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The pandemic has accelerated the process of digital transformation for governments, banks, and enterprises at a rate that we could never imagine. While this rapid digital shift has led to a data deluge in organisations, there is a lot of uncertainty about how to draw useful insights from it.

Looking to empower enterprises and agencies in Malaysia on secure and effective data management, OpenGov Asia organised an OpenGovLive! Virtual Breakfast Insight on 19 November 2020. The session witnessed an overwhelming level of attendance and engagement from the audience.

Make data management a priority in this evolving digital landscape

Mohit: Partner with champions who can make your digital transformation journey smooth

The session was opened by Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia. Mohit pointed to the fact that the volume of data being generated has increased exponentially over the past few months. But he was quick to note that the data would only be valuable if we organisations could to draw actionable insights from it.

He urged the delegates to make data management a priority in this evolving, and often, daunting digital landscape. As they chart out their data management strategy, it is imperative to keep in mind certain considerations, specifically –  security, compliance and governance, cost, automation and performance monitoring.

Mohit acknowledged that providing access to all data to remote employees from anywhere and, at the same time, ensuring the security of data is an incredible balancing act that is vital for organisations to get right in the current context.

In the same vein, he also cautioned the audience to not let security concerns limit or block possibilities for them.

In conclusion, Mohit exhorted the delegates to incorporate a robust and scalable data management system. Rather than trying to do it by themselves, he advised them to partner with experts in the field who can support them on this journey.

Ransomware and cyber threat trends in the current Digital Landscape

Andy: 70% of organisations took more than 24 hours to recover from a ransomware attack

After Mohit’s opening, Andy Ng, VP, Managing Director, ASR Sales shared some very insightful findings from research recently commissioned by Veritas. The study was conducted across 21 countries globally with a very strong representation from SEA.

The objective of the survey was to gain insight into organisations preparedness against ransomware attacks. Key findings from the survey indicated that:

  • 64% store their data and applications in the cloud
  • 61% use more than 5 different cloud services (data complexity/visibility)
  • 70% of corporations who suffered a ransomware attack took more than 24 hours to resume normal business operations
  • The third biggest concern occupying organisational time is how to fend off risks from external and internal risks and data loss

After shedding some light on the current cybersecurity landscape, Andy revealed how Veritas Enterprise Data Service Platform could help delegates better manage, protect, and simplify your data landscape.

Cloud is the biggest enabler of business agility today

After Andy’s presentation, Rueben Athaide, Head, Cloud Customer Engagement, Standard Chartered Bank offered his perspective to the delegates.

Reuben explained that cloud today is the biggest enabler of business agility in three key ways:

  • instilling a culture of innovation
  • reducing the cost and speed experimentation
  • enabling taking advantage of external opportunities by connecting to ecosystems
Rueben: The cloud service model organisations must be designed to support business strategies

He further shared that at Standard Chartered, the cloud service models are designed to support business strategies. Today, almost all the products and services of a bank are digitally enabled. Based on the classification of these products and services, Standard Chartered uses a combination of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS cloud service models.

Reuben expanded on the four key areas of cloud transformation for Standard Chartered. They include application migration from on-premise to hybrid, virtual workplace and end-user tools, security and network transformation.

He elaborated on how their cloud strategy helps enhance operational resilience. They have two on-prem data centres in two different geographical locations with a pair of data centres to enable disaster recovery. They have coded everything into their cloud operations to avoid any misunderstanding and miscommunication.

To ensure the security of data, they have laid down specific guiding principles and a broader approach based on the different categories of classified data.

Reuben concluded his presentation by emphasising the importance of data security.

 

Data explosion and rapid digital transformation have exposed the organisation to a lot of external risks

John: Chose a reliable partner who can help you overcome your data management challenges

After Rueben’s information-rich presentation, John Abel, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Veritas Technologies shared his observations with the delegates.

John agreed that many organisations had to rethink the way they were operating and change their business models in light of the pandemic and the anticipated post-pandemic new normal. He acknowledged the rapid transformation and the increased digital footprint of doing everything online.

The data explosion and rapid digital transformation have also exposed organisations to a lot of external risks. All these factors together have increased the IT complexity making even more challenging for the organisations to stay resilient.

John concluded his presentation by showing the delegates how the Veritas Enterprise Data service platform can help them overcome these challenges. Their platform is built on 3 major pillars which include making data easily available, keeping it protected and enabling deriving insights from it.

After the presentations from the speakers, it was time to engage in discussion with the audience through polling questions.

On the first question about the requirement that is shaping your landscape to be agile with the business needs, a majority of the audience voted for adapting to changing customer demands (42%).

A senior delegate from a public sector agency shared that incorporating the needs of the citizens is of paramount importance as their primary goal is the serve the citizens in the best way possible.

On the next question about the biggest challenge faced by organisations when looking at digital transformation, the delegates were equally divided between skill shortage to implement and operate technology (36%) and dependency on the need to integrate with legacy systems and/or technology (36%).

Another delegate noted that they are seeing a lot of demand among citizens/customers to incorporate digital transformation in their processes. But there are a lot of legacy systems in place and integrating them into the new digital platforms is a very challenging task.

On the final question about the biggest consideration for your organisation when evaluating new technologies, the audience was once again split between cost optimisation (33%) and support for new and modern technologies (33%).

A delegate said, when looking for a new solution in the organisation, they ensure that it supports the latest technology to bring the ease in operations and processes.

After the interactive polling session, John addressed the delegates to bring the session to a timely closing.

As data is going to explode, complexity within organisations is going to go up. In line with Mohit’s advice, he advocated partnering with a stable and reliable organisation that can assist and support in the area of data classification and protection.

John encouraged the delegates to engage in conversation with the Veritas team and share with them their data management challenges so that they can assist them along their journey.

Staying resilient and continuing operations is always a priority for organisations but it took on far greater urgency when the pandemic hit. Governments and enterprises were under a lot of pressure to keep citizens safe, businesses running and nations and economies afloat.

As the world recovers from the pandemic, mere continuity and survival are not enough. Organisations must adapt to the changing dynamics, constantly innovate and be hyper-vigilant to remain relevant and thrive in the new normal.

Financial organisations currently struggle to cope with changing client demands, the need to have a far greater online presence and provide more comprehensive digital offerings. Adjusting requires new knowledge and deep dialogue. Keeping this in mind OpenGov Asia organised an OpenGovLive! Virtual Breakfast Insight on 18 November 2020 to discuss the need to embrace disruption and innovation for the financial sector with delegates from Malaysia and Singapore.

Mohit: Partner with people who will accelerate your innovation journey

Essential for financial institutions to adopt technology against the historical convention

Kicking off the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief, OpenGov Asia, opened the session after a quick round of introductions in the virtual space.

Mohit opined that the convenience and flexibility of digital banking and commerce are making our currency increasingly digital. This has made it essential for banks to adopt technology and go digital, to a large extent, against historical convention and experiential wisdom.

Digital banking has exposed customers to the convenience of online transaction, making e-commerce a torchbearer in the online space. That being the case, he emphasized the importance of using technology and the need to innovate to stay relevant in the current environment.

In the same vein, he advised delegates to not try and do everything in one big step; rather delegates should partner with champions who will help them accelerate their innovation journey and help them stay relevant.

 

OneConnect’s Solutions can assist financial institutions to transform digitally

Yao: Our goal is to technologically empower financial institutions and help them innovate

After Mohit’s opening, Yao Jing, Head of Singapore and Malaysia, OneConnect Financial Technology shared his insights.

Yao began by sharing the inception of OneConnect Financial Technology in China and how they are exploring growth opportunities in other parts of South East Asia. OneConnect’s goal is to support small banks and financial institutions in building digital ecosystems and banking platforms to help them stay ahead of the curve in today’s digital world.

He briefly spoke about some of the digital solutions offered by OneConnect:

  • Digital Identity Verification
  • Smart Landing Platform
  • Digital Bank-in-a-Box Solution
  • Insurtech Solutions

Wrapping up his talk, Yao provided an overview of OneConnect’s workings and introduced Vijay Manoharan, Chief Executive Officer, CIMB Bank Philippines Inc – a pioneer and expert in fintech and digital banking – to share his story with the delegates

The need to democratize banking and promote financial inclusion in the Philippines

Vijay: We are a platform bank dedicated to eliminating customers’ pain points

Vijay began by sharing that their primary goal of entering the Philippines was disrupting the banking landscape and promoting financial inclusion.  The Philippines is in a very nascent banking stage with only 35-40% of the bankable population having bank accounts.

CIMB wanted to create value by addressing the real pain points of the customers. Keeping that in focus, they came up with a go-to-market strategy of removing the barriers to banking and incentivising opening bank accounts with higher interest rates.

Vijay gave an overview CIMB and why it perceives itself as platform bank –  not just a digital bank. He explained that they have the capability of allowing outside partners to extend CIMB services on their platform. This allows CIMB to reach a wider audience, integrate better with customers and partners and have effective collaboration.

He spoke of the partnership they have with the biggest telecom and e-wallet in the country, They have become the first bank in the region to tie up with a fintech and enabled the end-to-end opening of a bank account on the partner’s platform.

Further proof of the success of their strategy is in the overwhelming recognition his team has received over the last 22 months.

Vijay concluded his presentation by listing some of the benefits of operating as a platform bank for both their partners and themselves. They include seamless digital experience, system readiness and agility, risk and credit expertise, fast and aggressive culture and partnership model and adding value.

After the informative presentations, it was time to engage delegates in a time of discussion through the polling session.

On the first question on the biggest benefit of using AI/Technology in the financial services industry, a majority of the delegates seemed divided between better risk control (26%) and new ways of credit assessment (26%).

A senior executive from China Construction Bank reflected that processing data is an organisation’s biggest asset in transformation and innovation. Technology, he felt, would support fintech initiatives but data will be the overarching driver for change.

On the second question about the most competitive advantage of FinTech/TechFin, close to half of the audience voted for innovation/willingness to take risks (47%).

A delegate from a banking organisation in Malaysia reflected that in a conventional banking setup, the ability to take risk is subdued. Smaller fintech setups have the liberty to be innovative and use different kinds of technology from opensource and cloud.

On the final question regarding the biggest competitive advantage of traditional financial institutions, a third voted for brand value (36%).

Reflecting on this, a participant felt that new upcoming FinTech companies are catching up with big organisations on a lot of fronts like management, people and culture but they struggle when it comes to regulatory support.

After the completion of the discussions, George Lee, Strategy and Business Development Director, OneConnect Financial Technology addressed the audience with closing remarks.

He shared that Fintech setups today are getting as big as the banks they are competing with. They have a mature workforce and enough resources, along with the ability to take risks and have flexibility.

He encouraged the delegates to use technology to serve their customers better and to stay relevant in this increasingly digital economy.

George urged the delegates to initiate conversations with the OneConnect team who are always ready to support them on their digital transformation journey.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) announced a major organisational restructuring on 16 November 2020 to reinvent its role as the leader of Malaysia’s digital economy and ensure it benefits the many. This follows the recent appointment of four industry leaders to MDEC’s Board of Directors and further emphasises the firm commitment of MDEC’s leadership towards delivering more for less at speed, addressing disruption of the new norm and improving its standard of governance.

In these unprecedented times, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, change is inevitable. Recognising that digital transformation and adoption is crucial to capitalise on new opportunities. MDEC is confident that the new agile, streamlined and collaborative leadership structure will enable mass outreach and achieve its vision of Malaysia 5.0 – achieving a people-first society in the age of 4IR technology.

Reinventing MDEC

The reinvented MDEC will introduce four strategic focus areas, driven by a newly constituted MDEC Operating Council comprising five divisions:

All five Division leaders in the MDEC Operating Council will report to the CEO of MDEC, and work closely with the transformation and corporate functions. Implementing the right, lean, new leadership structure is key to executing at speed, expanding mass outreach, and creating a measurable socio-economic impact in a digital-first future.

Digital MDEC will prioritise strategic national alignment and the complete digitalisation of all MDEC’s processes and services. It will also implement the recommendations from the holistic governance review. Digitally Powered Businesses will drive two specific thrusts: driving digital adoption among businesses and scaling digital industry players.

Digital Investments aims to attract investment into the catalytic digital-tech sectors and 4IR technologies. The main thrust of Digitally Skilled Malaysians will be on reskilling, job matching and the sharing (Gig) economy.

The five divisions are expected to collaborate closely and deploy agile teams to work across the divisions to provide fast and seamless solutions to address opportunities and challenges. Together, these four strategic focus areas and five divisions will be instrumental in firmly establishing Malaysia as the ‘Heart of Digital ASEAN’.

MDEC will introduce the IOOI (Input, Output, Outcome, Impact) Valuation Metrics in its planning to guide future resource allocation and utilisation, and effectively measure the organisation’s socio-economic contribution to society. This will directly cultivate a high-performing and high-impact organisation.

The Chairman of MDEC stated that the reinvention will ensure clarity in vision, increased ownership, and a collaborative approach to drive success. This is the time for MDEC to be bold and lead the digital leap for Malaysia to build a digital economy for all Malaysians.

This reinvention is expected to positively impact the digital ecosystem. With four strategic focus areas and cross-division agile teams, MDEC expects to break down silos and drive both synergies and efficiencies across teams. People, industry and investors will benefit from streamlined access to relevant subject-matter expertise, programmes and financial support initiatives. Internally, processes will be much less labour-intensive through digitalisation, enabling better customer service.

Malaysia as the Heart of Digital ASEAN

Malaysia is on track to achieve its bold aspiration to become the ‘Heart of Digital ASEAN’. The country ranked 8th within the Asia-Pacific region in the Global Innovation Index 2020, which ranks the innovation capacities of 131 economies in the world, and 11th in Startup Genome’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020, which ranks the top 140 start-up ecosystems globally.

In the new tech age, digital innovations will serve as a social equaliser to drive shared prosperity for all Malaysians, which is why achieving Malaysia 5.0 must be a national priority. As the trailblazer of Malaysia’s digital economy, MDEC’s reinvention will pave the way for it to lead Malaysia to make the digital leap into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, cementing the country’s status as one of the foremost Asian nations to embrace the new digital-first reality.

The Malaysia Tech Month 2020 (MTM 2020) officially launched on 10 November 2020. The month-long campaign, organised by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) aims to showcase the country’s digital and technology ecosystem and kicked off with a two-day conference.

MDEC’s chief marketing officer stated that the agency wants the local digital and tech industry to share the challenges, their success and their innovations that they have faced and developed over the last couple of years, especially over the last six months, and to inspire the next generation of digital and tech entrepreneurs to learn from their experiences.

Fostering Malaysia’s digital ecosystem

Billed as the capstone campaign for MDEC, MTM 2020 aims to emphasise and fortify Malaysia’s role in expanding the digital economy and its first-mover position in ASEAN while drawing attention to the country’s readiness in leveraging opportunities that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will spur and inspire.

An expansion of Malaysia Tech Week, MTM 2020 will provide a platform for a wide-ranging array of events, highlighting multiple collaborations with industry partners that are taking place throughout November.

The campaign serves as an overarching umbrella platform for all Malaysian digital and tech industry events in November. The launch day conference is just the start – MTM 2020’s partner events include Wild Digital Southeast Asia 2020: Virtual Edition; MyDroneTech Fest KL; MyDroneTech Fest Roundtable; State of the Global Islamic Economy 2020/21 Launch; LEVEL UP KL 2020: SEA Game Awards 2020; and LEVEL UP KL 2020: Play Day.

MTM 2020 was conceived when MDEC noticed several standalone events occurring in November. The agency looked at the content that was out there, and instead of having various smaller events or standalone events, we felt that we had an opportunity to curate all these great events that are happening.

It allows people to focus fully on what Malaysia’s digital tech ecosystem has to offer. Interest from industry has been seen as well as regional interest coming in, to look at the sheer diversity of solutions and passion that is coming out from Malaysia’s digital tech ecosystem.

MTM 2020 comes at an extremely opportune time as Malaysia is placing a growing emphasis on the digital economy. According to the Department of Statistics, the country’s digital economy is expected to contribute 20% of the economy by 2020.

It’s already on its way to achieving that easily, as Malaysia’s digital economy contributed 19.1% to the national economy in 2019, up from 18.7% in 2018. This year, the e-commerce sector will lead the charge as it is expected to exceed RM110 billion in revenue in that same period. This roughly equals to 40% of the nation’s digital economy.

Meanwhile, MDEC Chairman stated that the event will support Malaysia’s Shared Prosperity ambition as the digital economy continues to show tremendous potential for equitable opportunities. Beyond strengthening the confidence of the country as a compelling digital and tech investment hub for Southeast Asia, MTM 2020 enables Malaysia to further its collective goals in building a 4IR-ready workforce and widen its efforts to drive forward border-spanning innovations.

Moreover, the event is bringing together inspiring leaders and innovators to showcase Malaysia’s best, MDEC will continue to stimulate the growth of 4IR technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT).

MDEC’s CEO also stated that the agency is sparing no efforts to ensure digital technologies remain central to Malaysia’s socio-economic growth in this new norm. To achieve this, it must be ensured that the initiatives – both current and upcoming – are relevant to the needs of start-ups and SMEs. They must start to think regional and then go global. MTM 2020 serves as a strategic extension of the Malaysian government’s continued push to develop and sustain a vibrant digital economy.

Malaysia’s digital economy has been on a steady rise, growing at around 21% annually. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Malaysian government recognised this growth as a crucial driver to stimulate economic recovery. The government has been continuously promoting the nation’s digital agenda through multiple policies and initiatives.

A key investment destination

Consistent growth and uptake of digital tools in the past few years are indicative of Malaysia’s robust Digital Economy and have attracted foreign investors. The Fintech adoption rate is also increasing in Malaysia and the region with consumers, wanting more financial inclusion, better fees, and easier ways to transfer funds. With high-speed broadband facilities and better digital literacy are also driving adoption.

4IR and Malaysia’s 5.0 Digital Economy

At the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), Malaysia has the opportunity to re-engineer the human experience using technologies that could decentralised authority and de-emphasise divisions along the lines of colour, creed and country – what the Japanese have coined as “Society 5.0”. This concept is now being adopted locally as “Malaysia 5.0”.

Now, MDEC is poised to take on a leading role in catalysing the transition to Malaysia 5.0 as a new narrative for the nation. This includes introducing using emerging technologies that are now considered essential tools in the new Malaysia 5.0 digital economy.

Malaysia 5.0 directly addresses financial inclusion, access, performance and growth through the 4IR tools, such as fintech, blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI). These digital initiatives and hubs will emerge as core components for the next-gen infrastructure of every country. They will be the ones facilitating the interoperability of goods and services that are flowing through them with interconnectivity between various market sectors.

4IR tech to propel Malaysia forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a global standstill and impacted several industries – some more than others. Industries such as Food & Beverage (F&B), Aviation, Travel, Tourism and Retail experience unprecedented disruptions in supply chains and consequently led to a surge in unemployment rates.

According to the Chairman, the COVID-19 pandemic allows for the exploration of new technologies that could lead to more sustainable, inclusive and resilient economies and societies. New technological paradigms are introduced, reflecting the greater need for collaboration across all stakeholders. Interconnectivity in this extraordinary situation is crucial for the nation to achieve shared prosperity.

The country’s digital infrastructure and readiness to embrace technology allowed people to weather the storm. Ever since the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced, online services and e-wallet applications saw a considerable boost in users. People are ordering food, groceries and other necessities online to avoid contact and reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.

In addition, Malaysia’s research arms are actively deploying IR 4.0 solutions to curb the spread of the virus. Business owners and employees embraced the new normal by espousing WFH practices and utilising cloud-based video conferencing solutions to participate in online meetings.

4IR represents new ways in which technology can be embedded within societies. The integration of robotics, machine learning, AI, Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, financial technology (fintech), data analytics and drone technology with the synergy of 5G infrastructure will displace conventional technology and significantly alter the way consumers, industries and businesses operate.

Sustainable Digital Economy & Value Creation

By embracing 4IR and “Malaysia 5.0” for the nation’s economic recovery, Malaysia has achieved a balanced and equitable growth distribution across all layers of society. The emphasis on well-being and environmental conservation has always been at the forefront of development initiatives.

In the agricultural sector, modernisation and digital transformation would guarantee food security, increased productivity, strengthen supply chains and enable digitally skilled workers. For instance, in oil palm plantations and paddy fields, drone technology and other agrotechnology has helped plants and farmers monitor and enhance crop production to generate a more sustainable and viable source of income.

The adoption of emerging technologies in traditional industries such as agriculture is aligned with Malaysia’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to improve the well-being and income of farmers, fishermen, agro-based entrepreneurs and livestock breeders.

Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and MDEC announced a joint effort to co-design pilot policy principles and regulatory frameworks to accelerate the utilisation of drone tech for societal benefits. Aside from increasing crop yields, drones can be efficiently used to identify dangerous conditions without putting workers at risk, act as a lifeline for remote populations and reduce carbon emissions.

Thus, 4IR technologies could establish a much better living environment; create new, more purposeful employment opportunities; upskill the labour force; better health and education, and create smarter, greener cities.

Spearheading digital transformation

MDEC positions itself at the vanguard of digital transformation by focusing on stimulating inclusive, high-quality growth. Its current role is to ensure Malaysia makes the Digital Leap and embrace the era of 4IR to drive shared prosperity and to reinforce the country’s role as the Heart of Digital ASEAN, a regional digital powerhouse and industry trailblazer. These are focused on three primary focused drivers: empowering Malaysians with digital skills, enabling digitally-powered businesses, and driving digital investments.

Focusing on the long-term

Malaysia’s digital economy is forecasted to contribute 20% to the economy by 2020, a surge of 2.2% since 2015. Backed by the launch of the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) in 2017 and the current global crisis, the e-commerce sector is expected to exceed RM110 billion by 2020, comprising nearly 40% of Malaysia’s digital economy.

MDEC had the foresight to encourage the development and testing of next-generation technologies such as blockchain and fintech. This proved fundamental in attracting many start-ups and foreign investors to be based in Malaysia. Addressing the growing demand for digitally skilled Malaysians, MDEC introduced the Tech Talent Development initiative to upskill and reskill the workforce. This has further sustained the nation’s investment appeal.

The Malaysian government also incentivised its industrial sectors by offering tax breaks for the electronics sector and related intellectual property (IP); automation equipment capital allowance for services; and provision of incentives for digitalisation and innovation efforts to accelerate digital transformation.

In efforts to drive digital development, a global industry body on 3 November 2020 partnered with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporate (MDEC), Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT), and the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association (PITA).

The organisation’s Head of Asia Pacific stated that the collaboration between the digital industry and policymakers is key to the advancement of digital societies in the Asia Pacific. And now it’s essential, as Asia Pacific nations build resilient economies for post-pandemic recovery. The recent agreements with Malaysia, Pakistan, and the Pacific Islands Telecommunications Association show how the organisation is helping Asia Pacific countries drive their digital transformation.

In its partnership with Malaysia Digital Economy Corporate (MDEC), the organisation will provide and empower digital skills to Malaysian citizens, in addition to enabling digitally powered businesses and driving digital sector investments and innovation.

The CEO of MDEC stated that the agency aims to encourage Malaysia-based multi-national companies to help build the nation’s digital ecosystem and support local digitally powered businesses to become global players. And I commend the GSMA for its proactive support of organisations as they prepare for 5G and digitalisation.

The partnership with Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoITT) will focus on mobile broadband as the foundation of an inclusive “Digital Pakistan”. The MOU is a great endorsement of the Digital Pakistan vision and the government looks forward to working with the organisation on further strengthening their relationship and showcasing Pakistan on the regional and global platform as a Digital Leader, the Federal Minister, IT & Telecommunication, Pakistan, said.

Lastly, partnership with PITA, a non-profit organisation that represents the interests of small island nations in the Pacific Region in the field of telecommunications, will involve encouraging innovation and progress to leap forward towards a digital society. The organisation is taking a proactive effort in supporting organisations to ensure they continue on their paths towards digitalisation, including boosting deployment of connectivity, the PITA’s President concluded.

Supporting local digitalisation in Malaysia

MDEC has been at the forefront of the vision to empower Malaysia’s local businesses for several years now. In a recent report, OpenGov Asia highlighted how MDEC is in a unique position to encourage grassroots engagement by sharing resources that fairly involve all stakeholders in society; investment through training, subsidies, incentives, grants and loans are all important to achieve the goal of digital participation, especially during these challenging times.

Just as steam engines trigger the use of fossil fuels to aggravate the current climate crisis, the power of IR 4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, material internet (IoT), robotics and crypto will determine the quality for human beings whether they provide well-being or vice versa.

Taking on the responsibility of digitising Malaysians who are ‘affected’ by this transformation, the role of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is being implemented accordingly. The agency is responsible for ensuring the widespread dissemination and use of IR 4.0 tools in advance so that the community is aware of the challenges that are inevitable not only in Malaysia but also globally.

The main philosophy that drives the penetration of IR 4.0 technology in the Malaysian digital economy is to achieve common prosperity for all citizens. The current global crisis is an opportunity to place the country in a position where it can prepare for a better future with greater possibilities as well as by placing the community at the centre of IR 4.0 technology. Strategic partnership with international organisations is one of the main ways in which this can be done.

An aircraft equipped with hyper-spectral imaging technology should be fully operational by early next year to facilitate Forest Department Sarawak in its mission to protect the forest and wildlife across the state.

The State Secretary stated that the aircraft was acquired by the federal government for the purpose of air monitoring and surveillance. While it is not yet operational, it should be fully operational by early next year, he told reporters when met during a working visit to the Continuous Monitoring Surveillance (Comos) at the hangar of Hornbill Skyways in early October.

According to the Minister, the operations of the aircraft would be run under the department via a regional-charter airline based in Sabah, Malaysia, which would also be responsible in maintaining the plan and providing technical support.

The state currently does not have pilots in the Forest Department, and thus needs those from an established aircraft agency (and this is financed) through the fund provided by the federal government, the Minister added.

On a related matter, the official commended the Forest Department for having showcased several innovations that they had been implementing. This is what is encouraged in Sarawak’s civil service. Civil servants must increase their efficiency in doing their daily tasks; thus, innovation is something that must be promoted in them to solve problems that are besetting the departments and their staff in terms of work.

The innovations carried out by the Forest Department cover ongoing monitoring and surveillance. The department’s technologies used in surveillance and mapping, help a lot in many of their operations including in the detection of illegal logging, detection of diseases and detection of forest fires.

These technologies are important because they serve to increase the operational efficiency of the department such as efficient monitoring and surveillance via the command centre without the need of a physical presence on the ground – saving time and manpower, and eventually with the data being analysed using high-technology applications, producing outcomes that are more accurate and thus, provide the department with viable information for other activities.

Sarawak investing in green technologies

In the same vein, the Sarawak government has emphasised investments towards the development of green technology and alternative renewable energy sources such as biogas from sago waste, said the Chief Minister.

The waste from the sago industry could be treated and help to ensure a cleaner environment compared to the previous practice of releasing the waste into the river and causing pollution. Among the products that can be produced from sago are for power generation, producing clean residual water, as well as producing biogas which contains methane gas, he said at the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the state-established Craun Research Sdn Bhd and a Singapore-based firm.

Craun Research has been entrusted to develop the distribution of bio-natural gas from sago waste to rural households, the brainchild of Abang Johari as an extension of the integrated sago wastewater recovery and treatment pilot plant which he launched on 23 November 2019.

The biogas produced by the sago pilot plant would be purified and subsequently distributed as a green, a sustainable and cheaper alternative source of cooking gas compared to the commercial liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and as a start, the distribution of the bio-natural biogas for cooking would benefit the residents of Kampung Teh and Kampung Tabo in Mukah, Sarawak.

The Chief Minister stated that the research on biogas is timely and can be value-added and used by the local community both for cooking and other purposes.

Meanwhile, the Craun Chief Executive Officer (CEO) stated that from a safety aspect, natural biogas with gas methane content of more than 90% was safer to be used as cooking gas compared to LPG as methane was lighter from the air so it would evaporate faster in the event of a leakage. From an industry perspective, the project is capable of increasing the sago value chain while paving an integrated solution to the environmental pollution problems arising from sago waste.

Sago is one of the major agricultural commodities that contribute to Sarawak’s revenue, and as the leading sago producer in Malaysia, Sarawak exports sago starch produce worth between RM80 million and RM90 million every year.

The International Science Survey 2019-2020 examined the attitudes of Malaysians towards robots and automation in the workplace, artificial intelligence (AI), and involved 20 countries.

Robots

In the survey results released in September, the 1,650 Malaysians polled had mixed views towards the use of robots for workplace automation. About 51%  regarded this as bad for society while 45% said it has been good; only 3% felt it has been both good and bad for society.

The Malaysian respondents, who were polled via phone between October to November 2019 in Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin, and English, responded to the question of whether they felt using robots to automate many jobs humans have done in the past is mostly a good or bad thing for society on the whole, after considering all the advantages and disadvantages.

Artificial Intelligence

Similarly, when asked about the development of AI or computer systems designed to imitate human behaviours, Malaysians had mixed views. About 53%said it has mostly been good for society, while 44% indicated that it has mostly been bad for society. Only 3% said it has been both good and bad for society, and 1% declined to answer or gave other answers.

Space exploration

Malaysians were much significantly keener on space. When asked about the government’s space exploration programme at the National Space Agency (Angkasa), 83% of the 1,650 Malaysians polled said it has been good for society, while 14% said it has been bad for society.

How do other Asian countries view robots and AI?

In the same survey, most of Malaysia’s peers in the Asia-Pacific region displayed a more positive attitude towards the use of robots at the workplace to replace human labour, with comparatively more saying it was a good thing for society in Japan (68%), Taiwan and South Korea’s respondents both at 62%, Singapore (61%).

In India, 47% of respondents said it was good while 27% it was bad, with Australia displaying a mixed view with 47% saying it was bad and 44% saying it was good.

As for the development of AI, about two-thirds or more in most of the Asia-Pacific countries viewed it as a good thing, including 72% of Singapore’s respondents, South Korea (69%), India (67%), Taiwan (66%), Japan (65%), while Australia recorded 49% saying it was good and 39% saying it was bad.

The Pew Research Center referred to its own 2018 survey on the view in 10 developing and developed countries towards job automation by robots and computers to replace the work done by humans currently, with a majority of the respondents thinking that it is likely that people would have a hard time finding jobs and that the inequality or gap between the rich and poor would worsen.

Other factors

The International Science Survey 2019-2020 of 20 countries generally found that men in most countries were more positive about both robots and AI but the difference between genders was not statistically significant in Malaysia.

When examined according to the gender of the respondents in Malaysia, 50% of women and 55% of men found AI to be a good thing for society, while 43% of women and 48% of men found robots at the workplace to be good. The Center noted that age was not a factor in the respondents’ views in most countries surveyed on the topic of automation.

On the topic of AI, however, 10 of the countries surveyed showed that younger adults (or those younger than the median age of the pool of respondents) are more likely than older adults to say the development of AI has been good. The pollster noted that in Malaysia, the pattern is reversed, with older adults seeing AI more positively than younger adults (57% vs. 49%, respectively).

Education does play a significant role in the views of Malaysian respondents, with 52% of those with less education and 59% of those with more education or who studied beyond secondary school saying AI has been good for society. Correspondingly, for the use of robots to automate jobs, significant differences were found in views based on education levels of Malaysian respondents, with 44% of those with less education and 53% of those with more education viewing automation positively.

On workplace automation, taking more science courses in post-secondary studies also makes a difference for Malaysian respondents, with 49% of those who took zero to two science courses and 61% of those who took three or more science courses saying that using robots to automate human jobs is a good thing.

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