Rural Libraries in Malaysia
Salbiah Mohammad Yusof
Malaysia has made tremendous strides in the information and communications technology in the last decade. In line with the critical role of the communications and multimedia industry in national development, Malaysia has succeeded in developing the legal framework for this sector, via the Communications and Multimedia Act, 1998. This Act underlines the 10 National Policy objectives, formulated to develop and strengthen the performance of the communications and multimedia sector as well as the provision of equitable access and local participation.
The Federal Government plays a primary role in ensuring that the necessary communication infrastructures are put in place to provide for connectivity throughout the whole country which will alleviate the digital divide. Under the Eighth Malaysia Plan, a total of RM1 billion was allocated for the provision of basic communications facilities and Internet access to the areas under the Universal Service Provision (USP) programme.
The USP is a system to promote widespread availability and usage of network and application services throughout the country. The main objective is to give basic communications services with focus on public payphones, basic telephony and Internet access. The programme was initiated by the Ministry of Energy, Communications and Multimedia (MECM). The focus of the project is on institutions in the rural areas such as schools, health clinics, community centers and libraries.
The MECM started the USP programme in 2002. The first phase saw the
Ministry reaching out to 220 schools in East Malaysia; 110 schools in Sabah
and 110 schools in Sarawak, each equipped with communications infrastructure
including Internet access.
At the end of March 2004, all the selected 174 rural libraries are equipped
with ICT facilities as follows:
The MECM, National Library of Malaysia and Maxis conduct training programmes known as Cyberfolks Camp to staffs and communities of the USP project, aim to enhance their skills in information searching techniques and thereby educate the general public to become skilled library users. They are also trained to develop local digital contents.
ICT can definitely improve communication as well as offer enormous opportunities to narrow social and economic inequalities hence help to achieve the broader goals and human development. The use of ICT has now become our way of life. Rural libraries should take advantage of the network infrastructure that has been and will be put in place to play a significant role in bridging the digital divide.
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