Malaysia needs to consider itself a start-up nation

Minister says the govt has taken steps towards promoting digitalisation and established 14 one-stop digital enhancement centres for businesses

by NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / pic by BERNAMA

MALAYSIA needs to consider itself a start-up nation and has one shot in getting digital adoption right, said Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar (picture).

“Our role in government is to create the national technology mission statement for this, and to create structures to make this happen.

“We create the market for you, and you come in to populate the market with your innovative solutions,” he said in his keynote opening address at the Malaysian Digitalisation Forum 2020 Council yesterday.

In the short term, he said the government has taken steps towards promoting digital transactions and digitalisation, such as the ePenjana credit programme and funds for digitalising small and medium enterprises, and established 14 one-stop digital enhancement centres to facilitate access to financing and capacity building for businesses.

For the medium term, a Digital Economy Task Force (DETF) has been established with the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (KKMM).

Khairy Jamaluddin said together, Mosti and KKMM have identified 15 work streams under the umbrella of four thrusts in efforts to accelerate the digitalisation of the country’s economy and make Malaysia a digital and high-tech nation.

“The four thrusts in the DETF consist of empowering the people, boosting businesses, stimulating the economy and enabling capabilities.

“The DETF aims to meet once every two months in order to make decisions, break past regulatory hurdles and push through whatever we need to push through, and will ultimately be taken over by the National Digital and Industry 4.0 Council,” he said.

The move will allow the task force to cater to an “across the board” approach while leaving no segments behind.

He said the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of digital readiness, allowing business and life to continue as usual during any future outbreaks.

“Building the necessary infrastructure to support a digitised world and stay current in the latest technology will be essential for any business or country to remain competitive in a post-Covid-19 world,” he said.

The forum was jointly organised by Kuala Lumpur Economic Club and Kingsley Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific to discuss key and strategic questions to help companies adapt and succeed following the new normal.

Topics include the role of digitisation and how it sustains and accelerates economic recovery, the use of artificial intelligence and big data, as well as how e-commerce players can scale up.

He added that there was a lack of an overarching strategy for the “What” and “How”, which stems from the inherent silos, referring to business divisions that operate independently and avoid sharing information, which has been built into the system over the decades.

“Tech adoption in this country has historically been vendor-driven.

“Different ministries will procure different things without a grand blueprint in mind for the Malaysian tech ecosystem, such as company A proposing a solution for problem B, but without taking into account problems C, D or E,” he said.

Due to such process, different tech solutions and silos don’t necessarily integrate well with each other, leaving the country with piecemeal solutions, and not a grand overarching design for digitalisation and tech.

He added that in 2015, there were 81 national policies of which 56 were related to science, technology and innovation, with 458 agencies promoting or implementing them.

“There are 458 agencies. Imagine that. How do you not have silos?

“So, this has left Malaysia with serious problems in terms of digital and tech adoption; we are currently No 41 out of 180 countries on the Digital Adoption Index,” he said, noting the fallout the country is faced with when it comes to adoption.

In Product Innovation and Start-up Skills of the Global Entrepreneurship Index 2018, Malaysia stands at 130 and 99 out of 137 respectively.

In the Global Innovation Index 2019, the country stood at 71th place out of 129 in Knowledge Creation.