Brunei Darussalam may be in the top 10 of world’s fastest mobile networks with median download speed of 102.06 megabits per second (Mbps), but being well-connected is not sufficient for the Sultanate to become a smart nation.
“Being a smart nation would involve using technology – data, digital services and advanced know-how – to improve the quality of life for the citizens not limited to healthcare, education and public services,” said Minister of Transport and Infocommunications Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Shamhary bin Pengiran Dato Paduka Haji Mustapha during a keynote address at National Business Conference 2023’s panel discussion on ‘Beyond Recovery: Achieving a Sustainable Digital Future’ at International Convention Centre (ICC) in Berakas.
The minister said connectivity is the key infrastructure to ensure the adoption of digital technologies. Brunei has benefitted from its high national connectivity rate – the result of key investments that saw the Sultanate’s population with access to the internet jump from nine per cent in 2000 to 95 per cent in 2020.
Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Shamhary said the government is continuously working with stakeholders to improve Brunei’s network infrastructure such as the Broadband Uplift programme that aims to raise fixed broadband baseline speed for all subscribers to at least 50Mbps.
The minister said smart nation means having an environment where citizens can easily access information and services through easy-to-use platforms. While there is progress, there are still efforts to increase awareness, convenience, accessibility, reliability and trustworthiness of online services.
Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Shamhary said other than government services, digital transformation of industries and businesses are needed to be a smart nation. He noted that local businesses have been quick to incorporate consumer facing technology such as e-commerce and social media marketing. The adoption of technology allows them to have increased efficiency and productivity hence increased competitiveness with good return of investments.
The minister said, “We must work collectively to overcome any barriers to technology adoption, especially among industries and businesses.
“We also need to provide an enabling environment to take advantage of our improved connectivity and infrastructure.
“The question now remains on how we can encourage our people and industry to leverage what is available; how we can improve productivity of our industries and improve their capabilities to export goods and services; or even having exported-oriented information and communication technology sector.”
Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Shamhary said Digital Economy Masterplan 2025, which just had its mid-term review, is focussed on delivering two key projects – Digital ID and Digital Payment Hub. Digital ID is focussed on providing individuals with digital identities that can be used to access online services while Digital Payment Hub aims to improve and make online payments more seamless and accessible.
The minister also said digital technologies had been critical in helping to manoeuvre through the COVID-19 pandemic and the lessons learnt include the necessity of quick fixes and actions. For long-term sustainability, he urged innovation at the core of businesses or processes.
Pengiran Dato Seri Setia Shamhary concluded the keynote by urging the government, businesses and individuals to invest in education, infrastructure and better understanding of technology for better comparative advantage.
He also said, “Governments need to protect the population from being disenfranchised by creating an enabling and safe environment as well as keeping itself up to speed with technological developments and how to manage change.”