Expensive broadband discouraging Internet usage in Malaysia

By FMT Staff

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia is crawling along on the digital slow lane due to the high cost of Internet access according to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) lecturer Dr Ali Salman.

Speaking at the 10th Pacific Sociological Association Conference of the Asia (APSA 10) recently, he said while the use of Internet in Malaysia had seen a major increase over the years, the high fees imposed by Internet access providers needs were causing a stagnation and needed to be brought down to an affordable level.

Citing an example, he said those who do pay for broadband connection spent about between RM50-RM80 per month.

“That means they pay nearly RM600-RM1,000 annually for access to newspapers or football scores. In 2009 Malaysia was ranked number 11th in terms of e-government by the Brookings Institute,” Ali Salman said.

Both he and Prof Dr Mohd Safar Hasim of UKM felt that with this development, it is timely to monitor the usage of the Internet in the country where the digital divide remains wide.

They put together a survey on Internet users in Malaysia with core sampling on the majority Malays to gauge the type and nature of usage,

and the effects of the independent variables on sustainability of internet usage.

Email usage

The use of survey, they said, was one of the best ways to obtain a clearer picture of current issue.

Ali Salman explained that their findings showed that 22.4% of the approximately 2,800 people they surveyed to gauge 28 million Malaysians, had a formal training in computers and 77.6% learned on their own and from friends.

Some 54.8% of the respondents had Internet connection at home.

Expensive monthly subscription fee is one of the reasons 25.4% gave for not having Internet connection at home. Some 11.2% were afraid that their children might be exposed to pornography.

Some 86.5% used the Internet at the office and computer laboratory at college or university, 49.8% used the Internet at home, while 41.3% made use of cybercafes to gain access to the Internet.

Email was the main purpose of using the Internet for 91.7% of the respondents. Some 85.8% read online newspapers and searched for information.

Hobby, games and entertainment were the third main purpose of usage at 70.3%. The least purpose of usage was for buying prepaid services, at 16.2%.

Only 28.4% have their own blogs and 39.6% of those who don’t have their own blogs said they would like to have blogs in the future.

Three sampling components were used and comprised of the age, gender and occupation components.

Reduce fees

Ali Salman said the occupation component comprised government servants, government linked companies, private businesses and students.

“This study has shown that there are variables which influence sustainability of Internet usage.

“Three of the variables – interpersonal and social network, perceived and realized benefits and communication channels have a positive influence on sustainability.

“However, security concerns and (service) interruptions and cost of upgrading and maintenance of computers or phones have a negative influence.

“This calls for concern on tackling the security issues like virus attacks and hacking by putting in place much tougher measures.

“At the same time minimising the cost of upgrading and maintenance of the computer hardware and software is vital,” he said.