Michael Lai is Chief Executive Officer of Packet One Networks, Malaysia (‘P1’). Mr Lai has over 20 years of experience in the Information, Communications and Technologies (ICT) industry. Prior to joining the group, Mr Lai was the CEO of TMNet, the region’s largest Internet service provider. Mr Lai was also previously Senior Vice President of Branding and Market Development for Celcom and Marketing Director for Oracle Malaysia. The Peak Magazine dubbed him the “Wizard of Wireless” and Malaysia’s English daily, The Star, reported that Mr Lai has one of the best resumes in the country to drive broadband forward. Michael Lai is an Electrical Engineer by training with a Masters in Business Administration.
We increasingly get our information not from books and newspapers, but from screens of every type. Even our televisions, our ‘first screens’ will soon be connected to the Internet (a somewhat tougher job than it seems). Our social lives - especially if you are under 30 - now depend on the Net. Social history is being written on the net by Twitter; the US Library of Congress is archiving every public tweet since the beginning to document this era.
Our daily lives are segregated into different screens by which we gather information. A little over ten years ago, many of us had only two screens in our lives - the television and the computer. The television was our primary source of information and the computer screen was our second. Look around today and youﾒll see how much that has changed. The number of screens an individual has access to daily have increased and the television is no longer our primary source of information. It is now the computer or the smartphone, and recently many have added a new screen in their lives - the iPad. The iPad is winning the hearts of gadget junkies and casual readers alike. Do not underestimate the power of the screen; today, more than ever before, getting connected and staying connected is crucial. All the screens in our lives are connected to the Internet in some way. Our primary screen - the computer - is almost useless if itﾒs not connected to the Internet. Today, weﾒre even connecting our televisions to the Internet. We only need to look at how and by what means we consume information to see that we are now living in the connected world. A world where time zones and borders donﾒt exist; a world where information travels as fast as the speed of thought; a world where the people - more than any generation before it - are conversing and collaborating, are engaged with, and connected to, each other. The world is filled with users that create and propagate, users who now share more than they consume. Over 50 per cent of the worldﾒs population is under the age of 30 and as much as 96 per cent of these under 30 year-olds in some regions have joined a social network. The rate at which this connected world is creating and sharing information is phenomenal. In the five minutes that you have taken to read this piece, over 100 hours of video have been uploaded on YouTube. We live in a world where many of us read books that have no paper, watch TV shows on a mobile phone screen, shop from our desktops and talk using our hands. It is indeed a very different world out there. We no longer get breaking news from reporters, but from the guy who updates his Twitter feed. In fact, it was a tweet that first broke the news to the world that Michael Jackson had died. That single tweet was monumental in two ways. First, we had lost one of the greatest talents of our time. Second, if marks a paradigm shift on how and where we get our news from - it is through the connected world. There are now over 100 million registered users on Twitter. What is even more amazing is that over 60 per cent of these users are from outside of the US. And out of the 100 million users currently tweeting, 37 per cent of them are tweeting from their phones. Tweets are so valuable in terms of the information and context that they bring us that the US Library of Congress has recently announced it is archiving every public tweet uploaded since March 2006. The magnitude of this connected world that weﾒre living in is so vast that social media has over taken porn as the number 1 activity on the Web. For the longest time, the focus has been on devices. This was warranted, since a few years back devices were quite costly. Today, arguably, cost is no longer a barrier. It took radio close to 40 years to reach 50 million users, TV took 13 years - the Internet took just 4 years and amazingly the iPod reached 50 million users in just 3 years. In just under a month since its launch, Apple has shipped out over one million iPads to consumers - in half the time it took the original iPhone to reach the same mark. With one million iPads sold, over 1.5 million iBooks have been downloaded from the iBookstore. In comparison, the global sales of all the eBook readers combined (excluding the iPad) in the first quarter of 2010 was 1.43 million. Whatﾒs more significant is that, computers and mobile phone prices have dropped significantly to allow the developing parts of the world to jump on the bandwagon. In many Asian countries, mobile penetration has exceeded 100 per cent - meaning that many people have at least two mobile phones. Thatﾒs not all, the IDC reports that the rise in mobile phone sales is led by an ever-increasing demand for smartphones; in Asia, touchscreen-enabled devices are a hot segment of the market. However in the greater Southeast Asia region, only 2.9 per cent of its population has broadband connectivity. More specifically, out of the 596 million people in Southeast Asia only 3 out of 10 of the population are connected. What does this mean? The need, demand and desire for connectivity are now more apparent than ever. In Malaysia for example, more than 30 per cent of the population have broadband connectivity, but mobile phone penetration is beyond 100 per cent. It is not a question of whether they can afford broadband connectivity, but rather a question of whether connectivity is available where they are. What is holding connectivity back? There are a variety of factors that contribute to this, but, arguably, one of the key components to the proliferation of connectivity in Southeast Asia is technology. This is where next-generation 4G networks like WiMAX come in, to play a major role in connecting the unconnected. With a goal of covering 45 per cent of the Malaysian population with WiMAX this year, Malaysia is set to be amongst the WiMAX leaders in the region and in the world. The outlook for WiMAX is looking rosy across the region as well. Currently, 10 out of 11 countries in Southeast Asia already have their own plans and policies on WiMAX. Apart from Malaysia, countries like Philippines are already rolling out WiMAX, and Indonesia is going to roll-out WiMAX this year; a connected world will no longer be a dream. With the goal of ﾑbroadband for allﾒ, broadband will no longer be a privilege, but a right; and no longer a luxury, but a necessity. When the world is fully connected, imagine the infinite possibilities and imagine the boundless opportunities. At the end of the day, technology is not special - life is.