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E-Malaysia: 'I.T. can lower the barrier for the underprivileged in moving up economically. It is never too late for someone to leave the cattle or shovel and learn to use the keyboard or motherboard.' — VIEWPOINT, Nov. 10

It is grossly unfair to say that education has been neglected and treated as a stepchild by the Malaysian government ["Malaysia Into the e-World?" VIEWPOINT, Nov. 10]. Human development through education and training programs is being given high priority in development plans and annual budgets to produce skilled, trainable and "knowledge" manpower. The reduction since 1996 of undergraduate degrees to three years, except for medicine, dentistry and pharmacy, does not in any way compromise the overall quality of education in Malaysia. It affected only elective and some overlapping courses. Direct benefits were savings on education for parents and the easing of a tight employment situation for employers. There is no change in credit hours: the minimum units for professional courses is 110. Non-professional degree courses, arts and pure science, start at 100.

Dealing with the digital divide requires electricity and phone lines. VIEWPOINT mentions the Malaysian schools that don't have electricity. They are mostly in the deep interiors of the East Malaysian states of Sabah (63.8%) and Sarawak (27.5%). Efforts are being made using generators, solar energy and wireless application protocol (WAP) to ensure rural kids will benefit from I.T. The digital divide in Malaysia is a recent concern; it is happening everywhere, even the United States. The 2001 budget has measures to provide greater access to computers, especially among young Malaysians. These include tax incentives and loan facilities to encourage parents to buy computers. Through a privatization program, money is being provided for computer facilities in 6,000 primary and secondary schools.

As for the population at large, particularly in rural areas, village development and security committees were given computers to familiarize them with I.T. usage. This is benefiting 995 villages. Village Internet programs have been introduced at two pilot locations in Selangor and Sarawak.

Regarding the Multimedia Super Corridor, I stress that this is not a property project, but is to develop a new source of economic growth and maintain the nation's competitiveness. Besides infrastructure, it has programs to attract knowledge-based industries to Malaysia. Its 10-point bill of guarantees includes leading-edge cyberlaws, incentives and intellectual property protection. MSC flagship applications like smart schools and telehealth prepare the public for the knowledge era. The MSC's measures to develop knowledge workers and entrepreneurship include a central incubator and a venture capital company. All of these developments highlight the progress so far in realizing the MSC vision. In physical infrastructure, it's been equally significant.

Cyberjaya is only one of four designated cybercities in the MSC's 750 sq km, an area larger than Singapore. Of the 397 approved MSC-status companies from a total 491 applications (as of Nov. 20), 42 are located in Cyberjaya, 30 at Petronas Twin Towers, 17 at Universiti Putra Malaysia and 55 at Technology Park Malaysia. There are also 90 non-MSC status companies operating at Cyberjaya, bringing the total companies to 132, not 88 as your column said. The target of 500 MSC-status companies by 2003 is well within reach. We are ahead of schedule in attracting world-class companies, with 38 now and a target of 50 by 2003.

There is significant employment creation in the MSC area with an estimated 33,000 knowledge workers as of Oct. 31. Multimedia University, at Cyberjaya, has 4,500 students who enjoy facilities in information & communication technology comparable to those in Silicon Valley.
Md. Saad Hashim
National Economic Action Council

View From Malacañang
President Joseph Ejercito Estrada has become the first Philippine president to face an impeachment trial because he himself wanted this to happen ["Brewing in the Background," NEWSMAKERS, Nov. 24]. On Nov. 2, the president asked his party- mates in the ruling Lapian ng Masang Pilipino (LAMP) in the House of Representatives to speed up the impeachment proceedings, so he could have his day in court in the Senate. With the formal opening of the Senate trial on Nov. 20, he asked all LAMP senators to take leave of absence from the pro-administration coalition, to allow them to vote according to their conscience. Like the president, most of our countrymen believe that this constitutional process must be allowed its due course. The latest survey by the highly credible Pulse Asia shows that two-thirds of Filipinos want the president to stay put, and believe that the impeachment trial is the best way to resolve the leadership crisis.
Michael T. Todedo
Press Undersecretary

The Senate on Nov. 27 rejected a bid by Estrada's lawyers to throw out the impeachment complaint. — The Editors

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Letters & Comment:
Malaysia defends its I.T. record

Looking Back:
Murder in the streets

The Bottom Line: Asiaweek's ranking of world economies

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