Should the Multimedia Super Corridor be reviewed?

By Julian Matthews

When Tengku Dr Azzman Shariffadeen, chief executive of Mimos Bhd, called for a review of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project in August, one would have thought it would cause a stir in Malaysia. At best, one expected a media frenzy of follow-ups to encourage public debate on the controversial project. At worst, the powers-that-be would issue some form of damage-control counter statement. Instead, the comment passed without official reaction, echoing in the hallways of Malaysia’s active rumor mill until it faded into oblivion.

The apparent silence on the part of MSC promoter Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) and the over 240 investor companies of the project–including some of the largest information technology and telco players in the world–was deafening.

Did the non-reaction suggest apathy or were investors too self-involved to care? Or have all its stakeholders become so wary of the fact that it doesn’t pay to be critical in Malaysia, especially not about the Prime Minister’s multi-billion-ringgit pet project?
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MSC May Secure All Tenants By Mid-2000

Speaking at the third convening of the international advisory panel for the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project, Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir expressed confidence in the project and that it is, indeed on track.

“Any pioneering initiative will have its share of detractors and cynics. However, our success to date speaks for itself,” he said.

The annual meeting had threatened to be a fiasco when renowned futurist Alvin Toffler said he was boycotting it just weeks prior in protest to recent political developments.

Another key panel member, management guru Kenichi Ohmae, could not attend as he was involved in an accident. In the end only 12 of the 43 members showed up. Fourteen others sent representatives, but the poor attendance did little to mar the proceedings.

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E-Village: Malaysia goes Mollywood

By Julian Matthews

You will be forgiven if in five years’ time, you visit Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) expecting dust-free cleanrooms teeming with white-smocked scientists and engineers hunched over tiny electronic components, only to find otherwise.

Instead, if Charmaine Augustin of the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) should have her way, the MSC would be filled with pony-tailed men in shades rather than bunnymen in masks.

As senior manager of the Creative Multimedia Cluster, the newest division of the MDC, Augustin is eager to transform Malaysia’s 15km by 50km digital corridor into an area more akin to Hollywood and Disneyland combined, rather than a clinical and sterile technopolis.

“There will be studios and sets for movie-makers, theme parks and resorts for the tourists, and digital animation labs and film schools for students,” she said.

The MSC will be abuzz with the stuff of stars. In it you can expect to find directors and producers, cameramen and editors, actors and actresses, gaffers and grips, special-effects crew and stuntmen, animators and digital effects artists–all involved in the creative process of churning out blockbuster movies, hit TV shows, and popular cartoons.

In short, it is hoped your future visit to the MSC will leave you both shaken, and stirred.

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SmartCard Set to Debut In One Year

Malaysia’s national multipurpose card (MPC) is set to be launched by August 2000, the first of its kind in the region that can be used as an identity card, driving license, passport, medical card and an e-cash card for small-value transactions.

The initial roll out will involve two million residents in Kuala Lumpur and within the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC).
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Malaysian companies to lead telemedicine project

by Julian Matthews

Kuala Lumpur–Two Malaysian companies with strong government links have won the telemedicine contract for Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor project.

The companies are telemedicine software developer start-ups Cybercode and WorldCare Health.

Cybercode’s chairman is Azhar Hashim, a director of Arab Malaysian Development, while WorldCare is a joint-venture company linked to Mokhzani Mahathir, the son of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and executive chairman of medical group Pantai Holdings.

“The negotiations are over and now the agreement is just awaiting approval from the Attorney General’s office,” said the source.

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Malaysia’s smart school project draws flak

By Julian Matthews and Amar Hakim

KUALA LUMPUR–Malaysia’s troubled Smart Schools Project continues to draw flak despite the awarding of the contract Wednesday to a consortium to provide the necessary courseware and wiring to 90 schools in the pilot program.

Education Minister Najib Tun Razak vowed that all 9,000 primary and secondary schools in the country will be made “smart” by 2002, making yet another promised target date that critics say is unlikely to be met.

At issue is the fact that over 1,000 schools still do not even have power, while the proposed official CD-ROM courseware is only due in April next year, four months into the school year.

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Malaysia builds US$60m Hollywood-style studio for MSC

KUALA LUMPUR–Watch out Hollywood, here comes Mollywood.

Malaysia is hoping to replicate the Hollywood-Silicon Valley combination in California by building its own film studio cum movie theme park within the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) high-tech zone.

The Entertainment Village or E-Village will be situated on a 200-hectare site near Cyberjaya, the host city for information technology companies in the MSC.

Malaysian multinational Datuk Keramat Holdings (DKH), the part owners of Leavesden Studio in Britain, will initially spend US$60 million on the project.

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Advisors impressed with Malaysia’s MSC

By Julian Matthews

CYBERJAYA, Malaysia–They came, they saw, they were bowled over. That was the consensus of the Multimedia Super Corridor international advisors after reviewing the progress of the project.

Separating the cherries from the pits, the panel surmised that the MSC indeed was a plum fruit.

In fact, the 12 MSC panel members and 14 representatives were falling over themselves with compliments. Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO Lewis Platt was “pleasantly surprised”, British Telecom Sir Peter Bonfield said the progress was “remarkable”, Madge Networks NV chairman Robert Madge described it as “amazing”.
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Malaysia launches Multimedia University

By Julian Matthews

CYBERJAYA, Malaysia–Malaysia today launched the Multimedia University (MMU), which claims to be the first university in the world to embrace multimedia-based learning and technologies as the cornerstone of its education system.

Based in new intelligent city Cyberjaya, the university will provide the critical mass of “knowledge workers” needed for the resource-hungry Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) project.

“It is designed to spawn creative ideas and technopreneurs–very much like the role that Stanford University plays in the success of the Silicon Valley,” said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the launch today.
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Acer vows to beef up venture capital fund

By Julian Matthews
Published: July 8, 1999 5:00 PM PDT

CYBERJAYA, Malaysia–Acer will enlarge its venture capital fund five-fold to US$1 billion from US$200 million in the next three years.

Chairman and CEO Stan Shih told CNET Asia that Acer currently has three funds spread over key markets in the US, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Israel and Australia.

Shih said the funds were part of Acer’s strategy to move into Internet-related and software industries, particularly Intellectual Property (IP) and service sectors.

“This began a year ago and is the new direction of Acer on top of pure hardware manufacturing. We have to leverage on IP and services to enhance our competitiveness. That is critical. It is the future and we don’t have a choice. But it won’t be easy,” he said. He spoke to CNET Asia at the third international advisory panel meeting of the Multimedia Super Corridor project held in Malaysia.
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