The 2022 BUDGET is expected to be tabled in Parliament at the end of this month. In addition to investing in economic sectors that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the government should increase its spending on improving infrastructure in support of digital.
During the pandemic, we have learned countless lessons. When the country was subjected to varying degrees to the movement control order, it opened our eyes to the fact that many Malaysians, especially those living in rural areas, are still lagging behind to gain access to digital technology.
Digital technology has been essential in reducing the impact of the pandemic on the economy and on society. We could still buy goods during the MCO using various digital platforms. This implies that household spending has not been greatly affected. Can you imagine the situation in the absence of digital technology?
Despite its advantages, not enough of us have benefited from digital technology for several reasons. The main reason is the lack of internet access. As a result, some students had to go to great lengths to have good internet access to attend online classes, from staying in parents’ houses to climbing trees, like Veveonah Mosibin did to take her college exams. (“Sabah girl stays in tree to get Internet connection,” The Star, June 17, 2020; online at bit.ly/star_access).
Many B40 students (low income group) could not afford to buy laptops. Some students had to postpone their university studies and some had to skip their online courses.
Digital technology is vitally important as it can help cure economic ailments such as poverty, unemployment, etc. Households living below the poverty line can take advantage of digital technology to supplement their income.
Malaysia aims to achieve developed nation status – and digital infrastructure is essential to ensure that we can achieve this. In the absence of government support for improved infrastructure, many Malaysians will fall far behind, especially those in the B40 category and those living in rural areas.
The government should also invest in providing more computers in schools so that students can keep pace with changing technology. They do not need to depend solely on their teachers to acquire knowledge, as they can find a lot of information at their fingertips on the World Wide Web.
DR MOHD SHAHIDAN SHAARI, Senior Lecturer in Economics Faculty of Applied and Human Sciences Universiti Malaysia Perlis