications and Multimedia. The main function of this Ministry is to spearhead and promote the growth of information and communication technology (ICT) with the support of several agencies, including the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (or MCMC) established in 1998. In April 2009 this Ministry was renamed to Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KTTHA).

Today communication technologies are at the center of the Government's growth strategy. In Malaysia, ICT is promoted to the public through extensive media reports in news papers and on national television, continuously informing the public of new technological developments nationally and world wide. Without doubt it will strike foreigners to notice the prominence given to ICT in Malaysian media.

The rise of a Technopole
The Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) is both a physical area and a paradigm for creating value in the Information Age. Physically, MSC Phase 1 is an area of 15 kilometres wide and 50 kilometres long; about the size of Singapore. Its development started in 1995 on the former plantation land south of Kuala Lumpur. Today a fully-equipped keycenter has emerged, bringing together institutions, labour and finance to generate the basic materials of an information economy. At the heart of it lies Putrajaya, Malaysia's Government administration capital. The private sector part of MSC Phase 1, also known as Cyberjaya, is promoted as an experiment in eco-friendly living, based on "harmony between man, the environment and technology". MSC Phase 2 started in 2004 and includes areas in Penang Island and Kulim, at the northern part of Malaysia.

The MSC is South-East Asia's number one ICT hub and promoted by its government as Malaysia's 'gift to the world'. Moreover, Cyberjaya is being developed as a self-sustaining cosmopolitan city. Upon completion, there will be 120,000 residents and 28,000 houses and apartments. As of January 2003, about 50% of the companies situated in Cyberjaya are foreign based companies, while the additional 50% are made up of local companies, posing an increasing participation in the ICT sector. Malaysia generates over 40,000 ICT and computer engineering graduates every year.

Organizing the MSC
The National Information Technology Agenda (NITA), launched in 1996 by the NITC, provides the foundation and framework for the utilisation of ICT in consistence with Vision 2020. One of the NITC initiatives is the Demonstrator Application program (DA) which focuses on the creation of interactive clusters and e-communities, mainly covering the public sector and joint-ventures between public, private and community-based organisations.

Another influential organisation is the International Advisory Panel (IAP) on the MSC, made up primarily of presidents and CEOs of the world's largest IT companies - including Sun, Microsoft, IBM, Netscape, NTT. This group, chaired by the Prime Minister, offers international firms direct input into the highest levels of decision-making on the MSC. Tun Dr. Mahathir holds an advisory position in the IAP.

The MSC is equipped with state of the art technologies to guarantee a highly reliable and fast Internet platform, connected to the nationwide fiber optic backbone. Thus enabling advanced services for company communication like video-conferencing and interactive 3D graphic presentations.

The MSC strives to enhance Malaysian society through its 'Flagship Applications'; a set of objectives, strongly tied to the ICT policy, to improve the Malaysian way of life. For example, part of the E-government Flagship Application is a nation-wide Human Resource system.

The development of Cyberjaya, and the MSC more generally, is governed by the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC): a government-owned corporation that has been established to manage and market the MSC. A number of associated organisations, including MDeC, the Ministry of Energy, Communications & Multimedia and the Communications & Multimedia Commission (CMC) have been engaged in promoting the MSC.

Penang: 'Silicon Island'
Penang is the first state in Malaysia to be officially granted the Cybercity status. Penang is Malaysia's richest state and inhabits approximately 2,5 million people. It is divided into two geographical areas: island and mainland. With 2,031.74 people per square kilometer on the island it has the highest population density in Malaysia. Its diverse ethnic population consists of Chinese (42%), Malay (42%), Indian (10%) and others (8%).

The Penang mainland is home to the Perai Industrial Zone where IT companies like Intel, HP, Seagate reside. As well as Dell's Asia Pacific Customer Center, which forms the heart of Dell's Asia-Pacific/Japan operations since 1995. The presence of a growing IT industry guarantees a steady knowledge-worker source.

Penang Island, or Pulau Pinang in Malay, serves Phase 2 of the MSC. Because of its modern infrastructural facilities and its complementary relation to Cyberjaya (Phase 1), Penang Island is also known as 'Silicon Island'. In addition, Penang Island is home to University of Science Malaysia (USM), which was granted the APEX status in 2008. Historically the center of banking of Malaysia, Penang is still a banking hub today with international branches like ABN-AMRO (since 1888) and HSBC (since 1885), Citibank and United Overseas Bank. However, to many people Penang Island continues to be famous primarily for its ranking in the top ten of the world's most beautiful islands and for its city Georgetown being listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. By maintaining its rich cultural heritage and natural beauty as the 'Pearl of the Orient', the island succesfully represents a very interesting amalgam of the 'old' and the 'new'.

Towards the future
During the past years Dr. Mahathir has been increasingly emphasizing the importance of local companies as investors to Malaysia's economy. On 22 April 2010, after a public lecture entitled Beyond Vision 2020 at Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP), dr. Mahathir told reporters: "This country grew on the basis of foreign direct investments (FDIs) but we cannot expect any more FDIs simply because we have become a higher cost country". He said Malaysia needs to change its course and adopt new strategies, for example to retain local investors and to further enhance the education system.

Web addresses of interest
Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC)
Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC)
Setia Haruman Sdn Bhd (Cyberjaya Flagship Zone developer)
Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC)
Putrajaya official website
Putrajaya
National Information Techonology Council (NITC)
Penang and the MSC
University of Science Malaysia (USM)

The Honourable Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KTTHA)
Ministry of Science, Technology & Information (MOSTI)

1Malaysia, Malaysian Prime Minister's blog
Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad's blog
Penang in Wikipedia
Penang Tourist Information



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