What Its Wi-Fi Symbol Design Means

It has been a few days since the logo resembling a WiFi symbol for Malaysia’s National Day and Day was released. Now that the clamor and disapproval of Malaysians has died down, I have to admit that the logo isn’t really that bad.

Listen to me.

Let’s talk about design

Visually speaking, there’s certainly room for confusion here. The logo’s connection to Malaysia isn’t immediately clear, which isn’t ideal for a national day logo.

Most previous years have generally used Jalur Gemilang to establish their relevance to the country.

This year, however, we’re supposed to recognize the logo as Malaysian simply through the red, yellow, and blue. Who could also be representative of Colombia. (Or Burger King…?)

That said, some of the older designs had text help. Honestly, it’s a bit of a creative loophole for me, because the best icons don’t need text to send their message.

In this context, this year’s logo may not be so bad. As we know, it looks like WiFi symbol.

At an abstract level, it symbolizes connectivity or unity among Malaysians. On a literal level, however, it refers to our nation’s internet coverage.

According to an official manual of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, this year’s logo conceptualizes the “jalur liputan internet” to symbolize the continuous development of infrastructure, communication systems and digitalization for the convenience of the people.

Keeping that in mind, I think the new logo does the trick. Not to mention that the three colors also represent the different ethnicities in Malaysia living harmoniously, which is a pretty decent sentiment.

But it’s not (only) a question of design

Obviously, the design just doesn’t appeal to Malaysians. At least, those who talked about it on the Internet.

A quick search of Twitter will show you that many netizens are mocking the logo, along with the infamous political cartoonist Fahmi Reza also join.

More than mocking the design, however, the real intent of these posts is to challenge the government for even choosing such a design.

Beyond aesthetics, people are confused about internet coverage. In an article about the logo, Soya Cincau wrote:

Connectivity has been a contentious point in Malaysia, especially with the lagging mass adoption of 5G. While Malaysia currently ranks second for the fastest 5G download speeds according to Opensignal, it lags behind other ASEAN countries in coverage and service availability.

There is also the problem of online inequality in Malaysia. In a New Straits Times article about a poor student who had to climb a tree to get an internet connection in 2021, they wrote: “The gap between the poor student in rural Sabah and the deputy minister in Peninsular Malaysia urban was too big to comprehend. ”

They also reported that broadband subscription for the B40 group is 49.3% (a discordant number compared to 90.7% for the M40 and 99.7% for the T20).

All this to say that Malaysia still has glaring connectivity issues, which is why the use of the WiFi symbol as the new national logo seems like more than just a joke to many.

In defense of the logo

Although there is still a clear digital divide between the internet connectivity of B40s and other income groups, overall internet penetration in Malaysia is 89.6%, according to the World Bank.

This is much higher than Indonesia’s 53.7%, same as Singapore’s 75.9% and comparable to 89.4% in the United States. So maybe internet connectivity as a theme isn’t too weird.

(Yes, 5G is still lacking in the country. But 5G alone is not equivalent to internet connectivity.)

In any case, however, the logo itself is not to brag about the strength of our Internet. Based on the previously mentioned handbook, it is clear that this is more of an indication of Malaysia’s ongoing and upcoming coverage and infrastructure efforts.

For example, the Minister of Communications and Multimedia, Tan Sri Annuar Musa, announced that the sale of 70% of Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB, the Malaysian special vehicles company) to six telecom operators will be finalized in July.

For context, DNB is the only institution mandated to deploy a national 5G network, so other telecom operators can only offer 5G through a wholesale agreement.

In terms of internet inequality, RM30 million has been allocated in the 2022 budget for the provision of internet facilities in 40 people housing projects.

So for those complaining that WiFi in Malaysia is still unstable, that’s not the problem at all. The logo is a marker of progress, not to brag about our sometimes spotty internet connection.

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There is no doubt that the current political climate is rather unstable and attitudes towards government are not exactly the most positive.

With that in mind, any logo that deviated from the previous ones could have elicited the same type of reaction. Some of the complaints we saw weren’t really about the logo itself, but were more of a symbol (literally) of Malaysian unrest and dissatisfaction with a much bigger issue.

In any case, dissolving the national day logo is nothing new, and people have also found various flaws in the logos of recent years to criticize.

But if there is one small thing to be grateful for, it is thanks to the internet that we can talk about this logo and make fun of its design.

Moreover, I see the way we have collectively come to care less is proof that there is still harmony and connectedness to be celebrated in our country.

  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysia here.

Featured image credit: Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia

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