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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - September 24, 2001: Internet in Malaysia - 2001-09-21

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Malaysia has developed a program to help bring technology to schools around the country. It is a traveling bus equipped with twenty computers and other modern technology. Officials call the bus a “Mobile Internet Unit” because students can use it to connect to the Worldwide Web. The goal of the bus is to increase technology knowledge among teachers and students in poor farming areas.

Two technology experts drive the bus to schools throughout Malaysia. The technology experts show teachers and students how to use computers. The experts show them how to search for information on the Internet. The experts also collect information for future technology training programs. The Malaysian government plans to put two Mobile Internet Units in each of its fourteen states by Two-Thousand-Five.

The United Nations Development Program and the Malaysian government support the Mobile Internet Unit program. It was started two years ago. Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the project was necessary to reduce the differences between people who know how to use computers and people who do not.

The Asia-Pacific Development Information Program created the idea for Malaysia’s traveling bus. Gabriel Accascina is the former head of the organization, which is based in Kuala Lumpur. He says he developed the idea from his earlier work in Mali in West Africa. During the Nineteen-Eighties, Mister Accascina and other aid workers drove a vehicle with a television and video recorder to local villages. They used the technology to teach people about nutrition, water and health issues.

Mister Accascina said he developed Malaysia’s traveling bus with just seventy-five-thousand dollars from the United Nations. Two Malaysian companies also support the project. They are the Automotive Corporation Malaysia and Mimos Berhad, a local information technology company.

Malaysia says its traveling bus could easily be copied in other developing countries where it is difficult to train people to use computers and the Internet. Experts say programs similar to the Mobile Internet Unit could prevent developing countries from falling farther behind industrial countries in information technology.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.