Interview with Hj. Yahkup Menudin

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Hj. Yahkup Menudin

What are the primary functions of AITI?
AITI was established on 1st January 2003. Its primary roles were mainly regulatory functions with respect to telecommunication systems and services; and to effectively manage the national radio frequency spectrum. Over the past decade, the role of ICT has changed the shape of society in general and of communications and so too, AITI’s role has also evolved.

a) Besides having the traditional telecommunication regulator role AITI now has the mandate to develop the ICT industry in Brunei Darussalam.

b) AITI will eventually take over the broadcasting and media regulatory functions from Ministry of Communications when the necessary legislations have been revised. The move is to prepare Brunei’s Telecommunications, Broadcasting and Information Technology sectors for the convergence of telecommunications and broadcasting in order to facilitate the growth of these sectors in the future.

c) AITI also represents Brunei Darussalam in telecommunication and ICT related international trade pacts and forums.

What is the biggest misconception that the public has about the role of AITI?
Facilitating vs. Policing
The biggest misconception that the public (or the industry) has about the AITI concerns its conflicting role as a regulator (policing and enforcement) and its role as a promoter (for the ICT industry). I need to clarify this – one of AITI’s strategic thrusts is to create a pro-business environment in which ICT and media businesses can flourish. Hence, even though AITI regulates the telecommunications sector, AITI is mindful that we should not create regulatory policies and frameworks that will be a barrier to market entry.

Therefore, while AITI ensures that telecommunications players licensed by AITI abide by their license’s terms and conditions when they deliver their products and services to the consumers, there are many nontelecoms related entities which AITI has helped to grow their businesses locally. For example, AITI provides grants to ICT businesses to help them enhance, promote and market their products and services locally and to the region. In fact, by knowing both sides of the coin, AITI can better manage the differences under one roof and devise programmes and schemes that will help to complement the two roles of AITI.

How can AITI help small businesses in Brunei to further develop?
Since 2010, AITI has been providing grants to ICT companies, ranging from small and medium to established corporations, to help them enhance, promote and market their products and services. In 2012, we expanded the grant scheme to include digital media business entities. To date, a total of 12 local ICT and digital media related companies have been awarded under the AITI Grant Scheme with a total amount of BND 1.7 million disbursed under the National Development Plan administered by Department of Economic Planning and Development, Prime Minister’s Office. This grant scheme has produced some successful results, as indicated in my next answer. However I have noticed that only a handful of the grantees have come up with the products that are marketable beyond Brunei. The opportunities are plenty. I would like to encourage our local companies to join into partnerships with foreign companies in order to develop innovative and creative products that can compete in the regional and international markets. AITI can provide grants with 50/50 local and foreign partnerships.

AITI also recognises the lack of ICT adoption within non-ICT sectors of the economy. In order to boost the adoption of ICT usage within the non-ICT and ICT sectors, AITI will soon introduce the ICT Adoption Programme to assist the local SMEs to adopt and implement ICT solutions to improve their business operation and productivity. Recently, we launched a Request For Information (RFI) to seek proposals from the local AITI Accredited Business (AAB) Status players to provide the enterprise IT solutions to cater for the diverse needs of the SMEs.

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Meeting being lead by Hj Yahkup Menudin in the AITI offices

Tell us about some of the success stories of the beneficiaries from the AITI funds.
There are many success stories and I will be glad to highlight a few of them. The first one that comes to my mind is the story of MARS Enterprise. This is a Brunei IT firm that specialises in providing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation and software development services. MARS Enterprise was the first recipient of AITI’s Grant Scheme in November 2010. Our grant helped this company to enhance and further develop its ERP solutions to cater for corporate clients such as Telekom Brunei Berhad, Jerudong Park Medical Centre, Jerudong Park Country Club, Radisson Hotel, Standard Insurance, Setia Motors, BT Forwarding, Tri-star Shipping, Duners Construction and others. MARS Enterprise’s ERP solution has also caught the attention of international investors. In January 2013, MARS Enterprise signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a Korean company, Innovation Management and Technology Ltd (IMTL) in Seoul. The MOU aimed to market MARS Enterprise’s Standard Finance Package in Korea to over 3,000 member companies of Business Federations of Korea. Most recently, in September 2013, MARS Enterprise officially signed a partnership agreement with a USAbased company, M-Files Inc (the developer of M-Files cloud, an on-premise and hybrid Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions).

Other successes would be BruGPS Technologies Sdn Bhd and PHMD Publishing Company. Our grant scheme helped BruGPS to further enhance its Fleet Tracking solution for corporations which have a large number of vehicles, assets and drivers. BruGPS has now penetrated the Indonesia and Philippines markets and has set up operations there. Meanwhile, PHMD Publishing Company has developed MindPlus – an interactive digital learning solution developed on Apple’s iOS platform. The MindPlus product has won the Bronze medal at the ASEAN ICT Award in 2013 and I understand that PHMD intends to officially launch MindPlus at the forthcoming CommunicAsia 2014 in Singapore.

What is your definition of success for AITI?
My definition of success would be for AITI to deliver our promises and affirm the value and credibility of our work to our stakeholders’ satisfaction. We aspire to be the most admired organisation in Brunei Darussalam. In fact, that’s the motto within AITI. In this aspect, we want AITI to be an effective and respectable regulator, a pro-business ICT industry promoter and facilitator and to showcase and represent Brunei Darussalam in the international ICT arena. In addition, AITI has to be a place of learning and development for the AITI staff and, last but not least, an operationally efficient statutory board in its processes, finances and customer services.

We are very proud of our achievements so far. I believe that we only know how well we are doing if we can measure this, and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) were introduced at AITI for this purpose. The leadership team at AITI is to ensure that we have SMART (Specific-Measurable-Achievable-Realitics-Time Based) KPIs that are equally challenging and achievable. Our credibility, reputations and performance bonuses rely on these KPIs.

“To date, a total of 12 local ICT and digital media related companies have been awarded under the AITI Grant Scheme with a total amount of BND 1.7 million”

What are the exciting programs that we can anticipate from AITI in the next 12 months?
There are many exciting programs in the pipeline. In a nutshell, on the regulatory front, AITI will continue to equip itself and prepare the industry players on the forthcoming converged licensing and regulatory framework. The main objective is to bring telecommunications and broadcasting regulation under one roof and thereby reduce the administrative and regulatory burdens for the players and thus lower the barrier to market entry. On the telecommunications sector, AITI will continue to facilitate the rollout of high speed broadband infrastructure, such as Fibre-ToThe-Home (FTTH), by the telecommunications operators. As AITI ventures into broadcasting and media, content regulation will be a new area which AITI has to grapple with. In this aspect, AITI cannot function alone. AITI has to collaborate with relevant stakeholders such as the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Religious Affairs and others to tackle content issues. Another initiative on the broadcasting side would be the formulation of a five year strategic plan to develop the broadcasting and media industries in Brunei Darussalam.

On the ICT industry promotion, we will continue to help the ICT companies to enhance their products and services. More emphasis will be placed on assisting them to gain market access in the regions through foreign partnerships, exhibitions, competitions and market acceleration programs which will work with our counterparts in Singapore and Malaysia. As mentioned earlier, AITI will be embarking on an initiative to encourage the adoption of ICT for SMEs to improve operation efficiency and productivity. Not forgetting human capability building for the nation, AITI will be getting Manpower Development experts to help us create an ICT Manpower Masterplan and ICT Competency Framework which government agencies and industries could implement in the future.

Internally, AITI seeks to continuously improve its operations and processes. My IT guys are aiming to bring AITI’s e-services online to complement our counter services.

We will continue to focus on AITI’s Delivery and Performance Culture by investing in training for our staff as it is the human talent which drives this organisation.

This is your final year with AITI before retirement. What do you think your legacy will be?
Indeed, time flies. By June 2015, I would have led AITI for five years. I think my legacy will be the transformation of AITI into an effective and performance based organisation. As mentioned earlier, we aspire to be the most admired organisation in Brunei Darussalam. Hopefully, through my mentorship and guidance over the past five years, I have put in place a succession management team, comprising of younger leaders, which will continue the good work of AITI to develop Brunei’s ICT sector as another economic pillar of growth for the country. This will be my best farewell gift before I retire.

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This article was published in the Jul-Sept 2014 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!