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Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Cyberjaya opens for e-business

Dr Mahathir has high hopes for the mutimedia city

The Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed, has opened a new multimedia garden city known as Cyberjaya which he says will be the nerve centre of the country's high-technology development.

Dr Mahathir: "The next engine fo growth"
The latest of Malaysia's prestigious mega-projects will have cost an estimated $15bn by the time it is completed in the next millennium.

Designed to be the Malaysian answer to Silicon Valley, it will be intelligent, high-tech, low density and environmentally friendly.

Building site

For the moment Cyberjaya, situated 40km south of the capital, is still a dusty building site and most of its inhabitants are immigrant Bangladeshi and Indonesian construction workers.

[ image: Heads of global technology companies attended the opening ceremony]
Heads of global technology companies attended the opening ceremony
But it does boast world class infrastructure and high profile international companies, including computer giant Microsoft, have decided to locate themselves there.

Many have been attracted by generous tax incentives offered by the Malaysian Government.

The developers say the vision behind the new city is one which fuses man's technological ingenuity with nature's bounty.


The city lies at the heart of Malaysia's so-called Multimedia Super-Corridor (MSC), with the soaring heights of the Petronas Towers - the world's tallest building - at one end and the new Kuala Lumpur International Airport at the other.

[ image: Smart cards are being printed for use in Cyberjaya]
Smart cards are being printed for use in Cyberjaya
The corridor covers some 750 square kilometers (300 square miles) and is wired with the latest fibre-optic technology.

The MSC will also be home to Malaysia's new administrative capital, Putrajaya, which is also under construction.

Dr Mahathir sees the project as being the key to Malaysia's entry into developed world status by the year 2020 - a concept he calls Vision 2020.

John Gage of Sun Microsystems: "There's a dynamism here in Malaysia"
At the opening ceremony he said multimedia technology would be the engine to achieve the required economic growth.

"The MSC initiative will carry the Malaysian success story of growth and stability well into the next millennium," he said.

Smart schools

[ image: Putrajaya - the new capital - is also under construction]
Putrajaya - the new capital - is also under construction
Until two years ago, the site was a plantation full of lush green palm trees. Now the city boasts a multimedia university, a resort hotel and some office blocks.

In the next millennium, it is expected that Cyberjaya will be a place where children go to "smart" schools and "smart" hospitals, wired up for long distance interactive learning and telemedicine.

There will be electronic shopping and banking, online libraries and a central billing system, all working off solar power.

But new cities do not come cheap and Malaysia has already spent heavily on a new administrative capital and the tallest building in the world.

Edifice complex

Critics of the project say Dr Mahathir has what they call an edifice complex, spending large amounts of public money on monumental projects whilst ignoring low cost housing for the poor.

But Dr Mahathir says there will always be snide remarks about his achievements.

He is adamant the government will make money out of Cyberjaya.

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