The Education Ministry has rolled out the second phase of 1BestariNet, described by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) as a "failed" project, which will see 138,820 Altitude smartphones by Yes 4G distributed to teachers.
According to an Education Ministry circular to state education departments, the 138,820 Altitutde smartphones would be distributed to teachers in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Malacca, Penang, Kedah and Perlis between October and December.
A total of 63,210 internet dongles would also be distributed to schools in these states.
"Through the 1BestariNet Phase 2 service project, the Education Ministry will provide a teacher's data plan of 2GB/month and a personal device for all teachers in schools with 4G coverage," read the letter.
The letter, which requested the state education departments to facilitate the distribution of the devices, was signed by the ministry's education technology division director Zaidi Yazid.
It added teachers in other states would receive the smartphones next year but did not specify how many smartphones were involved.
Under the plan, teachers will be provided 2GB of LTE data on their Altitude device and another 2GB of broadband data on the dongle.
In Selangor, the devices were distributed in a number of special ceremonies attended by political leaders.
The smartphones for the Kuala Selangor, Sabak Bernam and Hulu Selangor education department were distributed in a ceremony on Nov 22, attended by Kuala Selangor MP Irmohizam Ibrahim.
As for the Petaling Perdana and Petaling Utama education department, a distribution ceremony was held yesterday, attended by Puchong Umno chief Mohamad Satim Diman.
For the Sepang and Klang education departments, they were handed out in a special ceremony this morning by Sepang Umno chief Marsum Paing.
Previously, the PAC in its proceedings had branded the 1BestariNet project a failure and questioned why the government was extending the contract.
The PAC hearing on 1BestariNet took place on March 17 last year and a report on the matter was tabled during the Oct 17 Parliament sitting which concluded on Nov 24 this year.
The first phase of the 2.5-year 1BestariNet contract was worth RM663 million, running from Dec 13, 2011 to June 12, 2014.
According to the PAC transcript, the 1BestariNet would be extended for another three years at a cost of around RM1.4 billion.
The PAC chairperson at that time, Nur Jazlan Mohamed, had criticised the extension.
"So that is why the next question (that) must (be) asked (to) the ministry after this is why (did) you issue new contract? isn't it? That is all.
"They said the contract did not fail, we say it did fail," he was quoted as saying in the PAC transcript.
The Education Ministry planned for the project to run for 15 years at a cost of RM4.077 billion.
Ministry, contractor say project not a failure
YTL Communications Sdn Bhd (YTLC), the company responsible for 1BestariNet, in a sponsored article on tech site SoyaCincau yesterday, defended the project.
Under the project, YTLC was to provide 4G connectivity to some 10,000 schools as well as to supply the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform.
YTLC said it had set up base stations called 1BestariNet Receiver Integrated System (1BRIS) telecommunication towers near schools to ensure stable 4G coverage.
"To enable this, YTLC had to acquire approval for all local councils before they could proceed.
"Due to delays in obtaining the required approvals, the progress of construction was delayed," he said.
Education Minister Madzhir Khalid last week also denied the project was a failure, citing a similar reason of delays in obtaining local council approval.
However, the PAC report cited other problems, including the underutilisation of the VLE platform, which licence cost RM250 million a year and internet speed not being up to mark.
The PAC report found that the usage of the VLE platform by students was at 0.17 percent to 0.63 percent, teachers (0.57 percent to 4.69 percent) and parents (0.01 percent to 0.03 percent) based on an analysis in March 2014.
The Education Ministry, in its response to the PAC, said the 1BestariNet project was more focused in preparing the infrastructure in the first phase but expected some 3.5 million students to use the platform in future.
The PAC also found the project did not comply with procurement requirements including obtaining approval from the the ICT technical committee under Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu) and undergoing a value management process.
The PAC also said the Education Ministry's excuse that it wasn't aware about the value management process was unacceptable.
The committee's finding also found that only 6.9 percent of some 400,000 anti-virus licence which the contractor was required to provide under the contract was utilised by the schools.
The Education Ministry said the anti-virus programmes were not utilised as the schools' chromebooks already have existing anti-virus programmes.
The PAC investigation was in response to the auditor-general's report which concluded that the 1BestariNet project did not meet its objectives.
Following the hearing, the PAC asked that the auditor-general to conduct further auditing on the project as well as a review of the contract.- Mkini