Embrace digital transformation or get left behind, says Abdul Wahid


BURSA Malaysia Bhd chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar (picture) has warned that Malaysia will lag behind if it is slow in adapting to the digitalisation of the economy. 

In his welcoming address at the World Digital Economy and Technology Summit yesterday, he noted that digitalisation has helped economies enhance competitiveness and productivity across a wide range of sectors.

“The use of big data and the rise of online platforms have accelerated this process over the past decade,” he said.

He also said digitalisation had contributed to an increased regional and global economic integration, including through international capital flow and trade dynamics.

Abdul Wahid pointed out that the shift to a digital economy had also reduced barriers to market entry for firms, lowered inequality and promoted social and economic inclusion, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Catalysed by Covid-19, the globalisation of digitisation means there is an increasingly urgent need for us to harness the forces of technology for the wellbeing of households, firms and workers across the world.

“Advances in digital technology have also had substantial positive impacts on the productive capacities of economies, helping to improve economic efficiency and long-run output growth potential,” he added.

However, he warned of possible adverse consequences, including job losses.

“While digitalisation can have substantial positive effects on overall macroeconomic performance, there can also be labour market implications as automation and artificial intelligence will potentially replace workers.”

Abdul Wahid added that ensuring a sufficient level of Internet infrastructure development, digital education and training would also help to reduce the digital divide.

“The digital economy and digitisation have certainly become somewhat of a buzzword in policy circles over the past decades. 

“Yet, we cannot lose sight of the importance of digitalisation to the economic development and livelihoods of people. We live in a world where we either innovate or perish,” he said.

He noted that Malaysia’s digital economy contributed to a quarter of the country’s GDP.

“We have almost a million small and medium enterprises that have adopted e-commerce; over 5,000 innovative start-ups; and three unicorn start-ups, as well as emerging digital industries such as smart cities, manufacturing, fintech and agro-food tech.

“Our country may be small, but we have many innovation clusters such as Penang, Cyberjaya and Kuching,” he said.

He argued that a multi-stakeholder approach would be critical to ensure the benefits of the digital economy were distributed and shared equitably with the public.

“It is important for all of us to work together not only to scale tech businesses, but to also ensure inclusive growth for all. No one should be left behind in our digital journey,” he concluded.