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M'sian DPM: Buck up or be left behind in digital age

Malaysia risks remaining a Third World country if it continues to be a laggard in the digital revolution, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi warned.

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia risks remaining a Third World country if it continues to be a laggard in the digital revolution, Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi warned.

"If we are slow to act and begin our transformation to a k-economy, we will find that by the time we get there, much of the knowledge could already be owned and we will continue to be passive, paying users of knowledge, rather than being innovators or creators," he said when opening the Infosoc Malaysia 2001 conference in Penang.

A prime example of this possible trend could already be seen now, Abdullah said, citing the fact that Ireland was just one spot ahead of Malaysia in the world competitive ranking in 1996.

"By last year, it (Ireland) had risen 15 places to rank seventh while Malaysia was languishing at number 25," he was quoted in The Star.

"Malaysians' role of being mere users should be shed. Software development with content should be the main thrust of business in the IT industry."

Although Malaysia has signalled its intent to move the country's economic base towards a k-economy, it has not taken a "great leap" forward.

"With our wage-based competitiveness eroding and the promise of technology transfer unfulfilled, where do we go?" Abdullah asked.

He also stressed Malaysia needs to achieve 100 percent Internet access in the very near future, rather than the goal of one personal computer per home, through an increase in Internet penetration rates and telephone access.

But all is not lost. The region's potential for growth in the ICT sector remains robust despite a slowdown in other parts of the world, it was revealed at the conference.

Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (Pikom) deputy chairman Looi Kien Leong said Asia would continue to enjoy strong growth in the Internet market in the next few years.

"In Malaysia, IDC (International Data Corporation) has forecasted a 36 percent compounded annual growth rate in Internet users, with over three million users next year," he was quoted in the daily.

Looi said Malaysian e-commerce is estimated to be worth RM2.64 billion by next year.