Online rich fly; rural poor queue up

Posted on 26 Jul 2009

* Berita ini terdapat dalam Bahasa Inggeris sahaja.

Rural S’wak has yet to enjoy convenient, cheaper Internet way of doing business

KUCHING: Shocking but true, rural folk in Sarawak are subsidising the rich to fly!

This was pointed out by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan yesterday who said it was ironic and sad that the poor, particularly those living in rural areas, who needed the most out of ICT were the very people who were not able to take advantage of the Internet.

Citing an example, he said online booking and purchase of air travels was cheaper and more convenient than buying tickets over the counter.

“The rural people normally have to use the counter because they do not have Internet facilities, while urban people use the Internet to book low-cost flights.

“This actually means that the rural poor are subsidising the urban rich every time they buy their air tickets at the counter because they pay more than their urban counterparts for the same flights,” he said when opening the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Broadband Fair here.

Dr Chan said university and scholarship applications as well as job applications were done online these days, but without access to the Internet, rural people were losing out in these aspects.

This was a cause for concern, which was why the state government was stressing on having high broadband penetration in the state as well as equitable and even distribution.

“Otherwise, our efforts will only widen the existing socio-economic gap,” he said.

Dr Chan urged telecommunication companies to do all they could to develop ICT infrastructure in the remote areas of Sarawak.

“Use whatever technology it takes, be it fixed lines, fibre optics, wireless or satellite, or any combination of these.

“Consider various deployment models that work, for example, using telecentres instead of individual service subscriptions in the rural areas,” he said.

Companies could also help rural people develop businesses and improve their livelihood by using the Internet, he suggested.

“The industry must also make computers more affordable so that more people can buy and use them. The telecommunication companies must also introduce affordable broadband packages.”

According to Dr Chan, many people including those living in urban areas today feel that the present broadband services are too expensive.

“Broadband services should be affordable for every household much like electricity and water supply,” he added.