SARAWAK aims to be a major digital economy powerhouse by 2030. Although the state has achieved much since the launch of the Sarawak Digital Economy Strategy 2018-2022, Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg is not resting on his laurels.

He launched the Second Sarawak Digital Economy Blueprint 2030 in October this year to ensure that Sarawak is not left behind in the digital economy race.

The blueprint, which builds upon the existing Sarawak Digital Economy Strategy 2018-2022 and serves as the cornerstone of the Sarawak Post COVID-19 Development Strategy 2030 (PCDS 2030), will set out how the state will secure its future as a leading digital economy and society by 2030.

AZAM Sarawak and bank staff take part in a Randau exhibition to promote online banking.

Abang Johari explained at the opening of the World Congress on Innovation and Technology and the 6th International Digital Economy Conference in Kuching that a key goal of the blueprint was to inspire businesses to come up with new ideas, use them and adapt to contemporary business models.

The blueprint also aims to help people use their skills to succeed in the digital world and create a system where everyone can benefit from the digital economy.

Do you know that Angkatan Zaman Mansang Sarawak (AZAM Sarawak), a non-governmental organisation that promotes development communication in the state, has been busy communicating the Digital Agenda to specific intended audiences, particularly in the rural areas and suburban areas?

“This is done through dissemination of information and content related platforms like seminars, roadshows and forums,” said deputy chairman of AZAM Sarawak Dato Norhyati Ismail.

A communication strategic partner of the Sarawak government, AZAM Sarawak was founded 40 years ago by current Governor, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud when he was Chief Minister.

“AZAM Sarawak plays a role as a conduit between the government and community. It also uses the mainstream of radio, TV, print as well as social media to inform the greater Sarawak community to propel towards growth and IR 4.0 (Fourth industrial revolution),“ said Norhyati.

She explained that AZAM Sarawak also conducted workshops and skills training on technical skills, technologies and tools in collaboration with relevant agencies and the private sector.

She pointed out that digital inclusivity was a major thrust of Sarawak’s Digital Economy (DE) Transformation strategy.

“This means that no Sarawakian will be left behind in terms of knowledge and skills in applying digital technologies.

“Every Sarawakian will be able to take advantage of opportunities in the Digital Economy to improve their economic livelihoods and upgrade their living standards.

“Every member of society will have equal opportunity to benefit from digitalisation.” Norhyati, who was also the Cluster Leader of the state’s Digital Inclusivity programme, added, “Three major areas of Digital Inclusivity are Awareness — to enhance the people’s understanding, appreciation

support for Sarawak’s Digital Economy Transformation; Readiness — provide the people with necessary knowledge and skills to build trust and competence in digital technologies and Immersion — to ensure sustainability of people’s support and active participation in the DE initiatives.”

Deputy chief executive officer of AZAM Sarawak, Rosalind Yang Misieng said in the late 1990s, the NGO was among the first entities to reach out to rural communities in the state to promote awareness on IT and its potential importance in socio-economic progress.

“It was to help bridge urbanrural IT divide in Sarawak then.” Rosalind explained that since 2018, AZAM Sarawak’s digital inclusivity projects were funded under a Digital Inclusivity Programme by Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA).

In 2023, AZAM undertook the programme with Pustaka Negeri. Focusing on digital awareness and buy-in, the projects included radio programmes, rural community and youth engagement programmes.

“The programmes comprised two components, namely, mass awareness through communication platforms such as radio, social media and newspaper columns and community engagement through seminars and workshops for community leaders, rural entrepreneurs and youth,” said Rosalind.

For instance, from 2018 to 2019, community engagement programmes were held in Limbang, Miri, Lawas, Kapit, Bintulu and Sarikei. Social Media Influencers Workshops and a Youth Online Business Workshop were also held in Kuching during that time.

Based on the participants’ feedback, among the immediate impacts of the engagement with the grassroots communities that time was teaching them to use digital platforms to sustain their businesses, to access government assistance and to conduct transactions online for daily needs during COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in the following years.

Key themes covered by the community engagement programmes were STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education, Internet of Things (IOT), Digital Agriculture (Smart Farming), e-tourism, Smart City, Digital Infrastructure, e-governance, e-entrepreneurs, Promoting social media influencer local content development and income generation skills for youth and Youth online business skills.

Rosalind said this year’s community engagement programmes, which focused on awareness and and buy-in, were held at three locations, namely, Sri Aman and Lingga in March, Dalat in July and Long Lama in June.

“The participants comprised community leaders, Village Development and Security Committee (JKKK) members, entrepreneurs, youth, secondary school students and farmers.”

Datu William Patrick Nyigor, chairman of AZAM who addressed the participants at the programme in Sri Aman said “The programmes in 2023 are to provide updates on Sarawak’s digital economy initiatives and opportunities among the local community, to boost awareness and usage of the government’s Sarawak Online Portal among local communities and to accelerate community development through greater awareness on digital enablers such as the Digital Community Centre (DCC).”

This year, the community digitalisation programme, which consisted of an intensive hands-on workshop, also took place at three locations, namely, the Digital Community Centre (DCC) in Lingga in March, the DCC in Dalat in May and DCC in Long Lama in June.

An important component of this immersion programme was engaging rural entrepreneurs to go on-board a homegrown e-commerce platform,, to help expand their businesses. Apart from providing the e-commerce platform, over a few months, the company also provided digital skills training and mentoring for the entrepreneurs to be successful vendors on the platform.

Rosalind said some media and communication activities were also carried out to complement
the community engagement programmes.

“They included radio programmes over RTM Sarawak Kuching, Sri Aman and Miri, radioinfo capsules over RTM and Cats FM in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban language.”

An online digital quiz contest was also held on AZAM’s social media platforms such as Facebook
and Instagram.

“Short videos and articles on the Digital Inclusivity activities were also posted on AZAM platform and shared with those of partner organisations such as SMA, Sarawak Digital Economy Corporation (SDEC) and PUSTAKA,” added Rosalind.

For the past 40 years, AZAM Sarawak has been helping the state government to communicate change by focusing on education and training of grassroots leaders as well as civic dialogues with its development communication efforts.

It has also actively associated itself with many NGOs, within and outside the country, which shared
its interest.

In line with its new vision statement unveiled during its 40th anniversary dinner at Imperial Hotel in Kuching on Nov 12, 2023, AZAM Sarawak will continue its noble job of empowering communities for sustainable development in the state. It will do this by communicating the Digital Agenda of the Sarawak government.