DAP: What’s become of ‘laptop for every student’ promise?

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PETALING JAYA: A Penang DAP leader has taken aim at Barisan Nasional’s campaign promises in the last general election (GE13), highlighting a specific promise relating to education and the provision of free laptops for students.

Penang DAP vice-chairman Zairil Khir Johari asked what had become of the BN promise to “provide every school student with a laptop next year if Barisan Nasional is returned to power”, as was reported by The Star in an article dated April 9, 2013.

“Certainly, the five million students in Malaysian schools have not been provided with individual laptops for their personal use, or even any kind of device for that matter.

“The most the government has done was to purchase 116,399 units of Chromebooks, a laptop based on Google’s Chrome operating system, at a cost of RM248 million from YTL, the same company that was awarded the multi-billion ringgit 1BestariNet project,” the Bukit Bendera MP said of the project that was implemented under the watch of former education minister Muhyiddin Yassin who is now president of opposition Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

Zairil pointed out that dividing 116,399 Chromebooks across the 10,000 schools in the country would amount to an average of 20 units per school.

“I agree that it would be too expensive to provide one Chromebook or even any kind of device to each and every student in the country, but if that is the case, how can such a promise be made and then conveniently forgotten?”

Citing the price for each Chromebook at RM2,130, based on the RM248 million paid to YTL for the 116,339 units, Zairil said it was a premium price for a laptop that retails at RM999.

Zairil, who is DAP parliamentary spokesman for education, science and technology, noted that the official reply from the education ministry as given by its deputy minister P Kamalanathan in the Dewan Rakyat last year was that the Chromebook price included seven other services such as software and support services.

“Still, there are too many questions that need answering. Firstly, the government needs to explain whether an open tender was conducted for the procurement of the Chromebooks.

“Secondly, why do they cost so much? Thirdly, why were they purchased from YTL, which is not a computer hardware manufacturer, when it would be cheaper to procure them from manufacturers, such as Acer or Samsung?

“Lastly, why did the government pay a premium price for additional services to YTL when the same company is already paid billions of ringgit to provide software and support services through the 1BestariNet project?” Zairil said about the controversial internet infrastructure and education technology project for schools.

Zairil demanded an explanation from Putrajaya for the “ambitious election promise which degenerated into yet another profligate project for a company that already had a monopoly on internet infrastructure and education technology in the Malaysian education system”.