Sarawak’s ambitious plan to have 50 per cent internet access by 2010 is a daunting task given the size of the state, its terrain and scattered rural population.

As one moved deeper into the interiors, the hills and valleys posed problems to the laying of infrastructures particularly the line of sight to bring in the wireless connectivity.

“There are a lot of issues due to the rough terrain. It is a very daunting task but I believe it can be done provided the government funding is there,” says Datuk Abdul Hamed Sepawi, chairman of DANAWA (Dynamic Applied Network and Wireless Application Sdn Bhd.

DANAWA is collaborating with SACOFA Sdn Bhd, a telecommunications common facilities and fibre optic backbone infrastructure provider, to accomplish the plan, especially in the rural areas, under its “deConnexion” initiative.

Major operators were reluctant to extend their services to rural and remote areas owing to challenges in deployment, Abdul Hamed told Bernama in an interview.

On the brighter side, he said, DANAWA and SACOFA are fortunate as there has been a lot of encouragement and community support.

Within 15 months of operations, urbanites in cities like Miri, Kuching and Sibu and in rural areas such as Mukah, Matu, Daro, Betong, Debak, Matadeng, Dalat, Oya and Sarikei, Tanjung Manis, Semop, Bintangor and Julau are already enjoying “deConnexion” high speed broadband and services.

Miri is the first wireless city in Sarawak.

“The new connectivity is changing a lot of things particularly for the rural folks. They can book their airline tickets on-line without having to journey down to the town and city.

“We are hoping they can use it as a commercial medium to advertise for services they wish to offer like in a homestay programme,” Abdul Hamed said.

He said the connectivity was a new empowerment for the people to not lag behind.

DANAWA and SACOFA are currently offering the “deConnexion” broadband service for free to the people throughout the state.

Abdul Hamed was also passionate about the internet facility being enjoyed by rural students.

“I think give them another one or two years, they will be able to easily access the cyberworld and with all the community networks like friendster, myspace or facebooks.

“They can be in contact with friends from all over the country and even in the world. I know children seem to be very interested in these networks through which they can share information and knowledge,” he said.

“It is like a new tool for them to communicate not just among friends but with the international community,” he said.

Besides the hardwares, DANAWA is bringing in a lot of educational contents like the Cambridge ICT Starter Programme developed with the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

“We are bringing these to schools and library systems to empower teachers and students to do capacity building by themselves.

“They need not go to cities or towns as with the higher fuel cost, it can be expensive doing so regularly,” he said.

In Mukah division alone, 13 schools are linked to the internet through the e-Education and e-Library programme to complement the Education Ministry’s effort.

“Our future plan is to extend broadband services to the state regional development corridor or SCORE (Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Enegry) areas and to link another 26 schools there with internet access and video-conferencing facilities.

“This is important as the area is going to undergo massive transformation and will require high potential human capital in the coming years,” he added. — Bernama