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Internet boat to surf Borneo river

Waterborne Net surfing to bridge digital divide in Borneo

Malaysia is to launch an Internet boat next year as part of a scheme to educate isolated villagers on Borneo about IT.

It is hoped that the waterborne project will tackle the growing digital divide in Malaysia.

The vessel for Net surfing will cruise the Rajang River in the state of Sarawak, docking at villages along the way where residents will be taught basic computer and Internet skills, reported Reuters Wednesday.

The craft will cost £185,211 and is planned to house 20 networked computers, each with Internet access. The maiden voyage is scheduled for June 2001.

Malaysia's commitment to developing its local information technology sector began last year with the construction of its Multimedia Super Corridor, a 15-by-50 km zone extending south from Kuala Lumpur to Cyberjaya, the core of an ambitious high-tech zone that is home to 225 multinational companies including Microsoft and Intel.

The Malaysian minister for technology said last week that closing the IT knowledge gap and increasing the overall number of people using the Internet are the two main IT challenges facing the country. The Internet penetration rate in Malaysia currently stands at nine percent in a country of 23 million.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, which is responsible for co-ordinating the project, has said that it will apply to the government's IT council for the £185,211 needed to build the Internet boat.

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