SDI Brown Bag Seminar: Digital Inclusion Policies in Sarawak: Are we missing something?

In this Brown Bag seminar, the speaker will highlight the key challenges for digital inclusion faced by the indigenous and rural communities of Sarawak and will share some of the initial findings from the two most recently initiated research projects to further explore, document and address these challenges.

Malaysia is often lauded for internet access and broadband penetration rates. Although the national statistics for the country are impressive, they usually do not cover the status of internet and broadband access in indigenous and rural communities. According to the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the mobile broadband penetration rate in Malaysia is 120% compared to 37% fixed broadband. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital divide or gap between the connected and the unconnected in Sarawak was widely exposed. With low population density and with rural communities scattered across remote areas, Sarawak is a geographically challenging region for private telecommunication companies and the current spectrum policies are not able to address the issue of the digital divide in remote Sarawak. Therefore, the recent deliberations of the government “Internet as a third utility” and “Internet access a human right” are bringing the rights-based perspective to the discussions on the digital divide.