Internet Connectivity in Rural Malaysia

Internet Connectivity in Rural Malaysia

The story of rural Internet in Malaysia is a story about changing perceptions, shifting priorities and a big vision to connect all Malaysians. Undoubtedly, the Internet is a valuable communication tool for rural villagers, with many taking advantage to promote their businesses. As such, the government's initiative to bring broadband connectivity to as many as 400,000 villages in Malaysia is crucial for ensuring the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the youth is unleashed.

Many agree that the need for Internet connectivity is one of the modernisation's most challenging side effects. Although most rural areas in Malaysia have relied on radio links or the telephone network for years, it was not until the advent of cheap smartphones that things began to move at a fast pace. Nowadays, most people want a reliable connection that is fast and affordable- this often means choosing a different type of mobile connection over other technologies such as satellite.

Recently, internet connectivity in rural Malaysia was identified by the government as one of the most critical issues. Why, it creates a platform for economic development, social connectivity and health awareness. With a low penetration rate in rural areas, many people cannot access the Internet due to various barriers. These include limited access to reliable electricity supply and low bandwidths. The project aims to create awareness of how to make rural communities more digitally literate by providing enabling solutions like portable devices with mobile broadband capability, improved information tools, and electronics training during out-of-school hours.

The idea of having the Internet in rural areas was once alien. However, internet connectivity in rural Malaysia is improving- today, many people who live in rural areas have access to high-speed Internet. There are still some issues affecting overall connectivity in rural areas. Among these are Availability, service quality and affordability. Despite this, the Internet is a massive help for rural communities. It helps farmers find market information and make business decisions faster, such as buying new crops, planting seeds, and setting up farm stores. Remarkably, internet use has reduced the time taken to complete the Agriculture Field Census from 8 hours to 2.

In 2022, the Internet will be readily available and affordable to many in Malaysia. Internet connectivity in rural Malaysia has been a primary goal for the government for almost two decades. This milestone was enabled by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Act 2001 (MCMA), which requires all operators to provide Internet access at affordable rates to all citizens and juristic persons residing in rural areas. Yes, the Internet is virtually everywhere in Malaysia. The government allows a limited number of ISPs to provide access to the public. As part of this program, the government provides subsidies to assist with connection fees which individuals pay.

Admittedly, internet connectivity is still a challenging issue in some Malaysian rural areas. Many lack access to the Internet, while some don't have bandwidth; specific ISPs have capped some bandwidth. Further, some rural areas in Malaysia suffer from poor connectivity. According to government statistics, nearly 86% of Malaysian households do not have a fixed connection; equipment installation rates are also low. It's especially a big problem in some rural areas; it takes hours to reach the nearest base station in these regions. Many users have no choice but to use mobile broadband services as their only option.

Despite this, rural Malaysia has more potential for expansion than urban areas because they have an inexpensive, highly skilled labour force that's willing to work hard on building infrastructure. Certainly, improving internet access for rural areas would open up enormous opportunities for microenterprise growth. This is particularly true for small entrepreneurs who operate online businesses like e-commerce portals or tourism websites.

Ultimately, the lack of internet connectivity in rural Malaysia is a significant challenge to creating inclusive growth. The government has recognised this challenge and established the Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI). It's mandated to develop next-generation infrastructure using Broadband Over Powerline (BOPL) technology. By June 2018, 92% of Malaysians had mobile phone coverage. This was down from 95% at its peak in 2014, a year before the rollout of LTE-Advanced technology and delivery of 4G services by major telecom operators.

While rural Internet in Malaysia is improving at a rapid rate, it is still struggling to keep up with the high demand. Various digital initiatives like B+B and Tele community are trying to improve the status of rural Internet and create more opportunities for local entrepreneurs in Malaysia.