Foundation Projects

Support for study into digital inclusion 2021

University of Technology, Sarawak

This funding assisted the University of Sarawak with a study into digital inclusion policy.

Project summary:

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. The country has been the top performer in A4AI’s Affordability Drivers Index (ADI) consecutively for the last three years and is one of the global leaders in the Readiness pillar of the Inclusive Internet Index of the Economist.

According to Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Sarawak has 103% mobile broadband and 25.9% fixed broadband penetration rates which means, an average Sarawakian has at least one way of accessing the Internet. 

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital divide or gap between the connected and the unconnected in Sarawak was widely exposed. The local media reported the rural communities' socio-economic adversities resulted due to poor quality and very expensive Internet connections provided by unreliable or fly-by-night telecommunication towers. 

Despite many initiatives of digital inclusion, not all the stakeholders including local communities have come on board. Therefore, a wide contrast between the policies, initiatives, official facts and figures and the actual situation on the ground is conspicuous.

With this background, this study explores three key objectives and research questions:   What are the government, public representatives and organizational digital inclusion aspirations?  What are the local community’s aspirations? Are the community aspirations accommodated in the digital inclusion policies, plans, and programs?  Did the digital inclusion programs achieve the goals and fulfilled the actual needs of the local communities?