Sarawak thrives on technological advances to boost development

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Sarawak’s economy has been built largely on timber, palm oil and oil and gas. However, the government is placing greater importance on technology in its quest to achieve developed status by 2020.

Sarawak has a timeless reputation for rain forests, orangutans, agriculture, indigenous tribes and, more recently, timber and oil. Malaysia’s largest state is now pursuing equivalent fame for its technology industry.

With Sarawak driving towards developed and high income status by 2020, technology has become an integral part of its overall economic surge. The government is keen to build on technological advances already achieved in various fields while pursuing fresh initiatives across a range of sectors.

Sarawak’s Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has stated publically that he would like to see more foreign investment into the technology sector, particularly from the Middle East. Recently, Taib was part of a Malaysian government delegation led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that visited United Arab Emirates as part of the Invest Malaysia 2011 forum.

Taib’s main role was to espouse the viability of Sarawak as an investment option, with Middle Eastern companies being lured to the state’s Tanjung Manis Halal Hub, a massive industrial park dedicated to halal (Islamically permissible) products and services.

Although the importance of technology has only recently been emphasised, a number of early birds have already made a mark in Sarawak, setting up a solid base for future growth.

The establishment of Sacofa (Sarawak Common Communications Facilities) in 2001 was a major step forward in laying the foundations for the state’s technology ambitions. Sacofa is a Government-Linked Company (GLC), owned 85 per cent by government agencies and 15 per cent by Celcom Axiata.

It is the state government’s quasi-telecommunications infrastructure arm, providing technology and IT development through towers, land and fibre- optic cables. It is responsible for building the IT and technology infrastructure in the state so that private operators, domestic and foreign, can provide internet, phone and data services to the population.

The company has 500 towers scattered across 70 per cent of Sarawak with plans for 200 more, at a cost of RM250 million.

The programme allows major service providers such as Telekom, Celcom, Maxis and Digi to reach pockets of potential users in the remote areas. Sacofa has already started the process of fiberizing the 500 towers.

Sacofa is also responsible for establishing the first physical communications link between peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia with its submarine fibre-optic cable running from Mersing in Johor to Sarawak.

In addition, they are in the process of forging a link between Sarawak’s administrative capital Kuching and Pontianak in Indonesian Borneo, which would result in a surge of traffic and cut costs for users.

With the latest 4G and LTE technologies in the pipeline, Sacofa is keen to go beyond state and national borders and play a role in connecting Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, China and Japan in line with the objectives of Axiata, the Malaysian-inspired company responsible for international communications services.

The ultimate aim is to make data, mobile and internet use more affordable for people as well as setting up an environment conducive to foreign investors, including those from the Middle East.

Though Sacofa has emerged as the key driver of telecommunications development in Sarawak, they were not the first company to take up the challenge of building an IT infrastructure in the state.

Among the technology-related pioneers to make their presence felt in Sarawak was Comserv, which was formed in 1985 by Malaysian and Australian concerns to provide network infrastructure, software and development work, training and e-business solutions to organisations.

In early 1986, Comserv undertook what was then the biggest IT project in Sarawak. The Land and Survey Information System (LASIS) project involved the development of software for survey and mapping systems. It was launched by Chief Minister Taib in August, 1988.

With the Rimbunan Hijau Group now on board as partners, Comserv is in a strong position to pursue their objectives of enhancing computer technology in Sarawak and boost the number of IT professionals in the state, supported by their 26 years of experience in the industry. In 1991, six years after Comserv emerged, Sarawak Computerisation Services Sdn Bhd was formed, later to become Sarawak Information Systems Sdn Bhd (Sains) – one of the state’s leading ICT systems integrators and solutions providers. Sains’ reputation quickly spread beyond Sarawak and they are now well known among regional governments for their low-cost and professional delivery of IT solutions.

The company has a close business alliance with the Sarawak government, providing a range of solutions for internet portals for various departments. It is also involved in healthcare, libraries, e-commerce and e-content, for which it is among the top companies in the world.

In 2009, Sains became the first company from Malaysia, and Southeast Asia, to win the United Nation’s World Summit Award (WSA) – the Olympics of the IT world. The company took the top prize in the “Best e-Content in e-Government & Institutions” category for its Integrated Court System solution.

The Sarawak government is also using IT to improve the way it operates. The Sarawak Civil Service Innovative Ideas portal (scs-ii) calls on employees to submit their ideas online as to how the civil service can be improved.

Apart from the corporate sector and government, learning institutions are playing an important role in enhancing technology development in Sarawak.

Internationally recognised names in tertiary education have established a presence in the state such as Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak, Curtin University of Technology Sarawak, International College of Advanced Technology Sarawak, Technology College Sarawak as well as the technology departments of Malaysia’s flagship institution, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

In fact, Unimas is leading the way in providing research end expertise for many Sarawak technology development projects.

The university’s latest green technology venture has resulted in a partnership with Malaysia’s Pansar eQo Technology and Australia’s Bellwhether Agriculture to turn oil palm wastes into useful products.

The venture involves building a RM7 million plant at the Unimas campus to process Palm Oil Mill Effluent and Fresh Fruit Bunch to produce liquid fertilisers, clean water that can be recycled and even electricity.

Unimas is also helping the governments of Sarawak and Sabah solve electricity supply problems to rural areas through research and development support in a project worth about RM600, 000.

While the Sarawak economy continues to thrive on agro and forest-based industries, technology is no longer at the background providing behind-the-scenes support.

The technological landscape in Malaysia’s largest state is very much at the forefront of important initiatives to speed up development and attract foreign investors, be it telecommunications, computer-based advances or research and development.

Recently it was announced that the Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) is ready to help the state set up a science park. Deputy Minister of MOSTI Datuk Fadillah Yusof said was quoted as saying in the media: “Whenever the state wants the details, we are ever ready to help them. As far as MOSTI is concerned, we are prepared to help in terms of advice and consultation and whatever assistance required by the state.”

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Sarawak’s economy has been built largely on timber, palm oil and oil and gas. However, the government is placing greater importance on technology in its quest to achieve developed status by 2020.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Sarawak’s economy has been built largely on timber, palm oil and oil and gas. However, the government is placing greater importance on technology in its quest to achieve developed status by 2020.

Sarawak has a timeless reputation for rain forests, orangutans, agriculture, indigenous tribes and, more recently, timber and oil. Malaysia’s largest state is now pursuing equivalent fame for its technology industry.

With Sarawak driving towards developed and high income status by 2020, technology has become an integral part of its overall economic surge. The government is keen to build on technological advances already achieved in various fields while pursuing fresh initiatives across a range of sectors.

Sarawak’s Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has stated publically that he would like to see more foreign investment into the technology sector, particularly from the Middle East. Recently, Taib was part of a Malaysian government delegation led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that visited United Arab Emirates as part of the Invest Malaysia 2011 forum.

Taib’s main role was to espouse the viability of Sarawak as an investment option, with Middle Eastern companies being lured to the state’s Tanjung Manis Halal Hub, a massive industrial park dedicated to halal (Islamically permissible) products and services.

Although the importance of technology has only recently been emphasised, a number of early birds have already made a mark in Sarawak, setting up a solid base for future growth.

The establishment of Sacofa (Sarawak Common Communications Facilities) in 2001 was a major step forward in laying the foundations for the state’s technology ambitions. Sacofa is a Government-Linked Company (GLC), owned 85 per cent by government agencies and 15 per cent by Celcom Axiata.

It is the state government’s quasi-telecommunications infrastructure arm, providing technology and IT development through towers, land and fibre- optic cables. It is responsible for building the IT and technology infrastructure in the state so that private operators, domestic and foreign, can provide internet, phone and data services to the population.

The company has 500 towers scattered across 70 per cent of Sarawak with plans for 200 more, at a cost of RM250 million.

The programme allows major service providers such as Telekom, Celcom, Maxis and Digi to reach pockets of potential users in the remote areas. Sacofa has already started the process of fiberizing the 500 towers.

Sacofa is also responsible for establishing the first physical communications link between peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia with its submarine fibre-optic cable running from Mersing in Johor to Sarawak.

In addition, they are in the process of forging a link between Sarawak’s administrative capital Kuching and Pontianak in Indonesian Borneo, which would result in a surge of traffic and cut costs for users.

With the latest 4G and LTE technologies in the pipeline, Sacofa is keen to go beyond state and national borders and play a role in connecting Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, China and Japan in line with the objectives of Axiata, the Malaysian-inspired company responsible for international communications services.

The ultimate aim is to make data, mobile and internet use more affordable for people as well as setting up an environment conducive to foreign investors, including those from the Middle East.

Though Sacofa has emerged as the key driver of telecommunications development in Sarawak, they were not the first company to take up the challenge of building an IT infrastructure in the state.

Among the technology-related pioneers to make their presence felt in Sarawak was Comserv, which was formed in 1985 by Malaysian and Australian concerns to provide network infrastructure, software and development work, training and e-business solutions to organisations.

In early 1986, Comserv undertook what was then the biggest IT project in Sarawak. The Land and Survey Information System (LASIS) project involved the development of software for survey and mapping systems. It was launched by Chief Minister Taib in August, 1988.

With the Rimbunan Hijau Group now on board as partners, Comserv is in a strong position to pursue their objectives of enhancing computer technology in Sarawak and boost the number of IT professionals in the state, supported by their 26 years of experience in the industry. In 1991, six years after Comserv emerged, Sarawak Computerisation Services Sdn Bhd was formed, later to become Sarawak Information Systems Sdn Bhd (Sains) – one of the state’s leading ICT systems integrators and solutions providers. Sains’ reputation quickly spread beyond Sarawak and they are now well known among regional governments for their low-cost and professional delivery of IT solutions.

The company has a close business alliance with the Sarawak government, providing a range of solutions for internet portals for various departments. It is also involved in healthcare, libraries, e-commerce and e-content, for which it is among the top companies in the world.

In 2009, Sains became the first company from Malaysia, and Southeast Asia, to win the United Nation’s World Summit Award (WSA) – the Olympics of the IT world. The company took the top prize in the “Best e-Content in e-Government & Institutions” category for its Integrated Court System solution.

The Sarawak government is also using IT to improve the way it operates. The Sarawak Civil Service Innovative Ideas portal (scs-ii) calls on employees to submit their ideas online as to how the civil service can be improved.

Apart from the corporate sector and government, learning institutions are playing an important role in enhancing technology development in Sarawak.

Internationally recognised names in tertiary education have established a presence in the state such as Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak, Curtin University of Technology Sarawak, International College of Advanced Technology Sarawak, Technology College Sarawak as well as the technology departments of Malaysia’s flagship institution, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

In fact, Unimas is leading the way in providing research end expertise for many Sarawak technology development projects.

The university’s latest green technology venture has resulted in a partnership with Malaysia’s Pansar eQo Technology and Australia’s Bellwhether Agriculture to turn oil palm wastes into useful products.

The venture involves building a RM7 million plant at the Unimas campus to process Palm Oil Mill Effluent and Fresh Fruit Bunch to produce liquid fertilisers, clean water that can be recycled and even electricity.

Unimas is also helping the governments of Sarawak and Sabah solve electricity supply problems to rural areas through research and development support in a project worth about RM600, 000.

While the Sarawak economy continues to thrive on agro and forest-based industries, technology is no longer at the background providing behind-the-scenes support.

The technological landscape in Malaysia’s largest state is very much at the forefront of important initiatives to speed up development and attract foreign investors, be it telecommunications, computer-based advances or research and development.

Recently it was announced that the Technology and Innovation Ministry (MOSTI) is ready to help the state set up a science park. Deputy Minister of MOSTI Datuk Fadillah Yusof said was quoted as saying in the media: “Whenever the state wants the details, we are ever ready to help them. As far as MOSTI is concerned, we are prepared to help in terms of advice and consultation and whatever assistance required by the state.”

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