Ministry to decide on 1BestariNet next month

By P PREM KUMAR & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic By TMR

The government will decide next month to whether renew or cease the 1BestariNet project awarded to YTL Corp Bhd’s unit YTL Communications Sdn Bhd.

A wholesome review by relevant authorities is currently underway with a conclusion slated to be presented in January 2019, Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik (picture) told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

He said the ministry is currently studying the effectiveness of 1BestariNet project, and the need for bandwidth in schools in the future.

“The conclusion of the review will then determine the direction of the 1BestariNet project,” he said, responding to a query from Rompin MP Datuk Seri Hasan Arifin on the rate of Internet access made possible by the programme.

Maszlee said the review was originally headed by national technology research centre Mimos Bhd, however, now handed over to a third party committee comprising experts from Universiti Teknologi Mara and other higher learning institution.

“We currently have an initial report done by Mimos that has been submitted to the committee, which will conclude its findings by end January next year,” Maszlee said.

“The final report will be presented to stakeholders and utilised to craft a plan to implement a more innovative teaching and learning by integrating suitable technology to boost its efficiency at schools,” he added.

Hasan claims that there are still many complaints made by the schools, especially in rural areas, which the Internet access under the RM4 billion project is not fully accessible.

Maszlee highlighted that the government is aware of the 1,578 schools that have been facing low Internet access problems, especially in rural and remote areas as they rely on very small aperture terminal or asymmetric digital subscriber line technology.

In total, Maszlee said there are 10,190 schools nationwide which had been provided with Internet access to ensure teaching and learning has improved with the application of information technology and communications, in line with the strides made in the 21st century.

“Out of that number, 9,786 or 96% of the schools — 6,684 rural and 3,102 urban — is covered by the 1BestariNet.

“The other 404 or 4% of schools are catered by other Internet service providers such as Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Maxis Bhd, Celcom Axiata Bhd, Digi.Com Bhd and Officeequip,” he added.

The 1BestariNet contract, a RM4 billion project over a span of 15 years by YTL Communications Sdn Bhd’s, will expire on June 30, 2019.

The project was to be implemented in phases for 15 years, aimed at transforming Malaysia’s education platform to bridge the digital divide between rural and urban students.

1BestariNet, initiated in 2011, was also aimed at providing high-speed 4G Internet access to schools.

In 2014, the Auditor-General’s Report highlighted that YTL Communications failed to fulfil contract obligations in the implementation of a sub contract worth RM663 million.

The report had revealed that only less than 5% of students nationwide used the facility and YTL Communications — owned by Tan Sri Francis Yeoh — delayed the installation of Internet connection to 4,176 locations between 12 and 439 days, with no time extension or fine levied by the Education Ministry.

The government had paid a total of RM530.3 million for 1BestariNet for the period of January to October 2018.

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