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Coffee Tarik with Haji Yahkup bin Haji Menudin, Chief Executive of AITI

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Coffee Tarik with Haji Yahkup bin Haji Menudin, Chief Executive of AITI
20/02/2014

 

 As published in Brunei Times; 17 February 2014

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1) AITI, being both a regulator and an entity which promotes ICT business in the country, how does the organisation find a balance between the two activities? What are some of the achievements made in regards to both roles last year?
 
One of AITI’s strategic thrusts is to create a pro-business environment in which ICT and media businesses can flourish.  Hence, even though as we regulate the telecoms sector, AITI is mindful that we should not create regulatory policies and frameworks that will be a barrier to market entry.  In this aspect, we have embarked on a project to review our current policies and licensing framework to cater for a converged telecoms and broadcasting sector.  The main objective is to streamline application processes, improve the license terms and conditions and the fee for the entities that AITI regulates (usually the telcos and broadcasters).  The project is in progress and we hope that the relevant revised policies and legislations can be passed this year so that these new pro-business measures can be put into action.
 
While the above initiative targets licensees which AITI regulates, there are many non-telecoms related entities which AITI helped to grow their businesses locally.  AITI provides grants to ICT businesses to help them enhance, promote and market their products and services.  To date, a total of 12 local ICT and digital media related companies have been awarded under the AITI Grant Scheme with a total amount of B$1.7million disbursed under the National Development Plan administered by JPKE, Prime Minister Office.  The 12 companies were Mars Enterprise, Crescent Sdn Bhd, John Harith Technology Sdn Bhd, Alif Technologies Sdn Bhd, Syarikat Indah Sejahtera Development & services Sdn Bhd, ZimacSilicon Technologies Sdn Bhd, BruGPS Technologies Sdn Bhd, Ambuyart Animations Company, PHMD Publishing Company, SocialBuzz Advertising, Cinematicpro Services and Media Hikmah.  These grantees have been progressing well with their projects and some of them have successfully completed their product development stage and currently marketing them to the potential users, as well as venturing into regional market.
 
The above shows that regulation and industry promotion can go hand-in-hand.  In fact, by knowing both sides of the coin (regulation versus promotion), AITI can better manage the differences under one roof and devise programs and schemes that will help to complement these two roles of AITI.  Most importantly, the mission of AITI is to help grow our ICT sector as another pillar of economic growth (Wawasan 2035) and we should never lose this objective regardless whether we are performing our regulator or industry promoter roles.
 
2) In terms of staff and expertise, which areas do you feel that AITI need to improve on and what are the organisation's plans in regards to increasing human capacity? 
 
AITI has a relatively young staff population.  As in past years, AITI continues to recruit mature individuals in the relevant fields to provide coaching, mentoring and knowledge transfer to the younger ones. At the same time AITI continues to invest in training and upgrading the competency of our staff in both technical and soft skills.  Every AITI staff must achieve 100 man hours of training as their individual target.  Besides classroom training, AITI staff must work on projects and initiatives to put what they learnt in classroom to good use and at the same time gained valuable experience which will better equip them for the next project, tasks or job.    Hence, in terms of human capacity development in AITI, I believe this is the right approach.  Over the past 2 years, AITI has also increased the intake of interns from ITB, UBD and private colleges.  We believe in exposing our future generation to real life working environment and through the intake of interns, AITI hope to interest these future graduates to take up ICT as a career. Overall, AITI continues its efforts to be a vibrant organization to be admired and people is key to make this happen & sustainable.
 
 
3) Can you share with us some of AITI's plans this year, as a regulatory body and as an entity in promoting the ICT industry?  
 
As mentioned in (1), AITI hoped to launch the converged licensing framework once relevant legislations are passed by the government.  This initiative would see AITI bringing telecommunications and broadcasting under one roof for greater efficiency, ease of administration, streamlined operation, greater synergy in monitoring and enforcement for AITI as well as for our licensees.  The converged licensing framework will also allow AITI to introduce a Telecoms and Media Competition Code to further level the playing field for telecoms and media players in the market.  Thus, smaller players will also have a chance to compete with bigger and dominant players to create more innovative services for consumers. This is AITI’s vision to create vibrant ICT industry with more new players coming into the markets providing more new innovative services and more choices for consumers. 
 
On the telecommunication front, AITI will launch and enforce a Code of Practice (COP) for the Quality of Services (QoS) for Telecommunication Services.  AITI has started a series of featured articles in the newspaper on QoS for fixed telephone lines, mobile cellular voice, mobile cellular broadband etc since late Jan 2014 to create public awareness on this issue.  With the launch of the COP, telecos will be mandated to comply with the QoS as stipulated by AITI and consumers should expect an overall improvement of telecos’ services.
 
AITI will also be taking over the management of .bn domain names in Brunei Darussalam and will issue several registrars as agents for registering the .bn domain names.  This initiative will create value added new services such as hosting services in data centres which can benefit and to be explored by the industries.
 
On broadcasting aspect, AITI and MediaCorp of Singapore has funded a joint documentary production between Brunei and Singapore production houses which RTB will schedule for telecast around the period where we celebrate our 30th National Day.  This was our first joint production with Singapore companies and it has helped film studios and production houses from both countries to exchange information, techniques, new technologies and skill sets to create interesting programs. 
 
On the enforcement front, Ministry of Communications (MOC) and AITI have commenced public dialogues to socialize the new Government Policy on the 5 years plan to phase out TVRO for residential use in Brunei Darussalam.  Starting from March this year, AITI will step up the enforcement of TVRO licensing.  As we plan to phase out TVRO for residential use in 5 years, AITI will embark on the formulation of a strategic plan to develop Broadcasting and TV sector in Brunei Darussalam and outline the initiatives to create a vibrant TV and media market and, hopefully, allow consumers to access more content that is aligned with our culture, Islamic teaching, heritage and social harmony.
 
On AITI’s industry promoter role, we will continue to help our local ICT companies.  We will carry on our AITI Grant Scheme with the inclusion of digital media companies that are eligible to apply.  AITI will continue to collaborate with BEDB to ensure their financial assistance schemes, namely LEAP Grant and AITI Grant does not overlap but target at different growth stage of ICT and digital media products. The LEAP Grant will focus on product development or prototype stage while AITI Grant will concentrate on enhanced or matured products and services. Our local market is getting saturated. We have always envisioned our home-grown companies to grow beyond Brunei. We are currently looking at a market acceleration program that would enable our local start-ups to access to potential investors outside Brunei and eventually penetrate the international market.
 
On the human capacity development, this year, AITI will work hand-in-hand with eGovenment National Centre (EGNC), the Department of Economic Planning and Development (JPKE) and the Local Employment and Workforce Development AgencyAPTK to train and upgrade the ICT skills for school leavers, job seekers and young ICT professionals under the Youth Development Program (YDP).  Through AITI’s ICT Competency Program and EGNC’s YDP, we hope to create a talent pool of ICT professionals that is critically needed by ICT businesses.  AITI will also embark on the development a National ICT Manpower Masterplan that will help to systematically map out the demand and supply projections and strategies for ICT manpower for the next 5 years.
 
Our telcos have already started to roll out high speed broadband services such as Fibre-To-The-Home and Long Term Evolution (LTE).   AITI, as a regulator and facilitator, will intervene when necessary and appropriately to ensure that these broadband services are up to international standards and quality.  In this aspect, AITI will conduct technical audits to ensure that infrastructure deployed is not sub-standard as inferior quality will result in consumer not getting good services which they have paid for.  AITI will also ramp up public awareness of these broadband services to help increase the user adoption of these high speed broadband services as Brunei moves towards a smart society.
 
Last but not least, AITI will continue to strive for operational efficiency.   We plan to bring our various customer facing applications and services (such as license application, type approval, import permit, grant application etc) online at the AITI website to supplement our physical counter services.  AITI will also leverage on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to enhance our engagement with the industry and citizens.  We will use social media to communicate our policies, regulations, rationale and use the social media platform to poll constructive feedback to improve our policies, regulation and operations.
 
 4) What are some of the bigger challenges you think AITI will be facing in the coming years? What are some of the plans on overcoming them?
 
As you may be aware, ICT is a fast pace and changing landscape sector and over the past 10 years since the establishment of AITI, AITI has been spearheading the growth of ICT and its sector in Brunei Darussalam.  Therefore, the challenge that AITI faces is to maintain the momentum of various positive initiatives and projects we have started. 
 
With the transfer of broadcasting role to AITI to manage the broadcasting industry, AITI need to adjust itself being formerly as telecom regulator to become a Converged Regulator to manage the telecom, broadcasting and media industry which cover wide range of spectrum of services especially in the management of contents in the media industries as well as contents over the social media on the Internet. Content is a very subjective matter and currently almost every individual may access some form of content at any given day and time. Monitoring of content has now become a very challenging endeavor as content is now available on a global scale and go viral in a relatively short span of time.
 
Social media and messaging apps is another challenge that needs to be addressed. The issues about social media and messaging apps are that there will always be D.R.U.M.S (Distortion, Rumors, Untruth, Misinformation and Smears). With the high usage of social media and messaging apps on smartphones, this is a worrying trend.  Most of us have come across gruesome pictures of injured and deceased victims, discomforting jokes, and rumors that tarnish reputation of individual, businesses and agencies. While we appreciate how these messaging apps have facilitated the sharing of information, we must remember to be sensitive to the suffering of others. The spread of false information can also cause unnecessary panic, destabilizing and chaotic situation.  Brunei has established a Content Advisory Council (CAC) to ensure the compliance of the broadcasting codes and ethics and as well as to facilitate the complaints handling. One thing that we have to be clear here is that each Ministry or Agency will still have to enforce over issues within their jurisdiction regardless the offense is committed online or offline.  ICT or the Internet is just a platform for such offenses to be committed but relevant acts should still be applicable for offenses committed online.
 
Whatever the challenges, AITI cannot tackle them alone.  Everyone has its own role to play, be it the Government, industries as well as up to individual level.  On the government stakeholders’ end, AITI together with other relevant government agencies and statutory boards must adopt a Whole-of-Government (WOG) approach to provide a conducive and pro-business environment for local ICT companies to grow and, if possible, expand beyond Brunei’s shore.  On the private sector stakeholders’ side, AITI needs to collaborate with industry alliance such as Infocomm Federation Brunei (IFB) and through AITI’s schemes such as AITI Accredited Businesses (AAB) to groom and grow a credible ICT sector which can provide quality products and services through leveraging latest proven technologies in the market, employ more locals in the sector and, at the same time through government’s incentive, develop innovative local apps which we can be proud of.
 
 5) Any other thoughts in regards to AITI's role in the future in the country?
 
I believe AITI will continue to play a critical and instrumental role in our country’s Wawasan 2035 vision to make ICT as another engine of economic growth besides oil and gas.  In any country, ICT is now a de facto service in every sector and in the lives of its citizen and society.  With the continuous support from all its stakeholders, AITI will & must continue to play this important role in helping our country harness the infinite possibilities and potential of ICT that will provide economic growth and enrich our lives.