Some good news reported in The Star. The Penang state government will broaden its consultation about the possible health risks of wi-fi.
Wide consultation is a good idea. Such public consultation should take place before any major project is launched.
“The state government is ready to cancel and abandon the project if there is scientific proof to show that the health of the people will be adversely affected by the wireless network,” says Guan Eng.
Fine. But what if studies point to significant health risks? When it comes to untested new technology and public health, caution should be exercised – especially if we are not sure of the long-term effects.
There is a difference between free wi-fi for the whole of Penang and say, mobile phones. In the former, the technology is thrust on the people, who do not have a choice. In contrast, in the case of mobile phones, people are free to choose whether or not to use them.
When organising the public awareness forum, both sides of the argument – along with accompanying evidence and research papers – should be presented. It is only then that we can make informed decisions about the proposed project. This report from The Star:
Sunday October 5, 2008 MYT 4:21:30 PM
Penang to continue study on health effects of WiFi
By CHRISTINA CHIN
GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government will widen its consultations with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the public on possible health risks posed by free Internet wireless connections in the state.
A public forum to discuss the issue will be held after the Hari Raya festive period, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said in a press release on Sunday.
He made the commitment in response to NGO objections to the wireless broadband project, which is aimed at providing free WiFi connection to the entire state within 24 months.
“I have instructed our tech-savvy Member of Parliament Jeff Ooi to organise the forum.
“For public education, we will make available various research papers on radio frequency (RF) radiation that has been wrongly linked to WiFi and WiMAX,” he said, adding that Ooi was Malaysia’s first blogger elected into Parliament and author of a book on the knowledge-based economy.
“We are receptive to public requests for continued consultative and educational sessions with the government pertaining to the implementation of the free Wireless@PENANG project. Public consultation is a continuing process even after a project is announced.
“The state government is ready to cancel and abandon the project if there is scientific proof to show that the health of the people will be adversely affected by the wireless network,” he said.
Lim also said that a World Health Organisation report concluded that the amount of non-ionizing radiation absorbed by a person’s body from a WiFi station is less than one-fifth that received from FM radio and television sets.
Caution and broad consultation will help in coming up with wise decisions. I think – or rather, I would like to believe – that both sides of the debate share the over-riding concern of ensuring that public health is not compromised in the quest for development. That is what sustainable development is all about.