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ASIAWeek: Malaysia Menceburi Dunia 'E'
By Kapal Berita
5/11/2000 4:29 am Sun
[Rencana ini amat indah bahasanya.... dan ditulis oleh
pemimpin BA pula. Ia menjadi satu koleksi MESTI BACA saya,
dan mungkin juga anda di sana - Editor]
MALAYSIA PENTINGKAN GEMILANG DARI PENDIDIKKAN
Terjemahan Hujah-hujah (ala kadar sahaja):
MALAYSIA MENCEBURI DUNIA 'E':
Viewpoint: Malaysia Into the eWorld?
Not if it keeps spending on glitz rather than education
SAIFUDDIN NASUTION ISMAIL is a supreme council member of Keadilan (National Justice),
a Malaysian opposition party
During a recent seminar at a Malaysian university, three panelists - all top managers at information
technology companies - agreed that the government has gone wrong in its attempt to take the
country into the Information Age. Instead of investing in human resources, the government is
spending a great deal to develop a high-tech township, Cyberjaya, anchor of the Multimedia Super
Corridor (MSC). Cyberjaya offers real estate so expensive that few I.T. companies are willing to set
up there, although officials reckon 88 of some 380 I.T. companies approved for the MSC will have
moved in by year's end. Right now the desolation at Cyberjaya makes one think it should be
renamed Cyberia. And the MSC, some say, is becoming like a huge property project.
What's happening with the MSC is typical of many things in Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's
Malaysia. The obsession with appearance and building glitzy monuments is diverting resources away
from undertakings that are critical to the country's stated goal of becoming a key player in I.T. The
paradox is evident in some decisions. For example, the government says it wants to move into
high-tech, but education is treated as a stepchild. In 1996 the Ministry of Education reduced the
number of years for undergraduate degrees from three to four, except for medicine, dentistry and
pharmacy. It also reduced the minimum units for basic pure science and arts degrees to 100 from
118-120, though this affects only electives. But Malaysia should be adding content or at least
Another example of misallocated resources is the billions spent on the new administrative capital
Putrajaya and its twin, Cyberjaya. This at a time when there are still 470 schools in Malaysia without
electricity. One boon of I.T. is its potential to lower the barrier for the underprivileged in moving up
economically. One doesn't need a university degree to learn programming or acquire the know-how
to produce graphic designs for multimedia applications. In the Information Age it is never too late
for someone to leave the cattle or shovel and learn to use the keyboard and motherboard. Kids in
rural Malaysia would benefit most from a well thought-out and implemented I.T. program. Yet it is
they who are being denied such opportunities.
Like other developing nations, Malaysia should be concerned about bringing its large rural
community - half the population of 22 million - into mainstream development. The gap between
rural and urban areas has widened after a decade of 10% GDP growth. Today it is reported that 1.5
million Malaysians (mostly urbanites) have a Web-based hotmail e-mail address - more than the
total registered with TM Net and Jaring, the country's two Internet service providers. While the
hotmail number is encouraging, it is disturbing that this has widened the digital divide in the country.
Disturbing, too, is Mahathir's inability to understand that entering the Information Age means more
than plugging into fancy hardware. Fundamental is creating the climate that enables start-up
companies to innovate and invent. Malaysia could learn more from Silicon Valley with its diversity
and openness. These attributes cannot develop if the governmental climate does not tolerate
dissent and diversity, and breeds docility. The experience of a friend, a professor at a Malaysian
university, is illustrative of this climate. He had offered his article about the International
Organization for Standardization to a few local newspapers for publication. It discussed seeking
ISO certification, nothing political. No newspaper published it, and one editor admitted that he was
not going to because ISO initiatives were seen as a pet project of Mahathir.
John Lawler of the University of Illinois says Asian values, with their emphasis on hierarchy and
collectivism, are ill-suited to the development of a work environment that will engender creativity.
This emphasis breeds conformity. Change, when it happens, tends to be slow. The I.T. industry
demands nimbleness and radical changes. Malaysia is doubly handicapped. Not only is it a very
hierarchical society, it is hamstrung by Mahathir's notion of Asian values. In a nutshell, this sees
authoritarianism as good for development. His Asian values also mean a justice system that lately
has been criticized within and outside the country. Malaysia may have all kinds of cyber law, but will
the investor have confidence in the justice system to enforce it?
Foreign I.T. companies interested in investing in Malaysia have many alternatives. They can also
consider India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Why should they choose Malaysia? It has a
young and relatively inexpensive workforce, which is also hardworking and very trainable. But these
companies will also see that Malaysia has a leader who uses foreigners as a bogey to deflect
attention from his own flaws. Dissenters are labeled foreign agents. And they will see that while
Malaysia has invested hugely in modern physical infrastructure, its socio-psycho infrastructure
remains stuck in the medieval age. The Information Age should provide Malaysians with the potential
to soar to new heights, but this leadership doesn't have what it takes to seize the opportunity.