The Pandemic Era Biggest Loser

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Press Statement By Violet Yong:

From the first case of Covid-19 infection in Malaysia in the early 2020, Malaysian had not foreseen that we will still be struggling till today. Our beloved children had been through a lot, especially missing out on their carefree childhood interactions among friends and learning in schools in a manner that they were used to. The never ending movement control order had deprived them of their cognitive and mental development that they are very accustomed and flourished.

The new normal had seriously affected our children’s learning. Even though the Ministry of Education Malaysia had adopted the Home Based Learning Programme, our Sarawakian students seemed to be left behind due to the lack of IT infrastructure in our vast state. Other than lack of IT equipments, the lack of availability of internet services in our rural areas to support learning online is another hurdle which is yet to overcome.

As we all know, 20% of our schools are connected using the very small aperture transmission (VSAT), third generation (3G) board band and zero connectivity. On top of this, we have also failed to look into ways to support our children from the B40 families who cannot afford the internet or broad band services as their meagre family income is hardly enough to support the families’ daily needs.

To assist our B40 children who cannot afford the internet and broad band (4G and LTE) service living in urban area, the state government should come up with a strategic plan to ensure every child have equal opportunity to access quality learning. We cannot adopt the one medicine to cure all illness strategy by blindly following the generic approach suggested by the Ministry of Education but, we must formulate solutions to address the learning issues of children in rural and remote areas who do not have IT equipment and no access to internet, B40 children that do not have IT equipment and cannot afford internet or broad band and children that only cannot afford internet or broad band.

The state government has not done enough to ensure child have access to the internet facility to learn. We in DAP have always championed the welfare of our less fortunate Sarawakian. Although the Sarawak GPS Government will argue that internet infrastructure is a federal government responsibility, but the state government can act through Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) and the Ministry of Local Government to ensure every Internet Service Provider (ISP) do provide free WiFi through commercial grade access points installed at their Base Transmitter Stations, Fibre Cabinets or Broadband Remote Access Server also known as border network gateway. By doing so, B40 Sarawakians can have access to internet even though they cannot afford it.

What these ISP can do is they can prioritise their network to give preference to their paying customers while dedicating and specific band width for the free WiFi as a corporate social responsibility for the local B40 communities. By doing so, the ISP can maintain servicing their paying customers and also provide our B40 access to internet. The SMA and Ministry of Local Government can make it a local requirement before they approve any ISP’s application for telecommunication infrastructure. Most will think that this just wishful thinking but I am confident with strong political will and pressure from the all sectors of the communities, this little can be overcome very quickly.

The current practice is that these ISP had to put away 6% of their gross turn over of which 3% is kept by themselves while the remaining 3% is being kept by Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia(MCMC) to serve the underserve in Malaysia which include Sarawak. This means that they can and should utilize their 3% to either fund their community programmes that should include providing free connectivity or providing telecommunication or ICT devices to the under-privileged. The ISP can make use of these funds to fund this programme. MCMC must ensure this fund is not used for community programmes that help the companies generate more revenue but focus on ensuring the rural folks and B40 have affordable internet and ICT access according to their income.

“It only needed our state government to agree to make this come true and all our B40 students will have free internet access for their e-Learning and Home Based Learning Programme.”

Violet Yong
ADUN for Pending
11.9.2021.