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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Broadband Opportunities - A Series of Talks...

Last week there was a series of talk held over a 2-day period at Le Meridien, Kota Kinabalu organized by SKMM (a.k.a. Malaysian Commission of Multimedia and Commnications) entitled Broadband Opportunities. Unfortunately I was too engrossed in the talk that I totally forgot to capture the event with my handy phone camera. I was there of course on behalf of the company (a.k.a representing my employer/company) with a colleague of mine. Don't get me wrong, I was interested in attending the event anyways but am extremely fortunate that it is in a way part of my job to go.

Talk 1 by Sabah Computer Association representative, Mr Taitim Tulas, discussed the pros and cons of the Internet. Needless to say that at the end of his talk, we find that the pros far outweigh the cons. With the Internet, we have a vast knowledge pool which is accessible by everyone with a connection. Everyone's getting digitized and being part of this huge global community. Then there's the rapidly growing blogging population following the freedom of expression granted via the Net. Who can leave out social networking? Everywhere you go the words Facebook, Friendster, Myspace, etc will pop up. We have a steadily expanding e-commerce following with auction sites such as eBay and Lelong, online boutiques and online stores. People are even taking sewing and baking orders online these days. In our excitement over the advantages and opportunities that come with the presence of the Net, there's always a dark side to it. Net addition, inappropriate contents, viruses and a host of other downsides which warrants precautionary measures on our part as a responsible Net user, sibling, parent, etc.

Talk 2 was initially slotted for the State Library but there seemed to have been a slight change on the day as SKMM proceeded to elaborate on the development of ICT in Sabah. As usual there was the brief introduction to MyICMS 886 which is a government 5 year strategy (i.e. technology roadmap) comprising of 8 services, 8 infrastructure and 6 fields of development in the ICT arena. In addition to that, we were shown several slides illustrating the communication network currently available in the State and country in general as well as various promotions by local service providers. For those in rural areas, SKMM has been working hard to create ICT awareness and provide assistance and facilities to help bridge the technology gap such as the USP (Universal Service Provision), bringing telephony and broadband services to less urban areas, cooperation with local telcos (i.e. Maxis, Digi, Celcom, Time, TM, etc.) to expand coverage.

Next up was Mr Bruno Vun from SITC (Sabah IT Council) who spoke more on broadband opporunities driven by the community. First off he briefly introduced their vision and development model which included the e-Gov and K-society focuses. Moving on we were shown the various on-going programmes organized for the community namely Edu.Net, eMas, Desanet (Mobile Internet), e-Desa (Community Centres), ICT Fiesta, Hi-T Talk, ICT Camps and more. I reckon all these information would be online once SITC's website is out of renovation.

Talk 4 was conducted by Mr Sahrimin bin Mohd Iman, the Account Manager for TM Sabah on TM Leverage in Broadband. In other words, this was more of an explaination of the broadband technology for the non-technical audience. TMnet being the most widely used internet provider here did not let go of the opportunity to promote their products (i.e. 1515, 1315, 1525, Streamyx, SME options, VSAT) and current promotions (i.e. Streamyx Combo).

Talk 5 welcomed newcomer RedTone promoting upcoming WiMax facilities and services. Since this was a rather non-technical audience, a layman's version of the technology briefing was given with ample illustrations and examples. Can you imagine using WiMax technology for your car, fridge and who knows what else? We'll have to wait and see how this new technology develops here and how the market picks it up.

Day 2 brought about another 4 talk sessions (more like 4 1/2 with a late entry by Time dot com before lunch). Starting off the day with Talk 7 (Talk 6 on Day 1 was supposed to be from Astro who was unfortunately AWOL but did deliver those limited Astro Sports figurines at the end of Day 2) was MDeC representative, Mr Vernon Fernandez. Based on trends in the market, they've identified the 4 key verticals in the digital creative content area to be animation, games, mobile content and visual effects. And to fully support and develop Malaysian talents, many might not be aware of the M-CMCI or MSC Malaysia Creative Multimedia Content Initiative which was launched on April 10 two years back. The M-CMCI is involved in IP (intellectual property) funding, engaging strategic alliances, facilitating market access, encouraging skills development (especially in IHLs) and promoting digital media zones. Props to the Saladin team (hooked up with Al-Jazeera kids), Inspidea (Drop Dead was selected to be commissioned by Cartoon Network Asia, Mustang Mama was featured in Yahoo!, Johan, The Young Scientist on Johan.TV) and Red Turtle Animation (Tin Boys has won several awards and was shortlisted for the 2008 Delta Film Award (Manchester) Jury). In the spirit of encouragement, if you (or/and your team) are in this line of studies, grab this opportunity to showcase your talent!!

Now if I hadn't attended this particular talk series, I would probably never have known that SKMM apart from being a regulatory body affecting the work I do(*wink*), they are also handing out the Network Content Development Grant a.k.a. NCDG which is a fudn established to render financial assistance to talented, creative and well deserving aspiring Malaysians in the creative content arena. The NCDG focuses on 4 areas namely Information Based Content, Entertainment, E-commerce and Education. The grant is eligible to all Malaysian individuals/registered SME company in-line with the NCDG focus areas who have yet to be given grants and are not blacklisted or have records of failure in past project implementation upon receiving similar grants from other Government agencies. The grant covers up to a maximum 70% of the total project cost whereby the procurement of infrastructure is allowed up to 20 % of the approved grants. Only one grant can be extended to one applicant at any one time but subsequent grants are allowable up to 3 times. Detailed information on the grant can be found here.

Where does the line between Freedom of Speech and The Law fade? Ms Eneng Faridah Iskandar of SKMM gave us an insight on how it works in Malaysia. At the moment there isn't any one defining Act to refer to and is more the regulatory jurisdiction is still very limited. In some cases, articles of the Law tend to contrdict each other and there are a lot of grey areas to this matter. However, a rule of thumb is to avoid publishing content that is defamatory, obscene, of perjury, hateful, infringe copyrights, classified information, seditious and considered treason. Taking into account that the Internet domain is not confined to any one country or region, we still face difficulties in enforcing cyberlaws. Certain matters may be acceptable in one country but not in another. These conflicting views makes controlling the Internet a very difficult task. To summarize her talk, she urged that consumers/users take precautionary measures especially when it involves children having access to the www. The best way to go about it is to promote self regulation amongst Netizens and to simply be internet-savvy. I suppose Celcom's tagline describes it best, "It's in your hands".

Last but not least, the final talk session was by ASP Hazizi A Samad from PDRM's Multimedia and Cyber Crime Investigation Division in Bukit Aman relating the enforcers take on the Cyber Crime Trend in the country. Cyber crimes range from illegal cash transfers, service theft, information theft, fraud, viruses, cyber vandalism, cyber trespassing and so much more. Of course there are a lot of smart people out there, geniuses even, or just talented hackers if you may. Encodings, encryptions and lack of resources, expertise and information has been known to thwart police efforts in enforcing the law when it comes to cyber crimes. Those peeps on TV makes it look incredibly easy but as it is in reality, investigation in this field takes time and spreads even beyond the legal jurisdiction of our fellow enforcers. So everybody please beware of phishing websites, false threats, key-loggers and the likes. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Well, the best part about participating in events such as these is the hotel food. And Le Meridien sure doesn't disappoint. I suggest that if you have the opportunity to attend please do. You'll learn new things, gain more information on the latest developments in the ICT industry, meet new people, expand your network and more often than not go home with freebies, ahem, memorabilia apart from the parade of food (breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea).

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