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MSC Malaysia currently counts 579 active Global Business Services (GBS) companies within its fold, with 57% being foreign direct investments (FDIs). 30 per cent of the foreign-owned GBS are part of the Forbes Global 2000 and Fortune 500 companies.

While the number of active GBS companies accounts for approximately 20 per cent of the total number of active MSC Malaysia companies, GBS is the largest contributor to MSC Malaysia’s performance, adding up to 50 per cent of investments, 66 per cent of exports, 61 per cent of jobs created.

In ASEAN, the number of GBS centres has grown by nearly 70 per cent since 2010, where Malaysia hosts more than a third of these centres, followed by the Philippines and Singapore (Source: SSON Analytics).

The government’s commitment to improving digital infrastructure and providing a pipeline of digitally ready workforce allows Malaysia to reinvent itself as the preferred location for high-value GBS such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Analysis, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Data-led processing and Cybersecurity.

A thriving industry, integral to Malaysia’s digital economy

The recent economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has created multiple implications for the GBS industry. However, despite the current pandemic conditions and challenges, Malaysia has seen its GBS industry sustain during this period due to its conducive business environment and access to talent.

Such GBS/ BPO services provided are important supporting functions for the industry and businesses at large and we’ll continue to support our members and industry together with the government of Malaysia, the OM Chair said.

OM, formerly known as Outsourcing Malaysia was an initiative of the GBS industry, formed in 2006 by PIKOM – the National Tech Association of Malaysia to promote and develop Malaysia as a global hub for high-value Digital Global Business Services.

The global customer management and experience industry is undergoing a major revolution as a result of process automation, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), AI and machine learning.

The pace of change is accelerating, fuelled by technology and changes in customer expectations. The industry in Malaysia has already begun to upskill our workforce into higher-value roles, where complex customer interaction meets technology, resulting in enrichment of customer services and experiences.

This will continue to position Malaysia as the location of choice for companies looking to expand or establish new customer management delivery centres.

The role of digital technology and services is evident, especially following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which has led to further acceleration of digitalisation and accentuated GBS as a key pillar for an organisation’s resilience and agility.

Many organisations rely on GBS to help them explore and deliver innovation, automation, advanced services, and new ways of working. The scope of GBS now includes finance, information technology (IT), Human Resource (HR), and procurement, as well as other functions, and that can be delivered onshore or offshore.

This is further supported in the State of the Shared Services Market Report (SSON) survey which indicates that Malaysia’s Shared Services & Outsourcing (SSO)/GBS practitioners have confirmed that the rapid evolution and expansion of the digital economy is key in driving the GBS industry forward.

The finding says that the integration of digital technology has redefined companies in terms of process excellence, human capital management, data and technology skills development, and digital workforce in the shape of an RPA-enabled workforce.

Malaysian companies are leveraging the GBS model to adopt and accelerate digital transformation, shifting focus from cost arbitrage to value-driven services.

While Finance, HR and Customer Experience are the most common services, intelligent automation and data analytics now feature among the top range of services. Value-add and cost-saving from streamlining and centralising core functions are major factors encouraging more and more companies to outsource their business activities.

Companies have also recognised that digitalisation is a key enabler as digital-first processes are a prerequisite to enhance customer and employee experience. The most critical enabling criteria are the availability of skills and expertise in the new digital technologies.

Malaysia is now home to nearly half of all analytics-based services in ASEAN. To accelerate this growth, MDEC is engaging the industry to listen to their needs, develop a progressive and conducive policy and regulatory framework, and a robust pipeline of digital talents.

The Government’s support outlined in the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL) through various phases until 2030 to drive the country’s high value-added economy and to become a net exporter of home-grown technologies and digital solutions will complement the rest of the national digital economy development initiatives such as the country’s GBS sector in the coming years.

Such moves will go a long way towards boosting investor confidence and for these companies to establish Malaysia as their preferred base to other emerging GBS locations such as India and China.

MDEC aims to continue leading the nation’s digital economy transformation towards the aspiration of Malaysia 5.0, enabling a society that is deeply integrated with Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Data Analytics, AI, and Blockchain.

The agency has embarked on initiatives to empower more digitally-skilled Malaysians, enable digitally-powered businesses and attract more digital investments. Doing so will create new opportunities for both the people and businesses, contributing to the growth of a sustainable and equitable digital economy and firmly establishing Malaysia as the Heart of Digital ASEAN.

Malaysia is poised to maintain its position as one of the top eCommerce markets in ASEAN, with gross merchandise value (GMV) expected to grow to reach a total value of US$11.4 billion in 2020, a 6% Year-on-Year increase. This is expected to rise to US$30 billion in value by 2025, according to the e-Conomy SEA 2020 Report.

To further boost the growth of the country’s eCommerce market in ASEAN, the National Council of Digital Economy and 4IR (MED4IR) chaired by the Prime Minister recently endorsed the National eCommerce Strategic Roadmap (NESR) 2.0 following the achievements of NESR 1.0. MDEC is entrusted to lead the Project Management Office of the NESR 2.0 Taskforce with the mandate to oversee the successful implementation of NESR 2.0.

The CEO of MDEC stated that the success of NESR 1.0 highlighted the potential for eCommerce in Malaysia is enormous and that the agency is motivated further to fuel its efforts to boost the local eCommerce market, in line with positioning Malaysia as the Heart of Digital ASEAN.

The government has strongly encouraged the local MSMEs to get on the eCommerce market to leverage the massive opportunities globally. The NESR 2.0 prioritises the participation of local businesses and MSMEs, targeting 875,000 MSMEs to adopt eCommerce by 2025 in line with the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL).

NESR 2.0 was led by MDEC in close consultation with KKMM and MITI and addresses the feedback and challenges faced by local industries and players.

Targets under NESR 2.0 will be driven by 11 Ministries and Agencies namely MITI, KKMM, MEDAC, MOT, MOSTI, KPDNHEP, DOSM, MIDA, MATRADE, MCMC and MDEC in close partnership with industry players, especially from the local front.

As of the end of 2020, more than 489,000 MSMEs adopted eCommerce while 378,000 SME were trained in eCommerce. SMEs exporting grew exponentially from 1,800 to 27,000. The sector also attracted investment worth RM1.5 billion for the establishment of regional eFullfilment hubs.

To accelerate these efforts, NESR 2.0 will be operationalised from 2021 to 2025, aiming to onboard 875,000 MSMEs, boost 84,000 eCommerce export adoption and increase the average revenue per user (ARPU) to RM9,500.

These key objectives are aligned to the MyDIGITAL under Thrust Two – boosting economic competitiveness through digitalisation and Thrust Five which aims to create an inclusive digital society.

At the same time, these objectives also align with MDEC’s agenda of Malaysia 5.0 which aims to empower a society integrated with technology based on inclusive, sustainable and equitable growth.

A total of 639 organisations and individuals were engaged as part of MDEC’s primary market research work in the development of NESR 2.0. carried out in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. This included 196 companies, 18 industry associations, 40 Government Ministries and agencies.

NESR 2.0 will be guided by three overarching objectives, namely; to intensify eCommerce adoption and growth, to enhance ecosystem development and to strengthen policy and regulatory environment.

Six Strategic Thrusts have been identified to tackle interventions from Adoption, Export, Fulfilment, Innovation, Data to Policy & Regulatory.

About MDEC

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is a government agency under the purview of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia entrusted to lead Malaysia’s digital economy forward.

Incorporated in 1996 to oversee the development of the MSC Malaysia initiative, MDEC’s primary mandate today is to accelerate the growth of digitally-skilled Malaysians, digitally-powered businesses and digital investments in Malaysia. MDEC is focused on creating inclusive, high-quality growth through the nationwide digitalisation initiatives that are in line with the Government’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 in line with Malaysia 5.0 and firmly establishing Malaysia as the Heart of Digital ASEAN.

The National Council of Digital Economy and Fourth Industrial Revolution (MED4IR) chaired by the nation’s Prime Minister endorsed the establishment of the Digital Investment Office (DIO), entrusted to charge towards facilitating digital investments in Malaysia.

The role of DIO is consistent with the MyDIGITAL Blueprint and the National Investment Aspirations, guided by the essence of the Shared Prosperity Vision (SPV) 2030. The DIO is a fully digital collaborative platform between the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) to coordinate and facilitate all digital investments.

The objective of this endeavour is not only to create awareness of digital investments in the country but to also strengthen the coordination among all Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) in promoting and attracting new investments in this fast-evolution segment.

This collaborative effort between MIDA and MDEC will cater to the rapidly growing digital industries’ needs with a view to anchor global technology leaders, build local champions, and nurture future-ready talent in Malaysia.

In the long term, with the shift in the global digital landscape, the Government anticipates the DIO to play a vital role to position Malaysia as the preferred Digital Hub and firmly establish Malaysia as the Heart of Digital ASEAN in the Southeast Asian Economic Region.

Senior Minister and Minister of International Trade and Industry (MITI) stated, “The Digital Economy is the engine of future growth for Malaysia. The setting up of this DIO is indeed timely in line with the evolution of the investment landscape in the region towards digitalisation and Industry 4.0, as it will create a unique value proposition for the upcoming digital investments.

“We are optimistic that with this structured governance in investment promotion and facilitation, Malaysia’s digital ecosystem will be further strengthened and primed for the future, ensuring the country remains competitive on the path of recovery post-COVID.”

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MIDA reiterated both the Agencies’ commitment to facilitating quality investments into the country, including digital investments, “This DIO builds upon Malaysia’s aspiration to position as a Digital Hub in the region.”

He noted that as the principal investment promotion and development agency of the country under MITI, MIDA looks forward to working closely with MDEC to accelerate the growth of digital investments, which will indirectly develop more highly skilled local professionals and groom digital global champions. “In the long run, this will enhance Malaysia’s competitive advantage, offering undeniable pull factors for investors, both foreign and local alike,” he said.

The CEO of MDEC noted that the DIO is a game-changer as it will be the single point of contact for investors in the country’s digital economy. It is a significant milestone for the investment facilitation, combining MIDA’s global infrastructure and MDEC’s subject matter expertise in the digital economy ecosystem to attract high-quality digital investments to benefit our businesses and people, in line with our agenda of Malaysia 5.0.

About MIDA

MIDA is the Government’s principal investment promotion and development agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to oversee and drive investments into the manufacturing and services sectors in Malaysia.

Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur Sentral, MIDA has 12 regional and 20 overseas offices. MIDA continues to be the strategic partner to businesses in seizing the opportunities arising from the technology revolution of this era.

About MDEC

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is a government agency under the purview of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia entrusted to lead Malaysia’s digital economy forward.

Incorporated in 1996 to oversee the development of the MSC Malaysia initiative, MDEC’s primary mandate today is to accelerate the growth of digitally-skilled Malaysians, digitally-powered businesses and digital investments in Malaysia.

MDEC is focused on creating inclusive, high-quality growth through the nationwide digitalisation initiatives that are in line with the Government’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 in line with Malaysia 5.0 and firmly establishing Malaysia as the Heart of Digital ASEAN.

Two government agencies under Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) will be restructured through a consolidation process that will create a new technology commercialisation agency. The move brings together Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) and the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC). This new entity, approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday, 21 April 2021, will act as a technology commercialisation accelerator, the ministry said in a statement.

TPM is the only 4th generation technology park in Malaysia with physical incubators and tech infrastructure, while MaGIC has played an important role in cultivating technology start-ups and innovation ecosystem with a wide range of interventions ranging from regulatory facilitation, market access support as well as capacity building, the ministry added.

“This initiative is aimed at equipping the country to be better positioned to tackle issues such as low commercialisation rates, low gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD), low R&D spend by the private sector, and overlapping of roles between government agencies,” the ministry said.

A joint task force comprising both TPM and MaGIC, headed by the newly appointed CEO of TPM, who recently relinquished her position at MaGIC, will be set up to oversee the establishment of the new agency.

The development came after Science, Technology and Innovation Minister said in his first year at the helm of MOSTI, he has reviewed areas of priority that required government interventions, starting with the commercialisation agenda. He had noted that the landscape for innovation is continuing to evolve at a furious pace for both tech start-ups and tech giants.

“We have done reasonably well in riding the wave of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and we want to speed up the rate of commercialising our technological and innovative solutions in our push to make Malaysia a high-tech nation,” he said.

In November 2020, another government agency, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), made headlines for the restructuring exercise it undertook to spur innovation and digitalisation in the country. MaGIC was rumoured to be disbanded back in 2018 after Malaysia’s general election on 9 May as the government looked to streamline its budget.

In 2019, the then government was also in the midst of reviewing and restructuring its venture capital agencies to avoid overlaps in financing schemes. The funds involved were Cradle Fund, Malaysia Venture Capital Management (MAVCAP), Malaysia Debt Venture (MDV), Kumpulan Modal Perdana (KMP) and Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC).

Spurring digitalisation in Malaysia

According to another article, a US-based American multinational technology company will invest US$1 billion over the next five years in Malaysia as part of a new partnership programme with government agencies and local companies, the nation’s Prime Minister said on 19 April 2021.

The announcement on what would be the U.S. tech giant’s biggest investment in Malaysia comes after the country in February gave conditional approvals for various global tech conglomerates and state telecoms firm Telekom Malaysia to build and manage hyper-scale data centres and provide cloud services. Investments from cloud service providers will total between RM12 billion and RM15 billion ($2.91 billion-$3.64 billion) over the next five years.

As part of the Bersama Malaysia initiative, the tech firm will establish its first “data centre region”, which consists of multiple data centres, in Malaysia to manage data from various countries, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told an event marking the launch of the programme. Under the programme, the tech company will also assist up to a million Malaysians in getting digital skills by the end of 2023.

The investment is timely as the country saw foreign direct investments (FDI) plunge by 68% last year, the biggest decline in Southeast Asia. Malaysia has presented itself as an investment destination with the Finance Minister recently saying it was looking at incentives to help attract more FDIs.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) announced the launch of the #SayaDigital Movement on a national level. This initiative had been originally introduced to improve the digital skills of Malaysians, enabling them to seize opportunities in the digital economy.

It also includes being fully aligned with the country’s ongoing economic recovery plan. This initiative will provide strong support to the Malaysian Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL) that the Prime Minister announced in February 2021.

MDEC’s implementation programme is strongly supported by the Prime Minister’s Department; Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia; Ministry of Rural Development and Community; and Rural Internet Center. This is due to its ongoing focus on four main themes, namely, Digital Simplifies Life; Digital Increases Income; Digital Empowers Careers; and Digital Expands Business.

The programme is designed to get the B40 group, youths and senior citizens involved with the digital economy. To kickstart the momentum of #SayaDigital, three pilot programmes were held to raise the digital literacy awareness involving 301 participants, with the latest being held at Kampung Desa Temuan in Bukit Lanjan last month.

The participants attended a series of interactive workshops that exposed them to the digital skills needed to face challenges in the new normal.

This year’s #SayaDigital Movement focuses on four components, namely, training young people to become “Geng #SayaDigital” volunteers; creating awareness through digital literacy activities; conducting digital readiness assessments; and providing basic digital skills training to the community.

To date, 25 “Geng #SayaDigital” have already been formed including those in Sabah and Sarawak to further enhance the programme nationwide. The campaign, as a whole, aims to benefit 10,000 Malaysians in socio-economically vulnerable rungs across the country.

Concurrently, participants who have registered online have been connected to major MDEC programmes such as eUsahawan, PeDAS, eRezeki, MyDigitalMaker, GLOW and eBerkat. Presently, these programmes have benefited Malaysians through digital skills enhancement, digitally-driven business, involvement in the e-commerce sector, and workforce participation on global digital platforms.

In addition, eight #SayaDigital online programmes have been streamed via Facebook Live and have already gained more than 16,000 views to date.

“MDEC’s move to launch #SayaDigital to enhance digital skills among the B40 group, youths, senior citizens, and socio-economically vulnerable groups is timely as our country strives to achieve its ambition of becoming a major regional digital economy market. This is in line with the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030), an initiative that will not marginalise any groups of people,” the Prime Minister of Malaysia stated.

The Minister of Communications and Multimedia stated that #SayaDigital supports MyDIGITAL’s comprehensive strategy that sets out a roadmap to achieve the vision of making Malaysia a regional leader in the digital economy by 2030.

Through this, the Government aims to create 500,000 jobs; implement digitalisation initiatives to benefit 875,000 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro-entrepreneurs, and become the catalyst for 5,000 start-ups.

MDEC had designed 12 adaptation and digital literacy programmes with 2,000 participants who are expected to participate in a basic digital literacy training course. They will be working closely with 100 volunteers who are also known as “Geng #SayaDigital” ambassadors.

Participants will answer the Digital Readiness Assessment to measure their level of digital literacy. The test results will then determine the Basic Digital Literacy Learning Module that they will be assigned to. The programme also includes three main modules – digital communication; internet banking and e-wallet; and digital service applications that are used in other countries.

The MDEC Chairman said that the goals outlined in MyDIGITAL are based on the confidence that we can empower Malaysians to face challenges head-on that the new norm had brought about. After all, the goal is to create a technology-integrated society through Malaysia 5.0.

Equipping people with digital capabilities is a key factor for the synergy between digital infrastructure and the digitally-skilled workforce that acts as the backbone for a sustainable digital ecosystem in Malaysia, he added.

The Chief Executive Officer of MDEC noted that individuals with efficient digital skills such as coding, animation, Big Data analysis, machine learning and Cloud Computing are greatly needed in driving forward the digital economy during this pandemic.

According to the latest MDEC study, there are currently 47,000 digital job opportunities advertised on major job search portals in Malaysia. This shows that the country’s digital-skilled labour market remains competitive amid these challenging times. It also provides a sign of the country’s digital economic growth.

The #SayaDigital campaign kickstarted in 2020 as MDEC’s efforts to support Malaysians and local businesses to step up digitalisation measures that will help to reduce the socio-economic impact of the pandemic.

Through the campaign, MDEC introduced several initiatives, such as SME Digital Summit; #YoungCreators Movement; #MYDigitalWorkforce Week; and Gig and Freelance Expo (GFX) as high-impact engagements for those who want to improve their skills as well as for young individuals just entering the workforce.

Leveraging MDEC’s extensive network of international experts and companies, participants gained opportunities to get the best advice and tools from leading industry leaders to assist them in exploring their respective digital journeys.

Following the successful efforts to establish Digital Maker Hubs in 24 schools in 2020, the Ministry of Education (MoE) and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) have recently embarked on an initiative to scale this model to more schools around the country via public-private-partnerships.

Digital Maker Hubs are spaces to learn and practise digital creativity and innovation or spaces equipped with digital maker facilities and courses, where students can create and invent projects and learn new things using a variety of digital making tools and materials.

Recognising the importance of such spaces, MoE is looking to expand the reach and value of these hubs by partnering with industry players and other like-minded organizations to achieve their target of equipping 188 places with Digital Maker Hubs by end of this year. This includes an additional 9 schools nationwide presently.

The Director of BSTP stated that the MoE has seen promising results from the Digital Maker Hubs via MDEC’s early efforts, specifically in strengthening digital creativity and innovation amongst students. “We are keen to replicate this model in other schools and look forward to more industry players and government agencies coming on board to equip more schools and community places with such tools. MDEC’s initiatives such as this one, are aimed at creating a future-ready workforce, by equipping them with digital skills required to meet the demands of digital jobs,” he said.

The availability of such spaces is key to nurturing the younger generation for future jobs. The World Economic Forum in its 2020 Future of Jobs Report, estimates that 85 million jobs will be displaced by automation by the year 2025, yet 97 million new jobs will be created within the same time frame, largely in roles that require data and digital tech skills.

MDEC, mandated to lead the digital economy into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) as the nation progresses towards Malaysia 5.0, first championed and implemented Digital Maker Hubs in 2018, under the #mydigitalmaker Movement. The said movement is a joint public-private-academia initiative to introduce and nurture digital competencies among Malaysian students. It falls under MDEC’s Digitally Skilled Malaysians, a key pillar under the agency’s strategic framework to accelerate the nation’s digital economy vision for the many.

The Head of Digital Skills and Jobs at MDEC stated that despite the pandemic posing challenges in education and talent development, MDEC remains committed to working with ecosystem partners to equip young learners to be future-ready.

Organisations that support the establishment of Digital Maker Hubs will be providing much-needed assistance to young talents, equipping them with critical skills needed to advance the digital economy. MDEC is creating possibilities and opportunities with limitless boundaries with technology, eventually bridging the digital divide.

Besides equipping 24 schools with Digital Maker Hubs, MDEC has also worked with various NGOs, state governments, universities and enterprises to establish 67 Digital Maker Hubs outside schools, totalling 90. A full list of all these Digital Maker Hubs can be obtained from the website.

MOE and MDEC would like to invite sponsors from corporates and industry players to support schools and community places that have been earmarked for the establishment of Digital Maker Hubs.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 2 here.

COVID-19 has advanced digital transition by years and has foundationally altered the way both the public and private sector across the world deliver services, products and programmes. Government agencies and institutions have fast-tracked digitisation of internal operations and delivery of citizen services. Businesses made temporary solutions, that are morphing into more permanent ones, to meet changing and new demands – far more quickly than was thought possible before the crisis.

Yet, to stay relevant, competitive and, indeed, survive,  in this new business and economic environment, requires adopting new technologies, formulating evolving strategies and deploying best practices. In this increasingly VUCA world, governments and businesses across the globe are looking to ramp up their digital transformation to better citizens and clients in the post-COVID-19 era. This was the focal point of the discussion during the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition Day 1 that brought the key decision-makers and influencers together for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most.

Convening the brightest digital minds for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most, the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum offered a unique way of tackling challenges in its virtual edition. Intentionally planned, every activity and facet of the event was designed to let delegates garner exclusive insights from the digital leaders as well as demonstrate their thought-leadership.

As always, the forum provided intimate interaction between key ICT leaders from the Public Sector and the Financial Services Industry who influence and determine digital strategies across agencies and organisations.

Apart from informative presentations from renowned speakers, this year’s Forum continued its award-winning OpenGov Gamification Table (OGT) format in the new OpenGov Gamification Virtual Rooms (OGVRs). Every OpenGov Gamification Virtual Room was a virtual heuristic exercise allowing delegates to learn from varying decision-making scenarios just as they would in the physical world.

Digital transformation in the new normal

Mohit Sagar: Keep your glasses full and always find the right partners for your Digital Transformation journeys

To kickstart the session, Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief at OpenGov Asia delivered his opening remarks.

As early as 2018, there was consensus on the benefits of remote working and discussion on how to bring this about effectively and securely – but it did not happen in any significant way. Then, at the end of 2019 came a crisis so debilitating that it forced the world to come to a grinding halt almost overnight. Hit by COVID-19, the virus respected no borders, industries or community – devastating all with equal ferocity.

The public and the private sectors worked independently and together to fight the pandemic, coming up with a slew of ad-hoc solutions. Digital initiatives and tech platforms were launched left and right. The demand on the public sector shot up dramatically as citizens, forced to stay at home, looked to the government for necessities to survive.  Compounding the situation was the need to urgently manage the sick, the vulnerable and the inaccessible population.

In the early stages, people were excited at the opportunity to work from home, a shift that had been in the offing for a while. Interestingly though, the step was considered a “pivot” – with the connotation of reaction rather than strategic. People and organisations were said to be “pivoting” to manage and mitigate the issues the pandemic brought.

Beyond a doubt, both sectors did their jobs in terms of providing relevant programmes and initiatives throughout the age of COVID-19. But the question remains, were those initiatives innovative and intentional? Was enough done with the available tech? Additionally, as the initial euphoria of remote working wears thin, people, once happy about the shift, realise that the new normal disrupts their work-life balance and their well-being.

The good brings with it the bad, the unsafe and the difficult.  Deployment, in normal circumstances, of technology like AI, Cloud and Data Analytics are accompanied by cybersecurity challenges.  In the pandemic where almost everything has moved online, cybercrime has mushroomed astronomically.

Knowing this, Mohit challenged the delegates, if you put digital transformation at the heart of your plan, is everything going to be magically in place? Or do we need to take technologies more seriously?

Organisations and institutions must find the right balance in their digital transformation journey using technology. They must also find leadership to achieve the ultimate end goal of a complete digital transformation in the new normal.

In closing, Mohit emphasised the need for agencies and organisations to find the right partner in this digital journey. Not just from the tech sector, but also the government, banking and FSI, to ensure that everyone is on the right path to an ideal digital transformation.

Public services at the centre of digital transformation in the post-COVID-19 era

Encik Azih Bin Yusof: Setting a vision for the future is a key factor in ensuring a sustainable Digital Government

After Mohit’s opening remarks, the forum heard from Azih Bin Yusof, Deputy Director-General, Information and Communication Technology, Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit.

Confirmed by the World Health Organisation on January 12, 2020, Azih acknowledged that the pandemic took the world by storm. In Malaysia, the government enforced a Movement Control Order that started on March 18, 2020, to break the chain of COVID-19. As of February 28, 2021, the nation reported two waves of COVID-19, with the first wave being successfully suppressed in less than 2 months.

Right from the start, as would be expected, there was increased demand for services and rising expectations of virtual services. As remote working became a necessity, there was an urgent need to test the resilience of working virtually and the need to protect data. Additionally, other disrupted sectors were looking to the government to provide adaptive and dynamic regulatory models.

Making the best of the situation, the Malaysian government took the crisis as an opportunities to move towards digital technology to enable government service in the future, fundamentally reshaping the government’s workforce and reinventing the future of regulations.

Azih shared the various initiatives taken by his government to combat the effects of the pandemic. MySejahtera is an application to assist in monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. It allows users to assess their health risk against COVID-19 and provides the Ministry of Health with the necessary information to plan for early and effective countermeasures and registering for vaccination. The government also launched a National Data Analysis Centre (DOSM) and the Public Sector Data Sharing Policy.

The government has been strong on adopting emerging technologies such as Facial Recognition tech, AI and Automation, a National Digital ID system and big data analytics to improve efficiency and productivity. They improved the government service delivery system through increased digitisation of services.

Malaysia is also focused on digital infrastructure, including their Hybrid Cloud collaboration between private cloud and public cloud systems. The Cloud Service Provider (CSP) services cover Infrastructure as A Service (IAAS), Platform as A Service (PaaS), and Software as A Service (SaaS). MAMPU also implemented a Cloud-First Policy where the value of cloud computing is magnified by requiring agencies to evaluate safe, secure, cloud computing options before making any new investments.

Malaysia aspires to compete and succeed in this new world by ensuring ‘Kemakmuran Bersama’ (Shared Prosperity). The nation firmly believes that digital government plays a critical role in the new normal and should focus on its digital leadership, data, services, infrastructure, and innovation. To this end, it has empowered MAMPU as the sole agency to drive the public sector digital transformation agenda.

Azih conceded that a viable digital government must provide platforms for small scale innovations, improve existing business process, new solutions, develop talent and disperse capabilities. It must have a vision for the future that defines the leadership and collaboration needed between all stakeholders.

COVID-19 impacts on Data Collection, Digitisation and Analytics

After the informative presentation from Azih, the forum moved to a presentation from J.R Helmig, Innovation Lead Global Security Intelligence SAS Institute on how the pandemic affected data collection, digitisation, and analytics.

J.R started by confirming that people, processes, tech, and data make up the ecosystem of data analytics. Analytical foundations, practical outcomes and future-focussed mindsets must take the helm in an effective ecosystem. While not all analytical opportunities apply to all locations, organisations or agencies every time, they are critical to success overall.

COVID-19 accelerated the need for a viable ecosystem of data analytics – not only in terms of healthcare, workforce, and public services but also to combat the rise of online fraud and cybercrimes. Data standardisation and modernisation with proper training would be key to combat these crimes in addition to automating investigative responses.

It was pertinent to note, pre-COVID problems still exist in current analytical efforts. Challenges such as the high volume of incoming data, low quality of incoming report data, a wide variety of data sources being manually integrated, inefficient ways to investigate and handle suspicious cases, limited resources with increasing pressure to perform more efficiently and effectively, manual checks of technical matches to identify the right business match, limited analytics capabilities to identify and analyse networks and relationships and so on.

Organisations must go from being reactive to being observant of what is happening to shape future outcomes. J.R and his team help create an analytical pathway that helps organisations identify their analytical baseline. This analytic continuum acts as the knowledge hub or library for organisations. This greatly reduces tech implementation risks as well as costs.

J.R suggested that organisations should adopt a case management system. An effective case management system must generate solutions whether be it automatically or manually. It must also be populated with any of the data available in the solution that is needed to successfully the desired result.

J.R encouraged everyone to predict and plan their new normal. They should be proactive with ongoing issues such as facial recognition efforts, fake personal protective equipment, news to manipulate stock prices, threats to military readiness or asymmetrical national security threats, just to name a few. Every organisation must anticipate criminality during COVID – both near term and long term – for both direct and indirect impacts, document and improve business processes during the recovery period, and plan for ongoing change – in business operations and consumer behaviour.

What makes Digital Transformation Successful and Sustainable

Dr Dzaharudin Mansor: COVID-19 has pushed us to transform and moved us forward

Moving on from the informative presentation of J.R Helmig, the delegates had an opportunity to hear from Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, National Technology Officer, Microsoft Malaysia.

AI and Automation kick-started during the 4th industrial revolution, and digital transformation is right at the centre of that change, was his opening premise.  In today’s day and age, the competition between tech companies and organisations have changed because various transformative technologies are now democratised. Smartphones, drones, sensors, 3D printers, industrial robotics, solar-powered systems, mixed realities, and DNA sequencing are all made available to each user given by different companies, regardless of their structure.

With the increased adoption of these technologies, there are socio-economic trends that drive the need for digital government. The increase in expectations of digital culture is such that everyone expects the ability to interact and receive services in a fully digital operating model.

Cultural migration and urbanisation, where personal mobility creates multi-cultural urban centres, require new models to communicate and serve diverse populations. Citizen trust in government s fundamental – if citizens perceive a lack of digital maturity as an issue of competence it generates distrust in government.

Local and regional economies failing to effectively maintain public systems and infrastructure, create hurdles in attracting businesses and residents. Knowing all these factors, governments need to embrace digital transformation to stay relevant. To be efficient and effective in today’s complex, interlinked and fast-changing environment, governments need to redesign their structures and processes to capitalise on a new set of actors and tools.

Dr Mansor mentioned six tech trends that can enable an open digital government.

  1. Cloud provides an agile, flexible platform with unlimited scale for innovating quickly, maintaining compliance, and adapting to the latest security threats.
  2. Open data and advanced analytics paves way for new capabilities for analytics allowing significant improvements in decision making, performance analysis, policy development and financial management.
  3. AI maturity presents the capability to deliver and govern new models for community living, ranging from transportation optimisation to environmental stewardship.
  4. Service architecture with new design models allows rapid improvement of services by creating small applications that leverage an integrated data platform (moving away from silos).
  5. Cybersecurity implies governments can be trusted with public data.
  6. Mobility, where hardware tools and software platforms support the ability for many jobs to be performed in remote locations and with virtual communications.

Governments can adapt and become more resilient in the new normal by thinking in three basic phases. The first is to respond and navigate the flow of events. Adapt and respond to immediate challenges in real-time, enable remote work, maintain productivity and business continuity. The second is to recover and plan the comeback. Return business to scale quickly, adapt products, services, and business models, focus on value and cost reduction, restart customer demand. The third is to reimagine and shape the new normal. Reimagine and position people, processes, and technology for growth and new opportunities to build resilience post-COVID-19.

Artificial Intelligence and Automation

Peter Buckmaster: COVID-19 accelerated us to the future and boosted tech adoptions allowing innovation

Taking over, Peter Buckmaster, Director of Digital Experience Design Department of Education New South Wales discussed how Artificial Intelligence has now a part of normal life and specifically education – where traditional methods are changing drastically.

Peter started by saying that AI began in classical philosophy to describe human thinking in a symbolic system. In Jungian psychology, symbols, (and is by interpreting these), symbols were a primary method for making sense of the world. They represented meaning, information and actions. In technology, AI is a machines’ ability to simulate natural intelligence (NI).

AI changing the way we interact and AI changing the way education is delivered. The evolution of AI and Automation has influenced the education sector in many ways. Cognitive Intelligence now plays multiple roles in the sector including grade assessments, improving personalised learning, facilitating connected analytics and programming.

Peter agreed that the academic world is becoming more convenient and personalised thanks to the numerous applications of AI for education and as educational material becomes accessible to all through different technologies.

The usage of bots and automation in the education sector has become widespread while AI and automation are being increasingly used in transcription. AI automates administrative duties, minimising the need for staff to complete mundane, repetitive tasks thus freeing educators to spend more quality time with students.

Customers, (citizens, customers or students), in the new normal expect to engage with service providers 24/7. Digital transformation is the way to be always on and its efficiency is moving us past simple automation to RF and cognitive intelligence. It changes the way education is developed and redefines the way we teach.

Increasing Your Agility with Multi-Cloud Flexibility

Ryan Tassotti: The future is hybrid and multi-cloud

After Peter Buckmaster, the delegates were given a presentation from Ryan Tassotti, Enterprise Architect and Principal Engineer, Dell Technologies on how organisations can increase their agility by utilising multi-cloud systems.

Ryan defines the cloud as an on-demand self-service that has broad network access, resource pooling capability, rapid elasticity and can measure services. The cloud has four deployment models – private cloud, community cloud, public cloud and hybrid cloud. The Top 3 objectives driving cloud spending for Asia Pacific’s customers are New technology, Digital Transformation and Cloud-First Strategy.

As an example of Cloud-first policies, Ryan pointed to Malaysia’s MyDigital blueprint. This framework accelerated innovation in the country, allowed eCommerce imperatives for micro and SMEs and promoted better experiences for its citizens.

The fact is, Ryan noted, that the pandemic ushered the world into a new era. The new normal brings new demands and the cloud is set to provide solutions to these new necessities. The world has made a paradigm shift and digital transformation must accelerate with it. Close to three-quarters (74%) of all organisations are investing in on-demand digital services, two-thirds ( 65%) of global GDP will be from digital by 2022 and on-demand models by 2023 will be 15%, up from less than 1% in 2019.

A recent survey of 900 IT leaders across verticals and regions found that 96% of organisations have an executive mandate to leverage cloud technologies. While 89% plan to deploy private cloud infrastructure in the next 12 months, 76% of organisations will leverage multiple clouds environments over the next two years.

Utilising a multi-cloud strategy caters to different workloads. Some organisations value performance, some prioritise data services, while some look at costs and data sovereignty. While hybrid-cloud seems to be the way forward,  a hybrid-cloud platform must bring stability. It must stabilise workloads, apps, and data spread across multiple clouds – all in all, a consistent cloud experience for everything.

Ryan advised organisations to find partners in cloud adoption. “There are experts who can help you migrate without pain – why do it alone?”

Cloud adopters must ensure that the platform is consistent throughout. They must avoid hiccups throughout an application’s lifecycle with platforms that extend seamlessly, End-users do not want to be surprised by a new management interface so they must be informed.

Ryan and his team in Dell Technologies promote consistency. They facilitate consulting services, deployment services that accelerate technology adoption, managed services realising digital transformation value for client systems, storage, backup, and converged infrastructure, and education services that develop and retain valuable IT talent through continuous learning.

Ryan is firmly convinced that the future is hybrid, the future is multi-cloud and the Malaysia MyDigital blueprint embraces these advancements.

Cloud Computing for Service Innovation

Prof. Eric Tsui: The cloud is the perfect knowledge storm

Ryan Tassotti’s presentation was followed by one from Prof Eric Tsui, Professor and Co-Chair on Deployment of E-Learning, Hong Kong Polytechnic University who discussed how organisations must use the cloud for service innovation.

Using the cloud to manage data is no longer an option, it has become imperative for organisations today.  This is more so for the public sector that is striving to stay agile and ensure seamless service delivery to the citizens while continuing to innovating concurrently.

Prof Eric felt that the cloud was the perfect knowledge storm; meaning, data growth from IoT and social media, application and tools in the cloud are growing as time goes by. However, software and hardware alone are not enough to create a successful cloud system. Organisations must know that the people accessing services via the cloud are as important as the tech itself. A trusted network of people and computational resources must be integrated to mix to make the cloud the best digital business model available.

Pertinently, there are different types of cloud connections. First is the machine-to-machine, where hardware is king; second is people-to-machine, where people are utilising services; and lastly is the people-to-people connection where users create their networks using the cloud.

Eric reiterated that The Knowledge Cloud is more than just hardware and software. It encompasses people that invest their trust in the technology and involves the storage of data vital to organisations conducting their digital transformation. People build communities for problem-solving, utilising social media for marketing, exploring, and building new business models, executing strategies at low risk and in real-time, and delivering personalised services.

In light of this, organisations must think outside the box. Cloud technology is disruptive. Adopters must perceive the cloud as a massively scalable backend resource with low upfront costs. They must perceive the cloud as an intelligent knowledge centre with massive data and problem-solving skills such as processors and human integration needs, that has a dynamic computational power.

Eric stressed the key concepts in service innovation – the co-creation of value, dynamic capabilities, enabling vs disruptive, open business models and customer experience. Cloud technology is the perfect digital adjustment to these key concepts.

Organisations use the cloud for cost reduction and data integration, innovation and transforming new segments using the knowledge cloud. But there must be a collaborative effort to achieve higher rewards from the tech. The integration of humans to solve complex problems using the cloud, letting the computer do the problem solving that it is capable to do, and the integration between humans and computers to create solutions.

Eric concluded his presentation by sharing various cloud service providers that organisations could partner with on their journey in cloud adoption and digital transformation in the new normal.

Embracing Big Data and Analytics Today for a Resilient Tomorrow

Brett Aimers: Big Data and Analytics save lives and drive economic recovery

Brett Aimers, Adjunct Associate Professor, James Cook University Australia followed Eric with a presentation about Big Data and Analytics, exploring how to embrace big data and analytics today for a more resilient tomorrow.

Setting the tone for his session, Brett said major disasters would occur more frequently as time goes by. While COVID-19 has, undoubtedly, been the most disruptive global event since World War II, climate and weather patterns are changing adversely. Therefore, thinking about a resilient society is simply not enough.

In 2019, 396 natural disasters occurred across the globe. Costing more than US$ 146 billion, over 12,000 people lost their lives in these disasters. In a more regional context, Asia experienced 40% of natural disasters and 45% of all attributed deaths in the same year.

With data and information on hand, organisations must utilise big data and analytics more effectively to predict critical events and their impact; and must share this information. Big data, analytics and information sharing are key to survival and economic recovery.

Major disasters lead to major disruptions, loss of life, a sense of helplessness and lack of trust. Big Data and Analytics can create countermeasures to help mitigate these – early detection, advanced warning, maps and layers, decision making and effective communication – creating confidence within the community.

Decision-makers get relevant and timely insights about possible disasters, enabling early decision making that can protect critical assets, (including relocation of their resources) contribute to impact assessment and support economic recovery.

Brett urged the public and private sectors to acknowledge the significant drivers for change. The first is that research indicates that two-thirds of the global population will live in cities by 2050. Another is that spending on disaster recovery is nine times higher than spending on prevention…literally, a stitch in time saves nine.

Brett concluded his presentation on a positive note. While COVID-19 may have an end date, climate change and natural disasters – of the scale critical events are inevitable. But big data, analytics and efficient information sharing can save lives and promote economic recovery.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 2 here.

This is Part 2 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 1 here.

In an increasingly VUCA world, governments and businesses across the globe are looking to ramp up their digital transformation to better serve citizens and clients in the post-COVID-19 era. This was the focal point of the discussion during the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition Day 2 that brought the over 100 key decision-makers and influencers together for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most.

Convening the brightest digital minds for a strategic level discussion on the issues that matter the most, the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum offered a unique way of tackling challenges in its virtual edition. Intentionally planned, every activity and facet of the event was designed to let delegates garner exclusive insights from the digital leaders as well as demonstrate their thought-leadership.

As always, the forum provided intimate interaction between key ICT leaders from the Public Sector and the Financial Services Industry who influence and determine digital strategies across agencies and organisations.

Apart from informative presentations from renowned speakers, this year’s Forum continued its award-winning OpenGov Gamification Table (OGT) format in the new OpenGov Gamification Virtual Rooms (OGVRs). Every OpenGov Gamification Virtual Room was a virtual heuristic exercise allowing delegates to learn from varying decision-making scenarios just as they would in the physical world.

Digital Security Landscape in the Current Environment

Lauri Luht: We need to involve societies to create a collective brain in dealing with cybersecurity

Continuing the lively discussion of the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition, Day 2 started with a presentation from Lauri Luht, Head of National Situation Centre Estonian Government Office on the digital security landscape in the new normal.

Lauri opened by sharing some reasons why organisations may not be as resilient as they want to be. One issue is the gap between the advancement of technologies and policy. The fundamental disconnect between the position of the policymakers on why, how and what cyber resilience constitutes and the vision of technology innovators and disruptors.

Lauri felt for too many years there has been a lack of genuine focus on cybersecurity operations. Solutions involving operations, operational thinking, translations/explanations between tech and policy must all be implemented to improve overall cyber resiliency.

Additionally, governments must scale up critical security infrastructure. Even as organisations adopt a new culture with resiliency at its centre, all processes should be (re)designed to address different threats.

Another key to bridging the gap between tech and policy is education and awareness. Every stakeholder, from the policymaker to citizen must be aware of the importance of cybersecurity.

All in all, cyber defence is total defence.

Organisations can become resilient by focusing on practical organisational issues, expectations and roles of stakeholders, practical exercises and pieces of training that are scalable. The focus should be on:

  1. challenging themselves in areas prone to failure
  2. interdisciplinary measures to know which capabilities are needed
  3. inter-sectoral approach to determine who the stakeholders are and
  4. knowing the practical reasons on why and how these exercises help cyber resiliency

The end goal is to have a resilient community and a “collective brain”. Organisations must emphasise preparedness and not only prevention. It is essential to build an agile security organisation rather than following clumsy systems and principles – and innovation is the key to achieving true cyber resiliency.

Lauri acknowledged that the cyber attackers and cyber threats will not go away. Knowing this, organisations must exhaust all efforts in trying to mitigate the effects of these possible incidents. Those who are less prepared are more vulnerable.

He encouraged organisations to build international alliances and work with like-minded countries across the world. Alliances are built on practicality and not solely on declarations; further, organisations must practice transparency in all aspects.

Digital services are used by people and not by machines. Thus the goal of a transparent risk management system is to ensure that the whole of society understands the processes. If they do, they can act appropriately and with conviction. Policymakers must understand that digital matters are societal matters. Open and honest communication about risk and emergencies should be considered an asset, not a liability; problems need fixing, not hiding.

Lauri is adamant that leaders should involve stakeholders from the beginning of each process. They must do more for and ask more of their allies in the industry, build strong political engagement and commitment, and trust partners and society as nothing can be without them. Organisations need to work with society to properly tackle different threats and emergencies.

In a broader approach, cyber resiliency is not just about computer emergency. Cybersafety should be part of all security. Cyber initiatives must encompass the vulnerability of society, societal awareness and societal threats.

Concluding, Lauri acknowledged that there would always be growing complexities that result in challenges with society having growing dependencies and interdependencies. Organisations must understand that isolation is an expensive stagnation when it comes to resiliency. Knowing each other is important – as the best collective brain wins.

Smarter, Safer, and Resilient Cities: Re-opening Cities in the Face of COVID-19

Sameer Sharma: Think big, start small, and move fast

After the informative presentation from Lauri Luht, the forum welcomed Sameer Sharma, Global General Manager, Smart Cities, Intelligent Transportation & IoT, Intel Corporation. His session revolved around smarter, safer, and resilient cities and the re-opening cities in the face of COVID-19.

Data clearly shows there is an explosion in populations in major cities all over the world; 55% of the world’s population lives in cities and is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. With this surge, governments have been striving to find ways to make urban systems and infrastructure more efficient and effective. However, with COVID-19 hitting the world at the end of 2019 Q4, it has created a major pause in city innovation in specific areas.

The rapid spread of the virus affected countries globally on a massive scale. It severely hit areas like trade where the value of global exports increased by 4,000% in the last century; and the travel industry where 4.5 Billion passengers boarded flights in 2019 pre-COVID. And on a personal level, human interaction was also reduced by the pandemic.

The pandemic made governments and policymakers looked at their vision for cities – such as better access to education, better healthcare and more opportunities for their citizens – in a whole new light.

Across the world, there are currently 33 megacities (>10 million people), 4,000 cities with 100K+ population and 2.5M towns. Serving this global population are 1.4 billion cars, 246 million trucks, 17 million buses, over 50,000 ships, 25,000 commercial planes and 1.3 million kilometres of railways.

All of these have to be and can be managed even in an ongoing crisis. Improving and strengthening cities where the working society is in will be the key and, in the age of COVID-19, Sameer is convinced, that resilience will be critical; new threats and challenges must be anticipated and planned for.

Agencies and organisations across the board have tried to mitigate the effects of the pandemic by using technologies and new operational frameworks. Sameer reminded the delegates that legacy infrastructure cannot scale but disruptive technologies can make everything possible. Digital technologies must overlay the physical world, especially cities.

COVID-19 created shifted the focus specific sector improvement to overall infrastructure upgrade – that is, transforming ‘spaces’ to ‘smart spaces’. It is imperative to learn how to adopt technologies like AI, Cloud, 5G and IoT.

With the re-opening of the economy, safety and sanitisation will take precedence. Automated air filtration systems will be the norm in offices, commercial spaces and industries where the physical presence of people is a must.

Organisations that use these spaces can utilise technology to upgrade their infrastructure. There is a plethora of tech-based solutions that enable smarter spaces: automated room access, keyless and touchless entry, touchless and on-demand elevators, ambient temperature control, fresh air circulation and quality monitoring, UVD disinfecting robotics, face mask and fever detection using AI, people-counting and spacing-analytics and digital contact tracing initiatives just to name a few.

With fears of the virus in public transport, for local, shorter commutes, most likely, people will use personal vehicles. Where longer travel is necessary by air, road, rail or sea, security agencies will add healthcare checks and screenings.

Schools and universities will opt to use online tools; hotels and restaurants will transition to digital menus, delivery models and contactless payments; retail will be increasingly driven online.

Intel’s Smart City Vision, Sameer shared, is built on effective policies, governance and financing. Transportation, buildings and energy, environment, healthcare, public services and homes stress citizen wellbeing and safety. Intel is a strong advocate for and champions the use of sensors and edge computing, wireless tech, access and core networks, cloud and analytics and AI and Automation to achieve their dreams of a Smart City.

Nations must understand that resiliency is the key and technology enables it. Decision-makers should think big, not just thinking about smarter cities, but better cities. The mantra is to start small and get going with obvious projects and opportunities; then learn, adjust, and iterate.

Sameer urges governments and organisations to the right partners across the industry to build sustainable cities for citizens. In closing, he quoted Nelson Mandela, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Interactive Discussion

After the informative presentations from distinguished speakers and sponsors, the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 entered into a time of discussion aided by polling questions.

This session is designed to encourage genuine audience participation, creating a platform where delegates can share real-life experiences and engage with subject matter experts to flesh out issues and untangle challenges. They get to take back strategies, best practices, learnings, insights and tips that they can implement in their organisations and agencies.

The opening poll inquired about delegates’ primary objective in their digital transformation journeys. Just under half (48%) of the delegates said their digital transformation is meant to improve their business processes while 41% said it is for the improvement of citizen and customer experiences.

Participants were asked how they measuring the success of their digital transformation efforts. Over half (53%) said that they are still looking for ways to measure it effectively while a third (33%) indicated they already have qualitative and quantitative methods in place.

The next question was about the biggest challenges the delegates face in implementing digital strategies. Just under a third (32%) said that legacy systems and technologies that lack integration capabilities were the biggest challenges.  About a quarter (28%) signalled that inflexible business processes and teams posed the biggest challenge.

Delegates were then asked about their most important IT priorities. More than half of the delegates said that digital transformation and innovation are their top priorities while 39% said that improving efficiencies and reducing maintenance costs were the most important aspects of their IT strategies.

In terms of IT structures, delegates were asked how AI and Data Analytics impact or improve their current digital transformation strategies. Again, more than half of the delegates said faster access to data to improve pre-emptive analysis can be achieved using AI and Data Analytics while 38% said that they need AI-ready infrastructures to manage large sets of data.

Participants were requested to share their organisations’ biggest pain points in the Big Data value chain. 41% of the delegates said data integrity was their biggest pain point while 33% said data accessibility and sharing were real problems for their organisations.

When asked to rate their organisations’ use of data and data analytics tools for decision-making purposes, 43% said that it needed improvement and better tools to analyse while 33% said it was doing good and adequate tools were in place.

Differentiating cloud providers for various workloads polarised the group, with voters almost evenly divided between price, service, performance and integration.

This led to delegates being asked how much of their organisations’ mission in critical / data-sensitive workloads is to be put onto public clouds this year. Over half (54%) said that less than 40% of their workloads are set to be put onto the public cloud while a little over a third (34%) said between 50%-70% of their workloads are set for public cloud adoption.

On the issue of cloud adoption, delegates were asked about the biggest challenge CIOs face when complying with the government’s direction to go on the public cloud. Almost half (48%) agreed that security poses the biggest challenge, a fourth (23%) said governance was an issue while 15% said proper information dissimenation and advisories from the government should be made for the digital migration to work.

Delegates again equally split over the main concern for security operations in their organisations. Votes were almost evenly divided among advance and zero-day attacks, difficulties in determining actual attacks due to noise, cybersecurity skills shortages, automating responses and actionable threat intelligence.

They were asked to rate their current level of security operations efficiency to detect and respond to attacks. 39% said it is very good in terms of a partial mapping of the prediction, detection, and response areas, but it needs improvement while 34% said their security operations are currently based on log management, correlation aggregation, and basic reporting.

Delegates were also polled on what drives their cyber resilience plans. More than half of the delegates said compliance and incidents were critical factors for their cybersecurity strategies and programmes.

With COVID-19 still making its presence felt in most parts of the world, the delegates were asked about the most impacted areas affected by the ongoing pandemic. 43% said their productivity was greatly affected, 28% said the well-being of their staff was hit, while 28% said they were able to launch new initiatives because of COVID-19.

Knowing that the pandemic accelerated the digital transformation especially for the working sector, delegates were asked about their perceived outcomes of a digital and automated workplace. 45% believed that there will higher productivity in the future. Other votes were divided into greater collaborations, greater digitalisation, improved employee engagement, and resource savings.

One being asked about the current challenges they face in the adoption of a digital workplace, 42% said the lack of executive leadership to drive a culture of process improvement and effective change management is their biggest challenge. 39% said the lack of effective technologies to optimise staff productivity and performance is an issue. Just under a fifth (19%) said no clear articulation of digital workplace benefits and a supporting business case hinder their adoption of the new working setup.

Lastly, the delegates were polled about their organisations’ capabilities in supporting a remote workforce. 42% said they already have the tools to implement seamless remote working setup. 40% said there is a lack of collaboration tools for seamless remote work, but they are looking for solutions. Only 18% said they are not looking to implement a fully remote workforce.

Public Services in New Normal: Time to Recharge, Reinvent, Reimagine and Reinvigorate

Mohit joined Ng Wang Peng, Koo Seng Meng and Brett Aimers in the Power Talk session to discuss how organisations and the public sector recharge, reinvent, reimagine, reinvigorate and reboot their services in the new normal.

Ng Wang Peng, Former Chief Operating Officer Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, believes that collecting a lot of data must be prioritised when moving to the digital space. She believes both the public and private sectors should be more responsible in terms of managing the data they are collecting because proper data collection and data integration will be key moving forward.

Koo Seng Meng, Senior Deputy Director, AI Innovation, Singapore said that organisations should never let a good crisis go to waste. With COVID-19, all sectors across the world have found new initiatives and new thinking that will help propel them in their digital transformation journeys.

Brett Aimers, Adjunct Associate Professor, James Cook University Australia said it was important to not forget the lessons learned in the COVID-19 era. That knowledge must be used to improve health responses, flexible working setups, as well as trying to find innovative ways to grow as a society.


The Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 Virtual Edition ended with the closing remarks from Mohit. He strongly felt that organisations both from the public and private sectors should take care of their people – employees, citizens and customers should be at the top of their agendas.

Governments and organisations should be mindful of this new environment while finding the right balance between technology and innovation. Retaining lessons from the pandemic will be vital moving forward. Though there is a lot of unknown factors, COVID-19 taught us that we can provide platforms and programmes for us to adapt to new demands.

This is Part 2 of a two-part series covering the Malaysia OpenGov Leadership Forum 2021 – Virtual Edition. Read Part 1 here.

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