The federal government has allocated RM470 million to Sarawak under the Universal Service Provision (USP) programme to narrow down the national digital gap in the next five years.

Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim said with the allocation, he was confident the internet penetration rate for households at the national level could be raised to 50 per cent at the end of the year from only 31.4 per cent currently.

“The ministry, through the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), is convinced that the internet penetration rate can be raised with the development of more facilities such as the Broadband Centre (PJL) in rural areas especially in Sabah and Sarawak,” he told reporters after opening the PJL Lundu and Malaysian Internet Central Exchange, Sarawak MyIX, here today.

He said that under the USP programme, the MACC would create two internet centres for the handicapped (OKU), provide an additional six Broadband Centres besides setting up another 37 broadband libraries in Sarawak.

The MCMC would build another 203 telecommunication towers in Sarawak in stages, beginning in the first quarter of this year at the latest, in efforts to widen cellular coverage throughout the country.

Meanwhile, Rais said the ministry was making a study on efforts to develop the culture of acquiring information technology facilities such as the computer among the people.

He said the ministry was gathering information to ensure that the people at the lower level could also afford to buy quality computers in line with current needs.

“We are now monitoring several suitable products that the people can afford to buy as cheaply as RM900 per unit of quality computer,” he said. On the MyIX, he said the development of the Malaysian internet central exchange would help to ease the problem of congestion in internet services currently. — Bernama