Friday, May 30

Seeing light on Malaysia's IT Plan...

Despite the many impressing/marketing efforts by various local government and private bodies to show the world that Malaysia is on the verge of fast-paced development on Information & Communication Technology (ICT), up to the conclusion of the 16th World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT 2008) just recently in Kuala Lumpur [proclaimed by its organizers as the "biggest ever" congregation for the Congress' 30-year history], for many Malaysians to-date, there are still much to be hoped for in terms of actual IT infrastructure, specifically with regards to the broadband speed and coverage throughout the relatively small nation (slightly larger than the state of US New Mexico - CIA, 2008) and general IT culture/adoption among Malaysians. [1 (2005)], [2 (2007)] [3 (2006-2007)]

Heck, while newsprints, local media and many independent bloggers (many of whom are locals as Malaysia is growing to become a 'blogging nation') may have sung praises for WCIT as a major world's event [1] [2] [3], elsewhere in the world, many people may have never heard of the event or the organizing body itself, the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA). Both the official website for WITSA and WCIT 2008 command very small web traffic with global ranking average exceeding 1.5M and 400K respectively [smaller numbers signify better ranking] for the past three months (according to Alexa with a third of the traffic to WITSA website comes from the United States and more than half to WCIT2008 website comes from Malaysia, its host nation) despite the big events held for at least three days and attended by at least 3000 "delegates" and perhaps over 50,000 exposition visitors.

Not so popular the event was, WITSA only gets a rather short article in the Wikipedia and there also lacks any dedicated article on "WCIT" -- A search on Wikipedia for "WCIT" only pulls a result of sixteen articles, many of which are unrelated, and the only related ones are MSC Malaysia (an "Multimedia Super Corridor" initiative by the local government, and marketed as one of the major organizer/sponsor for WCIT 2008) and Hannah Tan, a beautiful and talented personality who however failed to pull a significantly large bid for a set of dates with her during a WCIT Gala Dinner held on the second day of the 3-day event.

Even searching for related media on today's popular sharing sites like YouTube, Yahoo! Flickr and Google PicasaWeb would only return a handful of amateur collections from various individuals instead of major organizations.

Have there not been many facts to be permanently recorded for world's civilized history? Or was it because local journalists or international ones who attended the event are still not to comfortable with public crowdsourcing into world's major Web 2.0 productions?

After all, only Dato' Dr. Craig Barrett, Chairmen of Intel can be considered a major IT leader who made a presence at the event, while the over-hyped appearance by Mr. Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft, was only in a not-that-entertaining holographic form -- After all, Intel has a major presence/investment in Malaysia while Microsoft has yet to make a significant base except a decent office at KLCC tower (although there has been an announcement during the WCIT week from Microsoft Malaysia for a sizable investment to establish Microsoft Innovation Centre).

[Another key personality, a popular author and Venture Capitalist Mr. Guy Kawasaki was in Kuala Lumpur too during WCIT week, but he was at a separate event called NetBash, organized by among others, the New Entrepreneur Forum (NEF) and MCA ICT Resource Centre (MIRC), but also attended by key officials from the WCIT2008 organizing body, MDEC.]

In comparison, try googling for events like COMDEX/InterOp, CeBIT, CES 2008, Apple WWDC (June 9-13, 2008 - San Francisco) or Web2Expo (upcoming in New York, Berlin and Tokyo)! While the number of delegates who attended each of these events were smaller, they obviously commanded much bigger coverage in the "new media" platform and respective official websites tend to gain higher visits. After all, these events usually pull in much bigger sponsorships, higher delegation fees and more key personalities from the IT industry. Oh well, we can't compete with the US or Europe, can we? ;)

[Author has attended COMDEX (twice, before the show was discontinued in 2003), Web2Expo (the less exciting Tokyo instead of Berlin or SF) and WCIT and look forward to check out CeBIT, CES and WWDC in the near future now that he writes using a Mac Book Pro instead of a Windows laptop, and tune more to Apple TV/iTunes and MIRO instead of Astro TV, i.e. he's fan of latest digital gadgets and software!]

Still, the fact that our Prime Minister, Dato Seri Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi has been so upbeat on WCIT and the outlook for Malaysia's IT future, having joined a big delegation to WCIT 2006 (Austin) and later graced the entire WCIT 2008, despite a minor distraction in his own political party during its second day of running in Malaysia, do give us Malaysian folks some hope. Bravo also to MSC Malaysia crews along with folks from PIKOM etc. Or perhaps, to the Ministry of Tourism Malaysia instead, in conjunction with its Visit Malaysia 2007 campaign that somehow is supposed to run until Merdeka Day 2008, celebrating the country's 50 years of nationhood ;)

Anyway, we've been hearing and seeing some dramatic changes, and more are to come over the next few years in Malaysia:-
  1. A day before the weekends when WCIT 2008 delegates were due to arrive, Malaysia's largest and government-linked company, Telekom Malaysia Berhad made a big announcement on Malaysia's Broadband Plan: RM15.2B (about US$5B) for a 10-year two-phases, three-zones infrastructure project to roll-out high-speed broadband (HSBB), powering about 1.3-million premises throughout the country [1][2], with metros like Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru and Penang (group under Zone 1) will get HSBB as fast as 1Gbps -- Half (50%) of the nation's six million households will get high-speed Internet in less than three years from now, from 18% or less penetration rate today. Impressive plan! One can argue though: wasn't this 50% penetration target already drafted/promised in the "National Broadband Plan (NBP - pdf)", approved nearly five years ago in 2004? OK... perhaps, we're just on (revised) target...

  2. TM Bhd of course now also enjoys MSC Malaysia status for its headquarters tower building, renaming it from "Menara TM" to "TM CyberCentre Complex" - sounds like a huge hypermarket-size cybercafe ;) The same status was also award to RM2B-worth I-City development project in Shah Alam, which is one to watch, along with other ready MSC-status regional zones like those in Penang, Ipoh (Meru Raya CyberCentre - hmm, is there a dedicated website for this?) and Johor Bharu (Cyberport).

  3. And as WCIT 2008 concluded, TM announced appointment of Jeremy Kung as the new CEO for its highly-watched Internet/Broadband-centric subsidiary, TM Net Sdn Bhd, replacing previous acting CEO, Pn Zainab Hashim -- the top-post of this company seems to follow Chief Minister of Sabah rotational scheme: Datuk Baharum Salleh (2002), Michael Lai (2005, later resigned), Zainab Hashim (acting CEO, late 2006) and now Jeremy Kung (2008). Fresh leadership, fresh spirit I suppose...

  4. Satellite broadband technologies are quite ready. Introducing AIDAAS, one of the stars of WCIT 2008 (which also sponsored the Gala Dinner BTW!)...

    [Author has met the young and ambitious CEO, and based on an email from her, you can find her on Facebook, soon, hopefully...]

    The technology won't likely be deployed in Malaysia immediately though, perhaps due to an exclusive license awarded to satellite tv operator, Astro Plc/MEASAT ("ASTRO’s subsidiary, MEASAT Broadcast Network Systems, enjoys an exclusive licence till 2017 for satellite DTH transmission in Malaysia.", Astro website). But we'll be watching a Malaysian company boldly venturing everywhere else including in the Philippines in the near future.

  5. We're getting help and attention:-
  • Nokia Siemens has put up plans for WiMAX
  • Intel investing in local WiMAX player, Green Packet Bhd (now helmed by Michael Lai, previously from TMNET - parent company of Packet One)
  • Long Term Evolution (LTE) will arrive (Ericssons, 2009) - up to 200Mbps for mobile broadband!
  • 7.2Mbps HSDPA device has arrived: HTC etc.

    Author however prefers to wait for Apple iPhone to arrive in Malaysia though, by late 2008 (as promised?), and hopefully to come with 3G (as rumored) and camera with higher resolution - is 5MP too much to ask?

And some Penang folks are enjoying amazing high-speed broadband speed already! Read more here: "Which 'city' is the BROADBAND CAPITAL of Malaysia?"

And more speedtest results here after a major upgrade at a local higher learning institution (post WCIT 2008):

Thanks to an upgrade/switch to OCE (PenangFon), the downstream speed has doubled for this particular Wi-Fi connection, which previously utilizes TM Net Streamyx connectivity.

The wired LAN which serves the greater campus of about 20,000 students and staff also seem to have doubled in speed both downstream and upstream directions. For uploading to a Penang-based server (outside USM) instead of uploading to a US city (some 15,000km away), a speed exceeding 20Mbps was recorded. Words from the school's officials is that they'll soon get a 1Gbps upgrade. Patient, patient, my good college boys and girls! No words however on whether the school will relax its ban on YouTube or other high-bandwidth traffic like via P2P software etc. on the campus network.

Bravo USM!

How big of a difference on 'going fibre' instead of sticking with mainstream DSL service? Consider that a 4 Mbps (maximum for TM Net Streamyx today) would take about 40-minute for Mac users to update their OS X Leopard 10.5.2 to 10.5.3 (released this week). With a 60Mbps downstream connection on the other hand, took less than 2 minute for a CD-size 400+ MB download!

Proud owner of the latest OS on the latest hardware but in 2-minute or 40-minute?

Now consider that you are to download a ~25/50 GB BluRay quality movie or a 4.4GB compressed version (legal version, of course, via iTunes/AppleTV etc) now that this HD format has become mainstream and adopted by practically all major movie studios today (except in countries like Malaysia which will be about five or more years late judging on its past migration from VCD to DVD), how many days/weeks would you have to turn your PC/Mac on, connected to a 4 Mbps or slower DSL line?

And would you be happy to wait for minutes to view those HD-quality movie trailers/teasers or fun clips like those on Apple iTunes etc, or prefer to view them immediately on mouse-click?

Until we get mega broadband to homes and offices for streaming HD movies, for now, enjoy the following low-res slideshow of snaps from WCIT 2008 (Community photos on Flickr, including several that were captured by author using his decent N95 camera phone):

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