KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 – A TOTAL of 8,886 schools nationwide have been provided with broadband connectivity under the 1BestariNet project as of June 12. Another 1,003 schools are now connected through interim Internet services. The Education Ministry said the interim services included broadband and fixed-line services provided by other telecommunication companies.

The ministry said in a statement that it was unable to connect some schools to the 1BestariNet network as the project delivery firm had yet to receive approval from local authorities to build telecommunication towers in several states,
including Sarawak, Penang and Kelantan.

The ministry’s statement was released in response to the Auditor-General’s (AG) Report 2013 that revealed the Internet connection to 4,176 sites under the 1BestariNet project had been delayed, some by more than two years from the date of execution.  The report stated that the project had not achieved its objectives of providing high-speed 4G broadband and a virtual learning environment (VLE) platform to 9,889 schools nationwide within two years and six months from Dec 13, 2011, to June 12 this year.

Due to the delay, the ministry said the delivery firm, YTL Communications Sdn Bhd, was fined RM2.4 million on Oct 27. The ministry also responded to the AG’s report findings that less than five per cent of students were using the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform, an e-learning facility bundled with the 1BestariNet project.

The ministry said while five per cent usage in the first three years was normal under any ICT integration transformation programme, efforts were underway to raise VLE usage to at least 30 per cent within one year.  The steps taken include ensuring that each school was equipped for e-learning activities through the provision of infrastructure and the 1Student 1Device programme, better resource management through optimised scheduling and improving support services.

Teachers would also be required to raise their VLE usage to between 25 and 40 per cent as part of their key performance indicators.  The ministry had also directed schools to allocate specific times for Internet usage to lower connectivity problems — high traffic on the 3Zoom Wi-Fi service would often cause slowdowns.

It said 1BestariNet schools enjoyed Internet speeds of up to 4Mpbs and many mobile devices were able to access the service from anywhere within the school compound. The AG’s report had found broadband connectivity under 1BestariNet to be unsatisfactory, according to feedback from 70.3 per cent of 491 schools surveyed. A total of 58 per cent of 501 schools had also informed that 1BestariNet access did not cover the entire school area.

The ministry said scheduled use had helped improve connectivity at schools in the interior of Sabah and Sarawak, where access was provided through the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) or satellite technology. The delivery company had also provided “dongles” to each school to allow teachers to access learning content in areas not covered by the 3Zoom Wi-Fi service.

The ministry had also carried out surprise audits on the performance of 1BestariNet in December last year to ensure that the quality of its service was in line with International Telecommunication Union regulations. During the audit, the ministry measured bandwidth speeds, latency, packet drops and jitter, and found that 1BestariNet fulfilled the Service Level Guarantee standards.

The ministry also engaged the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission and the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu) to verify the audit’s findings. The ministry’s statement also touched on the national audit’s finding that the rental price of RM1,000 per year for each site of the 1BestariNet Receiver Integrated System (1BRIS) throughout the country was unreasonable.

The AG’s report had recommended for rental to be charged according to the rate proposed by the Valuation and Property Services Department and utility to the 1BRIS contractor. In response, the ministry said under the 1BestariNet contract, the government would give consideration, permission or approval to build or apply any 1BRIS equipment at the user site.

The ministry said it had set rental costs of RM1,000 per year for all sites to be consistent with the decision by the Federal Land and Mines Office director-general. It was stated in the 1BestariNet contract that the ministry would bear all utility costs. The ministry also clarified the AG’s findings that the payment of RM320,000 for providing the State Technology Education Division with 10Mbps of Internet services had not been included in the project contract.

The ministry said the payment had been left out of the project payment schedule, but the scope of work and costs were still stipulated under Clause 4.2b of the contract, and, therefore, did not affect the total costs of the 1BestariNet project. The 1BestariNet project is a main component of the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025 and is aimed at providing a virtual education platform for self-access learning.

The 15-year project was implemented after impact studies carried out by the Economic Planning Unit. YTL Communications Sdn Bhd was offered a two-year, six-month contract to implement the project after an open tender process in 2011.

Nation News

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