BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei must improve its telecommunications infrastructure and cybersecurity to strengthen its digital economy, said the Minister of Transport and Infocommunications (MTIC) on Wednesday.

In 2017, the info-communications sector contributed 1.6 per cent to Brunei’s GDP. However, YB Dato Seri Setia Abdul Mutalib Pehin Dato Yusof acknowledged that there is still a lot of room for improvement for info-communications to be a significant contributor and become a key enabler to the growth of other sectors.

He said the ministry is working closely with the Ministry of Finance and Economy and other stakeholders to review the need to upgrade the telecommunications infrastructure to facilitate business, reduce cost of doing business and increase productivity.

This is part and parcel of becoming more responsive to the needs of the industry and prepare Brunei to become a “smart nation”, he said on Wednesday at the opening of the Smart Future Forum, hosted by the Authority for Info-Communications Technology Industry.

Touching on cybersecurity, the minister said there is the need to safeguard personal data. As cities become “smarter”, they retain more of their citizens’ data, leading to concerns about the security of data protection measures.

There is also a need to be more agile, especially with Fourth Industrial Revolution looming ahead, he said. “We need to look into our governance, processes and frameworks. We need to ensure that they are responsive and relevant to the needs of industry,” he added.

Also crucial to realising Brunei’s digital economy potential is the need to with stakeholders both domestic and international in order to achieve a holistic and thorough policy consideration, Dato Abdul Mutalib said.

The ICT Household Survey published by AITI in 2016 indicated that 75 out of every 100 households in Brunei have access to the Internet.

“With this high level of connectivity, Brunei is also presented with the need to adapt to digital technologies. Now, this is a necessity for us, in order to stay relevant and prepare ourselves for the implications from technological developments,” he said.

AITI’s ‘CyberShop Fest’ scheduled for February 2 is aimed at empowering local online vendors to participate in the digital economy and provide a more enriching experience in the move towards a Smart Nation.

Brunei’s central bank Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) had recently announced plans for a ‘payment hub’ that will centralise Brunei’s digital transactions by integrating existing and future payment systems. It is believed that this will support the growth of internet banking and drive e-commerce.

The E-Commerce Survey in Brunei Darussalam 2018 Report published by AITI showed that out of a sampling of 1,000 users, seven out of 10 of those surveyed are e-commerce users. This data shows the high level of e-commerce usage in Brunei.

Themed ‘Innovation through Emerging Technologies”, the two day forum aimed at raising awareness on the benefits and opportunities of driving innovation and digital growth.

Speakers from International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC); Singapore’s Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) and Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) came together to talk about smart sustainable cities, the reality of 5G to blockchain technology. It provided a venue for sharing of ideas and approaches; develop and communicate experiences and knowledge, as well as seeing how smart nation initiatives can be adopted in Brunei.