With the ever-increasing convergence of telecommunications, broadcasting and media, the information and communications technology (ICT) sector has arrived at an exciting crossroads. New technologies such as cloud computing, next-generation broadband networks, smart devices, the “Internet of Things”, social media, augmented reality and mobile applications are rapidly fuelling this era of transition. Brunei Darussalam, being connected to the global economy, is not exempt from this sweeping transformation. AITI, the Sultanate’s telecoms regulator and ICT industry development promoter, is determined to get ahead of the curve.
In September 2011 AITI launched a complete review of the existing telecoms regulatory framework, which was put in place in 2006. The review was carried out in anticipation of the transfer of broadcasting regulatory functions from the Ministry of Communications to the regulator. AITI is looking into a converged licensing and regulatory framework that is designed to streamline the administrative aspects of both telecoms and broadcasting licences as well as eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens on the relevant industry players. The framework should help to produce an even more pro-business environment, which could encourage more actors to get on board.
In order to create a level playing field, AITI, through the converged licensing and regulatory framework, is developing a Telecoms and Broadcasting Competition Code. This will be the Sultanate’s first sector-specific competition code, and is aligned with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Economic Planning and Development’s efforts to enact policies to meet the country’s commitment to the creation of an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015. AITI hopes to complete the review of the framework by 2013 and to implement the new converged telecoms and broadcasting regime by 2013 or 2014. The new regulations are designed to support the emergence of a competitive retail service provider industry, which will complement the roll out of fibre-to-the-home network nationwide by 2017.
AITI is rolling out other regulatory projects that will help build a retail service provider network. An example is the launch of .bn domain name management framework review in April 2012. The new framework will see AITI taking over as an impartial and independent policymaker for telecoms as well as an administrator of the .bn domain name registry. AITI will allow more private sector service providers to become registrars in order to offer .bn domain names registration on it own or through bundled service offerings such as web hosting and cloud computing. AITI believes this will encourage enterprises, sole proprietors, government agencies, non-government organisations and even individuals to have an online presence in order to promote their businesses and activities.
Given Brunei Darussalam’s small size, AITI believes that innovation and entrepreneurship are key to overcoming the limited domestic ICT market and promoting the industry as an engine of growth in addition to the traditional oil and gas sector. Since July 2010, AITI has implemented grant schemes to assist local companies financially in terms of product development, enhancement, ownership and marketing. In 2012 the grant scheme was expanded to cover digital media and creative industries. To date, eight local companies have benefitted and the total grant amount awarded has totalled BN$1.2m ($934,560), funded under the Ninth National Development Plan for 2007-12.
The Sultanate is in a strong position to develop its ICT industry, and this potential is due the nation’s highly educated workforce. In fact, Brunei Darussalam has the second-highest Human Development Index ranking among South-east Asia nations after Singapore. With a pro-business regulatory framework in place intended to create a vibrant ICT sector, a highly skilled workforce, and government incentives to promote ICT entrepreneurship, the country is poised to expand the sector in the coming years. AITI will continue to engage with the public and private sectors through its initiatives in order to fulfil this national goal.