KUALA LUMPUR: The government is taking further steps to ensure the lower income group does not lose out in today's world of high technology and information exchange.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said those without quick access to real time information would not be able to compete and be sidelined by those with immediate access to information, news and data.
“To narrow this digital divide we must ensure that this service is freely available or is available at a low and minimal cost to ensure those in the lower income category will have access to the latest news, information and data,” said Najib after launching the nation's first free satellite TV, Astro NJOI, at PPR Cochrane Perkasa in Cheras yesterday.
“Knowledge is a very important component of any highly progressive society and it is the foundation upon which a nation of excellence is built.
“Giving the people access to a wealth of information is critical in producing a multi-talented, highly-skilled, creative and innovative workforce necessary to build a knowledge-based economy towards becoming a high-income nation.”
The first phase of Astro NJOI's three-phase plan will see 50,000 people from the Prime Minister's Office's eKasih programme receiving free decoders and satellite dishes as part of the company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme aimed at giving free access to education, information, entertainment and sports to low-income communities.
Yesterday, Najib presented decoders and satellite sets to 20 recipients from the eKasih programme. Astro will install the sets within three to 10 days.
The company's NJOI CSR programme will see RM100 million as an initial investment which will increase to RM400 million over the next five years.
Its second phase will see the decoders being sold to the public at retail outlets in the first quarter of next year. After purchasing the decoders, consumers do not need to pay the monthly subscription.
The third phase will enable NJOI users to purchase additional programmes through a prepaid system.
The NJOI package will include 37 channels with 18 TV and 19 radio channels, including education ones and news channels.
Some lucky recipients already Astro subscribers
WHILE Astro may have the noblest of intentions in its NJOI corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme, some recipients are already customers despite being in the government's eKasih programme.
Speaking to The Malay Mail after receiving his free decoder, Abdul Alim Othman, 57, said he had a decoder at home but was still “very happy” to get a free set from Astro yesterday.
“I believe this is my rezeki (good fortune) to get a new decoder. I received a call from Astro two weeks ago and another last week confirming I will be one of the lucky recipients of their new NJOI decoder.
“I will use both decoders. I will put my new decoder in the living room so my four grandchildren can watch it when I babysit them and I will move my old decoder, which has more channels, into my room,” said the father- of-three.
Zaidi Zainal, 42, also has an Astro decoder at home but the account was registered under his brother who lives with him and his family.
When asked if he will keep both decoders, Zaidi said: “I will discuss this with my household first. But I do thank Astro for giving me this new free NJOI decoder for which I don't have to pay a monthly subscription.”
Rosli Md Akhir, 43, said he used to have a decoder about 10 years ago before experiencing financial difficulties.
“I am only a night market trader. Once, I went through a very hard time and couldn't pay the monthly subscription.
“I am so happy to receive this gift from Astro and I really appreciate what they have done for me.”