Keep improving Internet coverage (Opinion)

Written by Fathiah Ahmad from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM)

Malaysia strives to develop further by building various world-class facilities.

However, one aspect that needs improvement is Internet access as telecommunications coverage is still weak and lagging behind our neighbours.

Learning methods have changed and one of the initiatives undertaken by the Education Ministry is to conduct virtual learning sessions.

This needs improvement too because Internet access in Malaysia is still weak. Even some areas around the city have Internet access problems.

If we take into account Internet problems in rural and remote areas, this issue is worrisome. Students in rural areas are left behind due to poor Internet access.

There are also teachers who face the same problem and have to cancel virtual learning sessions due to poor Internet coverage.

That is a major obstacle for virtual learning both for students and teachers. 

According to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) Monthly Bulletin report in August 2020, in terms of mobile broadband, Malaysia is ranked sixth in Asean countries at 24.44 Mbps and 85th in the world.

In this region, Malaysia lags behind Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar in terms of average mobile Internet download speeds.

A member of parliament also pointed out that 37 per cent of students do not have any device for online learning sessions.

If the definition of “digitally poor” is taken into account, 1.7 million primary and secondary school students automatically become part of this group.

In today’s digital era, driven by the new normal of the Covid-19 pandemic, online transactions and interactions, including online learning, are a necessity.

It must be acknowledged that the government is implementing various strategies including providing a Community Internet Centre.

Since 2007, a total of 873 Community Internet Centres (PIK) nationwide have provided access to the rural population. PIK offers training, awareness programmes, and community engagement.

This is a good effort by the government but some are still too poor to afford PIK services.

As a college student, having Internet access is a must as this will make it easier to communicate with classmates and lecturers.

However, there is no denying that, at times, poor Internet access makes it very difficult for classes to be held virtually.

Try to imagine problems faced by people who live deep in the interior. So, who is to blame when Internet access issues crop up? 

No doubt, there is an urgent need to keep improving the Internet coverage.

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