Selangor set to become Asean’s digital hub through Sidec

Sidec also to realise Selangor becoming a liveable ‘Smart State’ in Asean by 2025

by S BIRRUNTHA

SELANGOR is set to emerge as Asean’s leading digital hub by making the Selangor Information Technology and Digital Economy Corp (Sidec) the foundation for its digitalisation efforts.

Sidec CEO Yong Kai Ping said Sidec is also expected to realise the vision of Selangor becoming a liveable “Smart State” in Asean by 2025.

He noted that Sidec is an industry council represented by both government officials and key industry players, which was mandated to lead the digital transformation focusing on three key sectors of the digital economy — namely e-commerce, start-ups and SME (small and medium enterprise) digitalisation.

Yong says Selangor aims to create ‘high-impact entrepreneurs’ by applying entrepreneurial and operational experience from its ecosystem partners to accelerate company building

Established in January this year, Yong said the agency is determined to spearhead the digital transformation of Selangor as Asean’s digital hub by nurturing the state’s digital talents while narrowing the digital divide.

This includes accelerating Selangor start-ups to become regional tech icons, empowering the digitalisation of businesses and SMEs, as well as encouraging digital investment and emerging technologies in the state.

Selangor has always maintained its position as the top GDP contributor to the country’s economy. The state also records about 22% of the digital economy’s contribution to the national GDP.

Currently contributing about 24%, Yong believes Selangor will soon become the biggest contributor as the country’s digital economy hub by 2025. This is in line with the target underlined by the MyDigital Blueprint of digitalising 873,000 SMEs located largely in Selangor by 30% and nurturing 5,000 start-ups.

“The digital economy has grown by leaps and bounds to contribute about 20% to the country’s GDP, which almost matches the GDP contribution by Selangor. It is also a known fact that a major part of the digital economy is centred in Selangor,” he told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

Yong added that due to these factors, it is of no surprise that foreign investors are very much inclined to invest in Selangor. At the same time, he said with the state’s connectivity to other countries, most investors believe it is definitely worthwhile to invest in Selangor.

As the pandemic intensified digitalisation around the world, Yong noted that Selangor remains steadfast in building a digital economy and ecosystem, as well as keeping its position at the forefront of technology while attracting more investors.

As of April 2021, Selangor has recorded a foreign direct investment (FDI) of about RM9 billion, despite the more challenging economic situation now compared to a year ago.

The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) revealed that Selangor was the top investment destination in Malaysia for the third consecutive year with total investments of RM18.4 billion in 2020.

Embracing Digitalisation amid Pandemic

The global e-commerce and digital economy as a whole have grown by more than 50% due to lockdowns and work-from-home measures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Selangor introduced a host of initiatives related to digitalisation, which has majorly helped its stakeholders and this was especially evident through the four rounds of the Selangor E-Bazar campaigns.

“The four E-Bazar campaigns managed to benefit almost 300,000 online merchants and nurtured 75,000 new online merchants, generating direct sales of RM145 million and creating a RM2.95 billion ripple effect to the economy of Selangor.

“The tremendous growth is a testament that e-commerce and digitalisation is booming in Selangor.”

Yong emphasised that most sellers showed how their sales doubled and even tripled after joining the E-Bazar campaign.

For instance, Zaharah Aris of modest clothing brand Az-Zara Boutique only managed to make sales of RM2,000 before the Movement Control Order. However, since joining the inaugural Selangor E-Bazar Raya campaign last year, her income skyrocketed to RM50,000.

Meanwhile, Wan Shazerina Izlin Wan Mohd Zahid, whose company Marathon Baker produces homemade energy bars, said she saw a 50% increase in sales compared to the month prior to participating in the Selangor E-Bazar 11.11 Campaign.

Another satisfied participant, Zarina Zahidan of Zarina Cakes, initially recorded sales between RM2,000 and RM3,000 after first utilising Shopee, but after participating in the E-Bazar CNY 2021 campaign and using vouchers disbursed by the state government, her sales reached RM12,000 to RM13,000.

To further empower businesses, Yong said the state government initiated the Selangor SME Digitalisation Matching Grant to assist SMEs to take the first step to digitalise their businesses. The initiative is expected to benefit 1,000 Selangor SMEs with an initial grant of RM5 million. For the first batch, the state government disbursed RM1.2 million to 280 SMEs out of 492 applicants.

Taking Digitalisation Agenda Abroad

In efforts to step up its digitalisation agenda, Yong said it is extremely important for Selangor and Malaysian businesses to engage their regional counterparts to gain overseas exposure.

He noted that the state will bring its Selangor Accelerator Programme (SAP) participants to Vietnam and Indonesia when the Covid-19 situation is under control. Additionally, he said the top five winners of SAP will be invited to join the Selangor International Pitch Showcase at the Dubai World Expo 2022.

Selangor will also be collaborating with the Taipei Computer Association and Foundation for Commerce and Culture Interchange to introduce the state’s tech start-ups to Taiwan.

Yong said Sidec also plays a significant role in the Selangor International Business Summit (SIBS) 2021 through this year’s 6th Selangor Smart City & Digital Economy Convention (SDEC). SDEC is an event gathering industry leaders, academics, SMEs and players from the public and private sectors to delve into the mechanics of existing and future smart city and digital economy frameworks and solutions.

Through the convention, Selangor aims to spearhead the digital transformation of Selangor as Asean’s digital hub, to act as a platform for local industry players to engage and discuss on the new normal and emerging trends, and to strengthen and grow the Selangor digitalisation ecosystem for SMEs.

Sidec to Nurture SE Asia’s Tech Icons

Moving forward, Yong said among the plans in store include the “Selangor Innovation Ecosystem Alliance”, which is a new initiative consisting of experienced company builders, serial entrepreneurs and investors to create market-leading companies that will rise as South-East Asia’s tech icons.

He said Selangor aims to create “high-impact entrepreneurs” by applying entrepreneurial and operational experience from its ecosystem partners to accelerate company building.

Yong said the formation of the alliance has been shelved for the time being due to the pandemic. However, he said its purpose to accelerate the growth of start-ups in Selangor through collaborations has been carried out through several partnerships between state government agencies and respective start-ups facilitated by Sidec.

He quoted Tourplus Technology Sdn Bhd as an example. The travel start-up secured a funding of RM4.1 million and recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Tourism Selangor to launch the Go Selangor App to digitalise tourism operators in the state to prepare post Covid-19 recovery plans.

Another initiative introduced was the “Selangor Agriculture Ecosystem Alliance” with the objective to strengthen the state’s agrofood system, smart farming for agropreneurs, technology transfer and to address food security issues.

Yong said the initiative was also designed to enhance farmers’ incomes, to create agricultural jobs and to raise agro-exports. He added that through the alliance, Selangor could become the most advanced agriculture powerhouse in the country.

As the starting points, two agritech start-ups, namely Havva and Kapitani, will be working together with Selangor Agricultural Development Corp (SADC) on several ventures.

Havva will be developing a 3,000 sq ft hydroponics farm at the SADC building in Shah Alam, while Kapitani — which provides simplified financial services such as booking services for farmers — will be onboarding traders and farmers at Pasar Borong Selangor.