One of the traits of a non-conformist is the propensity to do things uniquely better and not merely following the majority or established practices. Just because most people do things in a certain manner, it does not mean that it is the best and the only way. Exploring the ways to solve a problem requires the right thought process, and to get this process right, we must ask the right questions. This is one of my strong beliefs. Asking the right question will give us a chance to get the right answer. But if we ask the wrong question, we will definitely get the wrong answer. Let me give you an example. Much has been said about the issue of world hunger. To solve this issue, the related world agency like World Relief may ask, “What is the one food that many people like to eat?” If the reply that they received is, ‘curry’, then the solution that might be proposed could be a “Global Curry Plan.”
With this presented as the solution, the behaviour that ensues will be centred around curry; “What sort of curry do we cook? Chicken curry or beef curry? How do we cook the curry?”
Lest we forget, not everyone enjoys curry. By limiting our thinking to just one way, we will deprive ourselves of the plethora of other fixes that are available to us. In this case, the “Global Curry Plan” may fail because it is not addressing what the problem actually is. Curry shortage is not the issue here now, is it? Let’s move on to an issue which is close to home. The Government of Malaysia has decided to switch off analogue TV broadcast in this country in the first quarter of 2019, in a move to force migration from analogue to digital using STB (Set-top box). No doubt, this is the trend internationally. However, have we actually considered why are we doing this, and whether the people want or need digital broadcast?
Even if the STB is given for free, some people might not even want or need to view content in high-definition (HD), for a multitude of reasons. Their television sets probably can’t support the resolutions, or limited access may also hinder their ability to enjoy the contents.
On the other end of that spectrum, affluent people might already have devices that make content consumption so fluid via OTT (Over the top) that the offer of the digital broadcast on the STB may be a laughable matter to them.
Imagine what would happen when the analogue-switch-off is implemented. One scenario that may arise is that some people may be cut off from consuming any content.
If only one solution is identified and forced on everyone, then other problems may crop up.
I believe the focus should be finding the right antidote by attending to the specific consumer behaviour, and recognise that there are different groups of consumers with different demographic profiles, needs and problems. One antidote cannot be the cure to all the pain points. The answer may lie in having a hybrid of solutions or cures. Now let's look at another real scenario. Last year, the Government mooted the National Fiberisation Plan (NFP), which identified fibre technology as the solution to ensure that the entire nation would have a faster Internet connection in five years. The NFP has now been replaced by the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) that will consider fibre-optic broadband to boost national connectivity. Under the 2019 budget, the Government has allocated RM1 billion to implement NFCP. Among the objectives under this plan is to get a baseline Internet connection speeds of 30 Mbps in 98 per cent of the populated areas in Malaysia.
The plan also stated that by 2023, the Government would completely phase out copper wires, while fibre networks should be ready in 70% of government buildings by 2022.
If the objective of the project is to enable the whole country to enjoy a minimum broadband speed of 30Mbps, the questions that should probably be asked is: “What solutions are available right now to meet the target broadband speed of 30Mbps, taking into account the geographic location and existing last mile infrastructure?”
Answering this question may require the assessment of all bandwidth technologies, including copper technology, to see which one can deliver the objectives efficiently and at the lowest cost. This will bring out the many varieties of fixes that are available for the different types of consumers.
For people who are living in affluent or new areas, fibre optic cables might be the solution. For dwellers of old buildings where copper wires are still used for the last mile connectivity, other technologies that can exceed the minimum connectivity speed targeted are available. For instance, technological limitations associated with copper networks can be overcome using devices that use G.hn specifications that deliver connection speeds of up to 2000 Mbps over the same copper network. As fibre optic cables are notoriously expensive, the task of replacing this cables will put an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers. It is better to ask what is needed at the different areas, rather than to give a blanket solution for all.
Just as consumer behaviours keep changing so do technologies. A technology of today can be obsolete tomorrow, and while tomorrow’s technology can solve the problems of tomorrow, we must also ask whether it could be disrupted thereafter. This is because technologies are fluid and ever-changing.
So if we choose a “Global Curry Plan,” that is a technology-based solution over one that specifically attends to changing consumer behaviour, not only we may pay a heavy price, but our problems may still remain unresolved. Datuk Azrin Mohd Noor is the founder of Sedania Group, an innovator, author and IP expert. Reach him at email@example.com