Students accessing the world wide web from a Rural Internet Center in Julau. (File photo: Apaienduq)

Students accessing the world wide web from a Rural Internet Center in Julau. (File photo: Apaienduq)

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Taib Mahmud said he has targeted 50 per cent of Sarawak’s rural areas connected to the Internet by end of Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Speaking at a news conference at 67-door Rumah Jana, Julau yesterday, he said it was a realistic target considering the geography and the difficult terrains of Sarawak.

“In our endevour to narrow the digital divide we have to take into account factors – software and the social aspects,” he said according to Eastern Times.

Taib said getting the people to accept and use computer – then the Internet needed a lot of convincing, training and exposure.

The chief minister said he was happy with the broadband penetration rate in Sarawak (at 16.7 per cent currently) and in Julau, only three longhouses – Rumah Edward Segi, Rumah Changan and Rumah Jana – already have broadband connectivity.

“The most disadvantaged people are those living in valleys between hills. Not only Internet connectivity affected in such areas but radio reception is also affected,” he said.

On complaints by Internet service providers that the tower rental in the state three times more expensive than in peninsular – Taib said the peculiarity in Sarawak had to be taken into consideration.

“There is no way to cut the cost, I am sorry to say,” he said.

Deputy Minister of Information, Communications and Culture Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum said the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) had contributed RM10 million to the Sarawak government for planning and implementing ICT development framework in rural areas.

He said the Federal Government had allocated RM500 million for the laying of ICT and Internet infrastructure in Sarawak.