RM3.5b to enhance B40’s digital access through Jaringan Prihatin

Through the programme, BPR recipients can apply for rebates when purchasing a device or a year of data package

by AFIQ AZIZ / pic source: Ministry of Finance

THE government and 12 telecommunication companies are allocating a total of RM3.5 billion to ensure fair digital access for the Bottom 40 (B40) group through the Jaringan Prihatin initiative.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (picture; left) said the project is an initiative under Budget 2021 to assist 8.4 million Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) recipients have access to Internet data services or to purchase mobile devices.

Through the programme, BPR recipients can apply for rebates when purchasing a device or a year of data package.

Muhyiddin said the implementation of such an initiative is timely, as the Covid-19 pandemic has led to people working remotely from home, hence, boosting the need for Internet.

“During this period, the use of the Internet (worldwide) has increased by 70%, while the use of virtual platforms jumped 600%.

“This digital transformation has opened up a broader virtual interaction space with more inclusivity.

“However, it also raises the risk of inequality for those who are not connected digitally and the reality is, there are still isolated communities in our country which are being left out of the digitisation,” he said at the launch of the Jaringan Prihatin initiative in Putrajaya yesterday.

Muhyiddin said the government has pledged to enhance connectivity in Malaysia, in line with the United Nations’ proposition which aimed to increase connectivity level to 75%.

To achieve this, Malaysia aims for its broadband costs to not exceed 2% of gross national income (GNI) per capita monthly by 2025.

Under Jaringan Prihatin, eligible recipients can choose one of two benefits: A device package or a monthly data plan package.

Those with children under 18 years old will be entitled for a rebate of RM300 for a device purchase, or RM180 for a 12-month data package.

Those without children under 18 years old will be eligible for a rebate of RM180 either to buy a device or purchase a year of data package.

Jaringan Prihatin is a collaboration between the Ministry of Finance, the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, as well as 12 telco brands in Malaysia namely, Celcom, Digi, Maxis, Mcalls, redONE, speakOUT, Tune Talk, U Mobile, unifi Mobile, XOX Mobile, YES and Yoodo.

The programme was announced as part of the 2021 Budget with an original allocation of RM1.5 billion. Taking into account the number of B40 families with children, especially those still in school, RM500 million was added to this programme under the Strategic Programme to Empower the People and the Economy or Pemerkasa package announced in March. The telcos involved are offering additional benefits worth RM1.5 billion, bringing the total value to RM3.5 billion.

Muhyiddin also acknowledged that the lack of technological skills is still a barrier to increasing digitisation among the community.

According to a survey by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), only 50% of Malaysians currently have a standard digital skillset, while only 25% have advanced digital skills.

To overcome this, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the government has channelled various initiatives amounting to billions of ringgit to ensure SMEs’ adoption on digitisation remains intact with the nation’s development.

“The government, through MCMC, has also built 910 Internet Community Centres nationwide.

“The digital hall was established to guide the community to complete themselves with digital skills for online business or e-commerce,” Muhyiddin said.