KUALA LUMPUR: Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak is a Sabah leader who has vast experience in politics.
Salleh, who holds a PhD in Politics and Government from Universiti Putra Malaysia, was the Chief Minister of Sabah from Dec 28, 1994, to May 27, 1996, and has also held various portfolios in the Sabah Cabinet.
Just last week, he was appointed as the Umno treasurer, taking over from Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah who relinquished the position in June.
Aug 3 marks the first anniversary of Salleh at the helm of the Ministry, which assumes the role in connecting people and creating an informed society.
In an exclusive interview with Bernama, Salleh shares his thoughts, aspirations and vision, and analyses the achievements of the Ministry as well as its various programmes in meeting the needs of the people.
YB Datuk Seri, Aug 3 is your first anniversary of helming the Communications and Multimedia Ministry. What were your feelings when informed that you would be appointed as the Minister of Communications and Multimedia?
SALLEH: ‘Alhamdulillah’, today is the first anniversary of my appointment as the Minister of Communications and Multimedia. Honestly, it had never crossed my mind that I would be entrusted by YAB Prime Minister to helm such a strategic Ministry, the backbone of the Government. I had mixed feelings, visualising the scenarios and challenges that lay ahead in my new responsibility.
As a seasoned politician, I accepted the appointment with an open heart and was prepared to serve anywhere for the sake of the nation. Moreover, politics is not alien to me. It is in my blood. I come from a family that has gone through the ups and downs in politics.
I first joined politics in the mid-1980s. I was appointed the Chief Minister of Sabah after the State Elections in 1994 and Speaker of the State Legislative Assembly in 2011. Besides, I have also held various portfolios in the Sabah Cabinet.
Furthermore, I have a prior relationship with this Ministry as the former Chairman of the National Film Development Corporation (FINAS), an agency under the Ministry. This experience enlightened me on the roles and responsibilities of the Ministry as well as its challenges.
As the Minister of Communications and Multimedia, what are your aspirations for the Ministry?
SALLEH: The Ministry has two strategic functions – technical and social.
These two functions should be inter-dependent and complement each other, in order to support the Governments efforts towards Malaysia becoming a developed and high-income nation. This was one of my observations after I assumed this portfolio. Therefore, I emphasised that the departments and agencies under the Ministry cannot work in silos but should instead cooperate and collaborate closely in carrying out their mandate and addressing the issues and challenges of today.
The departments and agencies under the Ministry, such as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), and MYNIC (my.Domain Registry), plan and develop strategies to connect people through the development of telecommunications infrastructure whilst the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) provides the platform for the acceleration of the digital economy to spur economic growth.
Other agencies such as the Information Department (JaPEN), Special Affairs Department (JASA), Department of Broadcasting (RTM), Malaysian National News Agency (BERNAMA) and FINAS are the lead agencies in delivering and disseminating information with the aim of creating an informed society and developing creative industries.
Based the above mandate, the Ministry is currently formulating a Communications and Multimedia Blueprint that encompasses both technical and social imperatives anchored on four strategic thrusts – connecting people; creating an informed society; driving digital economy; and empowering creative industries.
The blueprint is in accordance with the core function of the Ministry. At the same time, amendments are being made to the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the FINAS Act 1981. One of the most challenging functions of the Ministry is to ensure service delivery is provided in real time.
It is for this reason that I introduced “Fast, Accurate and Diligent” as the motto of the Ministry. The enculturation of this motto is of utmost importance, given the Ministrys role and responsibility as the disseminator of information at all levels of society besides being the manager of mass media and public relations, broadcaster and key communicator of Government official information.
Our country has begun to march forward with the improvement in telecommunications infrastructure. To meet the growing needs of the people, what has the Ministry done to further improve the national telecommunications infrastructure?
SALLEH: I realise that in this digital age and globalisation, it is pertinent for us to ensure that Malaysians are connected and informed. Towards this end, I mobilised the Ministry to implement various programmes that benefit the Rakyat especially in the rural areas so that they are not marginalised.
I am well aware of the Rakyats concern regarding the speed and coverage of the Internet which still has room for further improvement. Rest assured, the Ministry is continously expanding and improving digital infrastructure.
Realising that communications are vital for developing knowledge-intensive industries and accelerating economic development, the Ministry has given priority to improving Internet access through the high-speed broadband projects the High-Speed Broadband 2 (HSBB2) and Suburban Broadband (SUBB).
I have instructed the Ministry to monitor diligently both projects to ensure smooth and timely implemention. As of now, the broadband speed has increased with the availability of 1.9 million ports under HSBB and HSBB2 benefiting 3.1 million premises.
As for the expansion of 3G Mobile Broadband coverage, a total of 1,392 locations in the country have been upgraded to 3G Service. The expansion of the Fibre Optic Network or 1Malaysia Peoples Cable System (SKR1M) is an initiative to upgrade the existing network to fibre optic for high-speed mobile service and provide a broader bandwidth that is aligned to the demand for Long-Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G.
I believe the project to install an estimated 3,500km-long fibre optic submarine cable of up to 4Tbps capacity connecting Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak will be able to provide speedier communication.
I am proud that the above initiative has improved Malaysias ranking from ninth position in 2014 to eighth in 2015 in the ICT Development Index for the Asia-Pacific region. This reflects Malaysias achievement in terms of access or coverage, usage and skills in ICT. Malaysia also recorded an impressive growth in broadband penetration rate. Over 30 million broadband subscriptions were recorded in 2015, an increase of 50 per cent from the 20 million in 2014.
In the remote areas, the 1Malaysia Internet Centres or PI1M have been built to serve as ICT knowledge centres, offering basic Internet access and free training in ICT entrepreneurship. As of the first quarter of 2016, a total of 675 PI1M had been built whilst 164 centres are under construction. The total PI1M membership has exceeded 550,000 and more than one million users have benefited from the service.
These initiatives could not have been realised without the cordial relationship as well as close cooperation and strong support from companies and telecommunications industry players.
The social media is seen as an important channel in boosting the functions of the Ministry. What is your opinion?
SALLEH: Social media has evolved into a popular communication channel for the people to obtain information because of its easy and quick access. In my opinion, if used prudently, social media will offer optimum benefits.
Knowledge, mature thinking, constructive criticism and an informed society can help drive the national agenda to promote patriotism, unity, harmony, tolerance and respect for one another. I personally believe that differences of opinion are acceptable and should be welcomed.
Differences of opinion need not lead to disunity and feelings of hatred. We must know how to manage differences or dissent. This is very important in sustaining national stability and prosperity.
Whatever the differences we have, it is important that we strengthen our love and loyalty for the country.
Achieving this goal is a major challenge. The Ministry is expeditiously implementing various programmes at grassroots level to inculcate patriotism and resilience in our society. These include the Malaysia Inclusive Digital Nation or MINDA, Connecting the Unconnected (CTU), Creativity@Community (K@K), Campus Tour, 1Malaysia Community or K1M and other programmes in the pipeline. I am confident that these programmes will inculcate a civic-minded society and instil love and loyalty for the country.
How do you see the current development of the digital economy and what are the preparations made by the Ministry?
SALLEH: Digital economy is not a new phenomenon. In driving the digital economy, I emphasise on the development of a conducive digital ecosystem that stimulates the growth of this sector. I believe the amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 will enable speedier development of the required ecosystem. The proposed provisions will allow the industry players to comply with government procedures and requirements.
For example, the establishment of a Data Centre in Iskandar Malaysia will encourage industry players to undertake more cost-effective digital economy activities in Malaysia as the Access Pricing Framework will be improved to encourage competition and sharing of infrastructure among the service providers.
I am proud that the ICT industry has developed into one of the most important economic sectors in Malaysia. Indeed, the Government has targeted that the digital economy will contribute approximately 20 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020.
In fact, the digital economy will be the focus of the 2017 Budget, as announced by YAB Prime Minister, at the recent Budget Consultation Council Meeting. The Ministry should be ready to play a significant role in accelerating the digital economy for the development of the nation.
I am glad that the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) has contributed to raising the standard of living of the people, especially through investments locally and abroad as well as generating new job opportunities.
As of June 2016, a total of 4,042 ICT companies had been given MSC Malaysia status. In 2015, MSC Malaysia contributed RM15.3 billion to the GDP. The year 2015 also recorded the highest value of investments since the establishment of MSC Malaysia with new investments totalling RM5 billion, an increase of 72 per cent compared to RM2.9 billion in 2014 while reinvestments accounted for RM15.2 billion.
In addition to generating 10,981 jobs in 2015, MSC-status companies have also recorded total sales of RM42.1 billion and export revenue of RM16.2 billion through the development of ICT products and services.
Cyber cities and cyber centres were expanded throughout the country. By June 2016, 44 cyber cities and cyber centres were established nationwide.
I am also excited about the latest developments in online business and e-commerce. The eRezeki programme has registered 76,156 participants who belong to the B40 category.
A total of 30,925 participants have been trained and 22,873 have generated income exceeding RM15 million so far. Three international and 18 local crowd sourcing platforms have become industry partners of the eRezeki programme.
The eUsahawan Programme has trained 19,694 TVET students and entrepreneurs through various courses, of whom 5,976 have generated additional income. The cumulative total exceeds RM12 million.
In your view, YB Datuk Seri, will Malaysia be able to achieve the dream of transforming our creative industries to be the most dynamic in Asia or even the world?
SALLEH: A creative industry is one that involves individual creativity, skills and talent. This industry has a great potential to generate wealth and create jobs through the promotion and exploitation of intellectual property. I believe that with the support and encouragement from various parties, Malaysia’s creative industries will be able to compete in the international markets.
The major challenges that must be urgently addressed in this industry are talent development and quality local content. This industry can only flourish and be recognised globally when these two elements are of international standards.
Therefore, I have requested that a comprehensive plan to develop local talent and quality content be drawn up as soon as possible in addition to the development of effective marketing strategy. Efforts taken so far have been impressive.
As of June 2016, the export sales and investment value amounted to RM51.2 million in the international film market. For the same period, the value of content exports amounted to RM240 million while the total receipt of 24 films screened under the compulsory screening scheme is RM56.74 million. All these go to show that creative industries can be the driver of the country’s economy.
We are also not lagging behind in boosting the country’s creative industries through the migration of terrestrial TV broadcast to digital. This is being done through the implementation of the National Broadcasting Digitalisation Project.
The Digital TV service will be launched in stages from the fourth quarter of 2016 commencing in the east coast states of peninsular Malaysia. As of June 2016, Digital TV service coverage has been made available to nearly 85 per cent of the populated areas through the construction of 14 TV transmitting stations nationwide.
Ten more TV transmitting stations will be installed at the end of 2016 to expand coverage to 91 per cent of the populated areas.
I am aware that there are people who lamented that they have not received the set top box. I must clarify that the current distribution of the set top box is only a pilot project to test its capacity and effectiveness.
What is your view of the Ministry’s achievements in the past one year? How do you, YB Datuk Seri, intend to propel the national communications and multimedia industry in the years ahead?
SALLEH: I am grateful with the achievements of the Ministry in 2015 as it has met the Key Performance Index (KPI) set. This is attributed to the support from the Deputy Minister, Datuk Jailani Johari, and the effective management of the Ministry led by the Secretary-General, Datuk Seri Dr Sharifah Zarah Syed Ahmad, top management and all the staff.
I would like to highlight that the Ministry’s performance has improved tremendously for the past one year. I congratulate the Secretary-General of the Ministry who has driven and managed the Ministry with distinction through the public service transformation agenda and won recognition from the Government for her ‘highly exceeded’ KPI targets.
The support and cooperation extended by the Secretary-General and her team is very much appreciated.
Going forward, the Ministry will continue to redouble its efforts through the consolidation of policies, strategies and programmes under the four core thrusts of the Ministry. Initiatives and programmes will be implemented based on the six strategic thrusts of the 11th Malaysia Plan that focus on Malaysia’s aspiration to become a developed nation anchored on people-centric growth. – Bernama