YTL Communications Responds To Reports On MoE's 1BestariNet Project For Malaysian Schools

The company had tendered the most technically compliant and most cost-effective bid.

Earlier in November, there were media reports questioning YTL Communications' (YTLC) role in executing the 1BestariNet project

What is the 1BestariNet project?

1BestariNet is an initiative by the Ministry of Education to provide 4G broadband connectivity especially in rural areas. It's a 15-year project worth RM4.47 billion and was introduced by Muhyiddin Yassin, the former deputy prime minister.

1BestariNet aims to empower children with knowledge through technology.

Image via 1BestariNet

Can you brief me a little about how did YTLC get the project?

YTLC was among 19 companies that had tendered bids for the 1BestariNet project.

The company was awarded the project in late 2011 for being the most technically compliant of the lot and for its cost-effective bid, which was at RM663 million.

Soon, the project grew big and even got the attention of Google

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was so impressed that he presented the 1BestariNet story at their Google I/O 2013 annual developers' conference and commended Malaysia for wanting to provide 4G connectivity throughout the country's 10,000 schools to level the playing field.

That sounds impressive. What happened then?

Recently, the 1BestariNet project has come under fire from both the Attorney-General and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for having failed to deliver on time.

In reports published earlier this month on local English news sites, the PAC, which is led by Rompin MP Datuk Hasan Arifin, said that the project is plagued with suspicious expenses and its contracts weren't properly managed.

Additionally, DAP lawmaker, Zairil Khir Johari, has called the whole thing a "bureaucratic fiasco". He has even questioned the installation of the 1BRIS towers, which intended use was to ensure stable 4G coverage in the schools.

In response, YTLC has released an official statement on the progress of the 1BestariNet project and their role in executing it

The company claims that its bid involved cost-effective factors such as its proposal to fully fund the capital investment in the mobile 4G technology for the project, without any cost to the taxpayers or the Ministry of Education.

"By providing access through initiatives like 1BestariNet, we can transform lives and transcend barriers that stand in the way of progress," read the statement by YTLC.

YTLC said that it will bear the full cost of erecting base stations called 1BRIS towers within selected school compounds

The 1BRIS towers, according to YTLC, would also provide 4G coverage for communities living in the vicinity of the schools, meaning their use will not be confined to school premises and will have a commercial purpose.

So what's the problem then?

According to the DAP lawmaker's allegations against YTLC, such a thing is controversial considering that it makes use of taxpayer's money to generate profit for the company.

On the other hand, while YTLC's winning bid had said that the Education Ministry will allocate the land for the construction of the 1BRIS towers at no charge, after the project was awarded, the Jabatan Ketua Pengarah Tanah dan Galian indicated that some form of rental should be paid for the usage of the 4m x 4m plots of land.

Later, a nominal annual rental fee for each site was agreed upon by all parties.

After the initial issues were sorted and everything seemed to fall in place, the construction of 1BRIS towers got delayed. Why?

Short answer, due to bureaucratic hassles.

In Phase 1 of the project, YTLC's task was to construct the 1BRIS towers in order to get the 4G coverage up and running. However, to enable the construction, approval had to be obtained from all local councils, which is a long and tedious procedure.

Due to delays in obtaining these approvals, the progress of construction was delayed.

Apart from the above, there are other factors at play

While YTLC's role is to provide 4G Internet connectivity to schools across the country and the Frog Virtual Learning Environment (Frog VLE) platform, usage of the Frog VLE itself is dependent on several factors, that can differ from school to school.

On its part, YTLC is voluntarily supplementing the learning content by working with content providers to make additional content available on the VLE, all in the interest of facilitating long-term adoption of the learning platform.

Still, YTLC understands the sustained value of the 1BestariNet project and is committed towards a bright future for students

The 1BestariNet project has many short and long-term benefits.

While short-term benefits such as lighter school bags to longer-term benefits like helping children acquire 21st-century learning skills and narrowing the digital divide, this project can and will transform Malaysian lives for the better.

Image via 1BestariNet

Visit 1BestariNet to learn more about the project.

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