Microsoft CEO Gates Supports Multimedia Corridor

Posted on March 26, 1998 
Filed Under AsiaBizTech, Julian

By Julian Matthews

March 26, 1998 (KUALA LUMPUR) — Microsoft Corp. chairman and CEO Bill Gates said the Malaysian government is wise for embracing information technology and he pledged support for the nation’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project.

“I am very excited about the MSC. It will not only make Malaysia a leader in IT skills, but those skills will help in every sector it competes in,” he said.

Gates, who is member of the MSC advisory panel, said the key elements for the project are already in place.

He did not reveal details of the size and type of investments Microsoft would make in the MSC, but he said the software company would expand its staff in Malaysia, which is the company’s Southeast Asian regional headquarters.

In meetings with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Gates said that Microsoft’s investments in the region will not be affected by the prevailing economic turmoil because they are long-term in nature. Mahathir and Gates had a 50-minute meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Mahathir said Gates is eager to take part in the country’s IT education programs, especially in Smart Schools, universities and the training of IT workers.

“Gates said he would provide maximum support (in those areas),” Mahathir noted.

Gates has pledged to invest 1 million ringgit (about US$280,000) over the next three years in software and training resources for a mentoring program called the Malaysian Young Programmers Club (MyPC). MyPC will provide an environment and structured program to discover and nurture talent in programming and software development for children between the ages of 12 and 15 years.

It will be initiated by Microsoft (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd and a local newspaper, New Straits Times Sdn Bhd, and will be managed by Brave and Bold Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of Patimas Computers Bhd.

Gates also pledged another 1 million ringgit to Malaysia’s Smart School project, which aims to link schools around the country and provide IT training.

During his visit, Gates also discussed Microsoft’s prototype of a generic office environment (GOE) solution for electronic government.

The GOE is a component of the MSC’s electronic government initiative to create a paperless environment for all government ministries, departments and agencies. Microsoft’s prototype features voice-synthesized wizards to help users keep track of news items, e-mail and incoming data and it works with word processing and spreadsheet applications. After the meeting, Mahathir said the proposal needed careful evaluation as its concept is new and technology changes very rapidly.

“If we are not careful, we may suddenly find ourselves unable to progress,” he said.

Speaking to about 3,000 people at the Putra World Trade Centre, on “The Connected Community,” Gates said the vision of the MSC fits perfectly with the “digital nervous system” (DNS) and “Web lifestyle” concepts that he advocates. The digital nervous system is Gates’ term for how governments can employ technology to efficiently manage and use information, and how businesses can compete globally.

Gates said that the personal computer will evolve into various forms in five years.

The new devices will include portable, tablet-sized PCs with flat panel displays; handheld PCs with small keyboards for messages, schedules and addresses; palm PCs with a touchscreen pen, handwriting recognition and wireless connections; auto PCs with speech recognition in cars; and Web TVs.

Gates said Microsoft is spending US$2.6 billion this year on research and development, or 50 times greater than its R&D budget 12 years ago. “We will continue our work to make computers more natural to work with,” he said.

“The key gap is the education gap. University graduates all over the world will have the same economic opportunities, but people without education will have far fewer opportunities,” he said.

“Make sure no one leaves university without first using the Internet,” Gates said.

In addition to education, he said that three other key elements are needed by emerging countries to stay ahead. They are adequate infrastructures, protection of software copyrights and strong leadership.

“Malaysia is also lucky to be a country where English is spoken broadly because, like it or not, English is the standard language of the Internet,” he said.

Published in Asia BizTech, Mar 26, 1998

by Julian Matthews, Asia BizTech Correspondent

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