Much enthusiasm was put behind the launch in an attempt to reaffirm that Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor project, of which Cyberjaya is a key component, is still on track.
"Any large and pioneering initiative will have its share of detractors and cynics. However, our success to date speaks for itself," said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The multibillion-dollar project had been a favorite target of criticism by foreign media since it was announced three years ago.
At the height of the country's financial and political woes last year, the project was beset with delays to key applications and infrastructure. Investors wondered whether the project was happening at all, while critics scorned the extravagant spending amid a recession.
The Multimedia Super Corridor is a 9-by-31-mile zone, mostly covered in palm oil and rubber estates that Malaysia is building from scratch into an Asian Silicon Valley. Cyberjaya, about 20 miles from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, is the host city to lure bands of researchers, scientists, and engineers to experiment with new products and services.
Speaking at the launch of Cyberjaya today, Mahathir reiterated the government's commitment to the project.
Touting the advantages
Mahathir touted Cyberjaya as MSC's "crown jewel," listing its main draws as a fiber optic backbone network, eco-friendly environment, close proximity to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, and the presence of three universities.
"MSC companies can reap the power of association. The presence of the Multimedia University, Tenaga University, and University Putra Malaysia will seek to emulate the Stanford-inspired setting of Silicon Valley and create a networked, productive society in Cyberjaya," he said.
Cyberjaya is the last major building block of the MSC. The other key MSC components are neighboring Putrajaya, the newly launched government administrative center, already ready for occupation, the Technology Park, which houses small and medium-sized companies, Petronas Twin Towers, and the Multimedia University, to be launched tomorrow.
Twenty-one companies have already moved into 2,800 hectare flagship zone of Cyberjaya while the rest are expected to re-locate within the corridor by next June.
Mahathir said to date 32 world-class "Web shapers," have committed to the MSC project, among them Ericsson, Siemens, Motorola, Lucent Technologies, Lotus Development, Oracle, Fujitsu, Intel, NTT, Compaq, and Unisys.
The 32 are part of 225 companies that have obtained MSC status, which qualifies them for various incentives, including tax-exemptions, competitive telecom rates, and guaranteed world-class infrastructure.
"Compared to our target of 50 by 2003, we are clearly ahead of schedule," he said.
Mahathir said his government views the MSC as its next engine of growth and will contribute significantly to its economic recovery. The economy entered its first recession in 13 years last year.
The launch coincided with the third annual meeting of MSC's international advisory panel attended by 12 industry icons including Acer's Stan Shih, British Telecom's Sir Peter Bonfield, Hewlett-Packard's Lewis Platt, Fujitsu chairman Tadashi Sekizawa, and LG Electronics chairman Bon-Moo Koo.
The advisory panel meeting to be chaired by Mahathir will update members on the status of the project and discuss its future direction.
Julian Matthews reported from CNET Singapore.