Lim: National fiberisation plan needs RM21.6b investment

by NG MIN SHEN/ pic by HUSSEIN SHAHARUDDIN

THE National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP), to be spearheaded by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, will require RM21.6 billion worth of investment from 2019 to 2023, said Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (picture).

He said a large portion of the NFCP investment would be funded by the Universal Service Provision fund and managed by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission while being funded by the private sector.

“This plan will further improve Internet speed in the country while preparing the economy for the implementation of 5G — the next generation of cellular network technology.

“To support the digitalisation of the economy and wider adoption of Industry Revolution 4.0 technology in our society, the government is providing the necessary digital infrastructure by preparing to spend RM4.2 billion to provide high-speed fibre optics to schools and selected industrial zones,” Lim said in his opening speech at the first Budget 2020 focus group meeting in Cyberjaya recently.

NFCP is designed to improve broadband quality and coverage, reduce broadband prices and increase high-quality Internet penetration throughout Malaysia.

Citing World Bank data, Lim said average prices for basic local broadband services with speeds of 30Mbps fell by about 30% in 2018, while the average prices of 1Gbps plans decreased by 40% due to the mandatory standard on access pricing.

With more affordable broadband, the number of fixed broadband subscriptions with 100Mbps speeds in the country has grown by a factor of eight to 1.2 million subscribers as at end2018.

“Having said that, the penetration rate is still low in rural areas and there is still some way to go in making broadband services accessible to all Malaysians,” Lim said.

In terms of developing the country’s digital economy, the challenge lies in bringing home local talents who are now based overseas, as well as retaining the talent still present in the country.

There is also the need to up-skill local workers and equip them with new skills, like coding, to keep them relevant in the labour force, particularly when jobs are at risk of being eliminated through automation.

“Our digital economy has to open up, so that we can have a level-playing field where the big players are not the only ones reaping the benefits of a digital economy.

“We need to find a happy medium to allow both big foreign firms and smaller domestic companies to co-exist, collaborate and thrive,” Lim said.

Between 2010 and 2016, the Malaysian digital economy outpaced GDP growth with a 9% expansion. The digital economy is expected to form 20% of the economy by 2020 from about 18% in 2017.

At the same time, digital inequality among Malaysians is a problem as there are those who are too poor to even own a smartphone, and thus lack access to digital services or digital payment methods.

The government is currently organising a series of focus group discussions to obtain views and recommendations for Budget 2020, which will be tabled on Oct 11, 2019.