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Going back to school this year can be considered as a ‘second episode’ for students across the country involved in ‘Teaching and Learning At Home’ (also known as Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran di Rumah or PdPR) as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic threat which has compelled the government to re-enforce the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Much of the PdPR structure involves learning via various online methods. After more than a month of its implementation, we have heard multiple stories go viral about the experiences of teachers, students and parents getting accustomed to this new norm.

Some teachers lamented the less than encouraging ‘attendance’ of students and the ‘monitoring’ by parents when the teachers were performing their duties. Amongst the situations that grabbed everyone’s attention was the incident where a student mischievously shared an inappropriate video link during the PdPR period.

Based on such situations, one can only comprehend how a teacher’s task becomes increasingly challenging as they try to ensure that their focus is not disrupted, whilst providing them with the best learning experiences. Their primary concern would be on the preparation and effectiveness of PdPR for students who will be sitting for crucial examinations such as Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM).

As the conversation about the methods that can enable public school teachers to be more creative and responsive towards digital technology continues, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) reached out to educators to help them with their teaching preparations.

This is part of MDEC’s #CikguJuaraDigital programme, which was launched in 2019. The initiative sought to find teachers who can be showcased as trendsetters or benchmark pertaining to educational technology in Malaysia.

One of the programme participants said that after undergoing the programme, he then enrolled in the TikTok workshop organized by MDEC and discovered that the use of the application had great potential to help students in their learning process.

Another educator who teaches the Science subject to Form Four and Five students at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Jerlun, Kedah said the method is very helpful because the video content has a shorter duration.

He noted that this also saves the students’ internet quota compared to the tele learning method which takes longer and results in higher data usage. Not all students subscribe to the internet plan on a monthly basis because some of them purchase the daily pass data packages, he said. He has amassed over 11,000 followers and uploaded almost 120 videos to date on the social media platform.

Explaining further, the educator said he started using the application in his teaching due to several factors. “I found that students were not interested in following PdPR due to the unconducive learning environment, which contributed to a decrease in their interest in their studies. Therefore, an immediate solution was required.”

MDEC, with the strong support of KKMM and the other ministries, will continue to drive forward the digital economy initiatives centred towards ensuring shared prosperity for the many and eventually envisioning Malaysia’s role as the heart of digital ASEAN.

The Chairman of MDEC stated that this initiative is focused on enabling digital adoption amongst our educators, which is a central part of MDEC’s three main strategic thrusts, including Empowering Malaysians with Digital Jobs ad Skills, enabling Digitally Powered Businesses and attracting Digital Investments.

To achieve its vision of enabling a people-first society, the agency continues to set the foundation for Malaysians to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), further supporting the nation’s efforts to realise the Malaysia 5.0 vision, leading to shared prosperity for all.

Meanwhile, MDEC’s Vice President of Digital Skills and Digital Careers Division said that the MDEC-trained group of teachers have the resilience, creativity and technology sensitivity to ensure that their students are not left behind due to the uncertain situation faced by them currently.

66 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-tier companies with registered businesses in primarily traditional or non-technology activities from the service sector have been awarded the Government’s Pelan Jana Semula Ekonomi Negara (PENJANA) 2020 #SMART Automation Grant (SAG) through the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) involving RM6.2 million.

The SAG, which was launched in July 2020, had been conceptualised as a matching grant for companies in the services sector to spur them towards automating their business processes and pursue full digitalisation. The grant allocated from the 2020 PENJANA initiative aims to drive these businesses towards kickstarting the implementation of digital processes and use of technology tools that will automate their business operations.

The 66 recipients come from all over Malaysia and include service providers, such as Wholesale and Retail Trade (30%); General Services (24%); and Professional Services (14%). The other sectors consist of Transportation and Storage; Tourism; Education; Healthcare; Food and Beverage; Financial and Insurance; and Real Estate and Construction.

Since its unveiling, this initiative has solely focused on enabling digital adoption amongst businesses, which is a central part of MDEC’s three strategic framework pillars: Digital Jobs, Digital Businesses and Digital Investments. The agency continues to set the foundation for SMEs and mid-tier companies to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) era by focusing on empowering businesses at every level and in all sectors.

Each successful applicant had been allocated up to 50% of their total project cost, subject to a ceiling limit RM200,000 or, whichever is the lowest, through this matching grant. This means the successful applicants will pay at least 50% of the total cost of the digitalisation project and, subsequently, will receive the remaining amount based on the achievements of the agreed milestone deliverables.

The grant covers a 4-month duration involving project implementation and digitalisation of business operation for up to one month, and post monitoring evaluation processes to achieve project outcomes which consist of up to three months.

The CEO of MDEC stated that the socio-economic impact of the global pandemic had forced businesses to put on their digital thinking hat and bring forward their digitalisation plans. To support them, the Government, through MDEC, developed this specific matching grant for SMEs and mid-tier companies to provide them with the ability to build their digital capabilities and capacities.

The goal, after all, is to ensure they are ready to make that leap into the 4IR era, as this is part of MDEC’s efforts to realise the vision of Malaysia 5.0 and open up the digital economy for the many, she added.

Notably, the Government allocated a total of RM10 million for MDEC under PENJANA to channel the grants in a partnership approach between the government and the SMEs and mid-tier companies to drive forward digitalisation for all Malaysian businesses.

The submission entry was open between 1 July and 14 October 2020. After the closing deadline, a thorough review and assessment were carried out to ensure that the grant was allocated based on the eligibility requirements. This included its Malaysian incorporation status, its long-standing operational performance and overall financial competency.

Currently, MDEC continues to evaluate and will announce more successful grant recipients in due course. The agency is also disbursing the approved grants in batches to the respective recipients based on proof of milestones and KPIs achieved.

Grant applications are evaluated by the SAG Approval Committee, a team that consists of public and private representatives and authorised industry subject matter experts.

Cybersecurity threats are being continuously monitored and kept under check in Malaysia, so there is no need for the public to feel anxious over the matter, according to the Chief Executive Officer of CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM).

He said, however, all Internet users should take responsibility for protecting themselves and increase their awareness about such threats.

CSM offers various cybersecurity services in the ‘responsive’ and ‘preventive’ context to prevent data leakage and protect data security through the strengthening of ICT security systems. This is to help strengthen or protect data security.

CSM also has a Cyber999 Help Centre where in the event an incident occurs, users can report to us via email or by calling the hotline. The CEO added that CSM also works closely with the Department of Personal Data Protection in the context of protecting the people’s data.

The CSM CEO made these remarks during a live programme with Communications and Multimedia Minister discussing cyber threats while was live-streamed on a few local channels.

The Hacker activist group Anonymous Malaysia recently threatened to hack government websites in a 55-second video clip that went viral on social media and claimed that the Malaysian security system was low, and this could allow hackers to gain access to users’ personal data and sell it online.

On 29 January 2021, the group posted another 3-minute-17-second video, claiming that scammers had been cheating the public via email, phone calls and social media since 2015 following a data breach.

Meanwhile, the Chief Strategy Officer of a tech firm in Cyberjaya said cyber threats could be as, or even more serious than the COVID-19 pandemic, as it could also lead to people losing their lives and businesses, besides impacting the economy.

According to another article, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states have emphasised the importance of strengthening cybersecurity mechanisms as part of the efforts to advance digital connectivity in the region, the Communications and Multimedia Minister said.

The Minister, who chaired the inaugural Asean Digital Ministers’ Meeting (ADGMIN1), said this includes the need to strengthen laws and regulations to guarantee safety and security of data connection and to curb the exploitation of children and women in the cyberspace as well as cyberbullying.

It was noted that strengthening cybersecurity is also one of the key components of the Asean Digital Masterplan 2025, which is contained in one of its eight Desired Outcome.

Malaysia is ready to share its expertise on cybersecurity with Asean member states through its Global Accreditation Cybersecurity Education Scheme, the Minister said.

“We have this agency under my ministry called the CyberSecurity Malaysia and they have organised a couple of activities with Asean member states and there is one particular programme called Global Accreditation Cybersecurity Education Scheme. This is a programme about certification in building capacity of cybersecurity managers and professionals,” he said.

The Minister also said it is important to strengthen cybersecurity within Asean and the Prime Minister also put a lot of emphasis on this matter in his keynote address during the opening ceremony of ADGMIN1.

The Minister also noted that bringing the internet connectivity to the rural areas is a challenge faced by most of the Asean member states due to its geographical factors.

“But I can see from the discussions, each and every member state are very committed and putting a lot of money into this investment,” he said.

On another development, Saifuddin noted that as a whole, Asean member states had made tremendous advancement in digital connectivity although every member state measures digital speed and connectivity in their respective countries differently.

Pikom (the National Tech Association of Malaysia) recently expressed its belief and confidence that e-commerce is the future of the retail industry globally as well as locally.

The Chairman of Pikom stated that given the tremendous potential in e-commerce to support the nation’s economic growth, local brands will stand to benefit if they have a comprehensive e-commerce plan as part of their retail strategy. The capabilities and digitalisation of local brands need to be supported.

He added that the major e-commerce players in Malaysia are foreign-owned; that is why quite a number of the products you buy from them are being shipped from overseas. This is also why Pikom believes local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) must build a strong brand presence through online channels.

Pikom has said that the government must do more to help local players compete in e-commerce, stressing that the government can play a major role in helping local SMEs to increase their online presence, including in areas such as online marketing, brand building, product positioning, pricing strategy and omnichannel rollout.

With support from the government, SMEs can fulfil their aspirations to penetrate regional markets. In the popular e-marketplaces, undoubtedly the bulk of products listed are those that are shipped from overseas. That’s because several local SMEs are not as well versed with the right marketing mix for their product, as compared to their overseas competitors, Pikom’s Chairman added.

Digital marketing, performance marketing, inventory planning, multi-webstore management and customer care services are available through e-commerce enablers in the country. There already exists Malaysian expertise in this area.

The Chairman points to ‘live commerce’ as an example of a new online avenue that could be used by local SMEs. Live commerce uses influencers to conduct live video streaming while providing shoppers with the ability to interact with sellers and purchase products instantly.

It was noted that currently, local SMEs may not have the necessary expertise, initiatives need to be developed and rolled out to support it. With the right support, SMEs can reap the benefits of e-commerce as proven by some local brands which have seen their sales grow by 10 to 20 times within a year after partnering with local e-commerce enablers.

Meanwhile, there is Government support such as the SME and Micro SME e-Commerce Campaign and Shop Malaysia Online campaign, with RM300 million funding under the Permai Assistance Package.

However, government support must come with a caveat, Pikom emphasises. “While this is a promising start, due care must be undertaken to ensure that the majority of funding should be channelled to SMEs, and not foreign players that should be able to fund their own initiatives,” the Chairman said.

To help develop the local e-commerce merchants, at Pikom’s end, the association has been organising the #MYCYBERSALE, an annual national initiative in collaboration with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) which has been successful for six years running., The number of merchants coming on board has grown from 283 to 1,510 over the six-year period.

#MYCYBERSALE has been very successful in catalysing the growth of the national e-commerce industry contributing RM392 million in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) during the 7-day sales in 2019.

Pikom is calling for high-level dialogues between the government with local SMEs and e-commerce players to further nurture growth for the Malaysian e-commerce sector and ensure that this fast-growing industry will benefit local retailers.

Artificial intelligence in healthcare is an overarching term used to describe the use of machine-learning algorithms and software, or artificial intelligence, to emulate human cognition in the analysis, interpretation, and comprehension of complicated medical and healthcare data. Specifically, AI is the ability of computer algorithms to approximate conclusions based solely on input data. What distinguishes AI technology from traditional technologies in health care is the ability to gather data, process it and give a well-defined output to the end-user. AI does this through machine learning algorithms and deep learning.

So it stands to reason that a Canterbury Business School lecturer with a background in computer science and artificial intelligence is making significant strides to help speed up the development of medicines. Dr Pan Zheng has been working on this research for a year with colleagues in China, Malaysia and Spain. “I did study science, but business schools are so multidisciplinary. I’m working in information systems. It is a discipline that is always trying to help the management and operations of organisations work smarter and more efficiently,” he explained.

Because “it costs millions of dollars to produce a new medicine and takes a long time before it can be released to the public”, Dr Pan is researching a novel way of speeding up the process using machine learning and AI to assist drug repurposing. This approach to drug repurposing saves time and money, making it quicker and cheaper to make medicine publicly available as well as reducing the cost for the end-user.

At a molecular level, the chemical structure in medicine reacts with the protein structure of a disease to suppress or stop it, providing a cure. He is studying the mapping from the chemical structure to the protein structure to construct a machine learning model that predicts the possible relations. In biochemistry term, it is called binding affinity. There are existing databases that keep such information. Machine learning models can be created and trained using these data sets. When there is a new protein structure, i.e., a disease, input to the model, it will recommend some existing medicines that could be possible cures is confident Dr Pan.

None the less, as with all machine learning models, it won’t be 100%, but with continued improvement, he is optimistic to get to 80%, 90%, 95% accuracy. Essentially, he explains, the more information that goes into the model, the better the solutions it will present – quicker and more accurate.

Another medical application for this research is to use machine learning and AI to test for Alzheimer’s disease, which is often done on paper with a doctor. Additionally, it could free up the doctor to see more patients. From an AI perspective, Dr Zheng says they are trying to liberate humans from tedious work by giving it to machines.

AI could contribute more than $700 million of value and savings per year to the New Zealand health system by 2026, according to the AI Forum of New Zealand’s 2019 report, which says New Zealand’s district health boards are looking at a $500 million annual deficit.  Executive Director Ben Reid acknowledged that the health sector in New Zealand is facing challenges. These include increasing demand, rising consumer expectations, and the pressures of an ageing population. These factors are straining the health workforce, increasing costs and limiting access to care.

AI’s contribution, Reid says, to the NZ health system could rise to between $1.6 to $3.6 billion by 2035. AI promises to bring significant clinical, workforce and cost benefits to the health sector, as well as personalise medical care, opines Reid. It can help with predicting disease and injury and mine vast quantities of literature for research insights.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation’s (MDEC) expectation to hit 20 per cent growth in e-commerce contribution to the digital economy can be achieved as the COVID-19 pandemic has given a huge boost to digital adoption among entrepreneurs.

The Vice-President of digitally powered businesses (industry-supply) stated that in 2019, the digital economy had contributed 19.1 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP). Sectors like MedTech, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) and Agri Tech will be forerunners in 2021, contributing to the rise in digital revenue, he said.

ASEAN is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Connecting and promoting Malaysian tech business to the region, as a start, will be a huge boost. He said Malaysia is already holding a leadership position in many tech sectors.

Export programmes such as MDEC’s GAIN must be intensified to move this further to position Malaysia as the heart of digital ASEAN. Reskilling, upskilling and producing good digital talent is crucial for the digital economy moving forward, he explained.

The gig economy is on the rise, this needs to be harnessed and grown to stay globally competitive. Programmes like GLOW assists those in need of crowdsourcing platforms to generate digital revenue. From January to June last year, GLOW generated an income totalling over RM190 million, the Vice-President said.

Meanwhile, the Digital Content Ecosystem (DiCE) – from January 2020 to June 2020 – saw 324 companies participate; it also generated over RM1.6 billion in revenue and over RM260 million in total exports.

For the e-commerce segment, the National eCommerce Strategic Roadmap (NESR) helped nearly 80,000 SMEs adopt e-commerce and helped nearly 8,000 companies adopt e-commerce for exports from January to June 2020.

With regards to Internet of Things (IoT), MDEC’s data shows that from January to June 2020, the National IoT Framework helped to garner over RM140 million in investments, involved 283 companies, generated over RM230 million in revenue and generated over RM120 million in total exports.

On drone technology – the Global Test Bed has involved 84 companies and raised over RM124 million in investments.

On whether the implementation of the National Entrepreneurship Policy can turn Malaysia into a true entrepreneurial nation by 2030, the VP noted that the policy needed to be led and driven by various agencies under the government, with digital being the main driver.

The government needs to also embrace digital transformation in their ministries and agencies, he added. Policies and regulations need to keep up with the fast-paced technology innovation in areas such as Fintech, Industry 4.0, drone tech and AI, and we need to ensure that the policy is inclusive and will benefit many.

Malaysian start-ups are poised to be regional champions. They have all the necessary support to become global players. Malaysian tech companies need to continue innovating to stay ahead of the game. Malaysian companies need to also start thinking global. Don’t build solutions for one market. Build for the global market and start addressing global problems.

He advised them to take advantage of the ample government support – MDEC, the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and others.

Malaysia and Sweden have come together to introduce the Digital Health Innovation Challenge. Launched 15 January 2021, the Innovation Challenge invites start-ups registered in Malaysia to identify solutions in solving healthcare challenges, especially related to non-communicable diseases (NCD).

The initiative is a collaboration between Team Sweden, comprising of the Embassy of Sweden, Business Sweden and a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company; and Malaysian partners Sunway iLabs, Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC).

The Innovation Challenge is aimed towards identifying solutions that can empower NCD patients and high-risk communities to proactively reduce the risk factors of these diseases by encouraging healthy living and increase accessibility, on top of introducing digital tools enabling self-care and monitoring.

Start-ups that are selected to participate will get access to incubation programmes, global innovation networks, mentorship and funding, as well as an opportunity to collaborate with the above partners to solve healthcare challenges in Malaysia.

The Swedish Trade Commissioner to Malaysia stated that the Digital Health Innovation Challenge is a great opportunity for start-ups to explore solutions from multiple angles and to work with partners to exchange knowledge and scale-up across borders.

Adding to this, the country president of the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company noted that empowering patients with innovative digital health care solutions and technologies is a major part of the firm’s focus. They believe that digital health is a means of making our health systems even more patient-centric.

For this reason, they engage in various partnerships to deliver next-generation health solutions. The Digital Health Innovation Challenge will certainly galvanise digital start-ups to develop new technologies and health care solutions that would meaningfully support our health system development and public health.

The Chief Innovation Officer of the Malaysian conglomerate company and its Innovation Labs director stated that it is important that the public and private sectors come together to solve societal problems.

“I believe that this initiative is a great example of how we can accelerate market-driven healthcare innovations from talented entrepreneurs by leveraging corporate testbeds and international networks,” he remarked.

The CEO of MaGIC added that collective participation and engagement from the government is needed – by its policy and mobilisation of resources; the private sector, which carries with it a wealth of expertise and scale to make a difference; and finally, the start-ups that are built to create impact and resolve these challenges through technology and innovation.

start-ups should take the opportunity to showcase their advantageous capabilities which are agile by design, and pivot during crucial times, she added.

For MDEC, healthtech is one of the key areas that the agency is looking to grow within its tech ecosystem. The CEO od MDEC stated that the challenge plays “a crucial role” in highlighting the capabilities of Malaysian healthtech start-ups.

“It also empowers them to create technological impact within the health industry that the pandemic is accelerating. By supporting programs like the Digital Health Innovation Challenge, MDEC will further ramp up the development and improvement of Malaysia’s healthtech ecosystem as part of the ongoing efforts to realise the vision of Malaysia 5.0 and establish Malaysia as the heart of digital ASEAN,” she concluded.

Applications for the Digital Health Innovation Challenge will be open from 15 January 2021 and will continue until 15 February 2021. Applicants must register with the Digital health Innovation Challenge Application Form and submit their proposal in accordance with the terms and conditions specified.

A Malaysia-based tech firm has developed a highway monitoring system that integrates artificial intelligence (AI) and smart technology in its Smart Surveillance System (S3). Its group chief executive officer stated that the move complements the company’s ongoing effort to increase the safety rate and satisfaction level of highway users. He noted that, in line with Industrial Revolution 4.0, the company is prioritising efficient ways of working by utilising technology.

Better monitoring

Through the implementation of S3, the level of highway efficiency will be upgraded and the safety of drivers improved. S3 enables the monitoring and detection of accidents, foreign objects, wild animals, potholes, surface cracks and ponding. The system also covers problems such as water spots, guard rail and slope failure, liquid spillage and road signage damage.

It combines technologies like AI and machine learning to provide notification to the relevant parties for further action. Since the launch of S3 on 19 August 2020, 1,303 incidents were detected in the first month alone. So far, the S3 has helped operations in carrying out immediate rectification with the real-time notifications. Fifty per cent of surface damage and highway asset damage were detected by the system and repairs were made immediately.

Improving Safety

To improve security and safety, the company uses the Artificial Intelligence System Analytics (Aisya). By leveraging dashboard cameras and computers installed in every highway patrol car, it is able to obtain images of damage and accidents immediately.

The input is then sent over a 4G network to a cloud server to classify, identify and determine the next move. Aisya will then process, classify, analyse and come out with a digital report before notifying on-duty officers through their mobile application or websites.

Additionally, another system was developed by the firm alongside its industry partners for the purpose of highway management operation. It is called Prime and assisted the company in maintenance scheduling and digitisation.

With innovative technologies such as these, the company will escalate highway surveillance operations to ensure highway safety and user satisfaction. With the opening of new highways this year, including Sungai Besi-Ulu Kelang Elevated Highway and Damansara-Shah Alam Elevated Highway, such digital applications can only mean a better and safer drive for highway users.

Tech to improve transport

Malaysia is working to push better traffic systems via technology. OpenGov Asia previously reported that the Malaysian government partnered a US-based GPS navigation software app to implement Bluetooth beacons across the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) highway and basement roads leading to car parks in the area.

The company will provide Bluetooth signals to improve navigation where GPS signals are limited, increase driver safety, and better visibility of real-time traffic events. Malaysia was the first in Southeast Asia to put Waze Beacons to the test.

The nation’s underground roads are an ideal test ground as they lead out to key exits, and it is expected the technology will enhance TRX’s level of services. Ensuring seamless connectivity is critical to support TRX’s status as an international financial hub.

Meanwhile, the Head of the Waze Beacons Program stated that the firm’s team is pleased to bring the Waze Beacons Program to Malaysia, the first Southeast Asian country to adopt the technology. Seamless navigation can be enjoyed in TRX when its underground roads are open to the public, but this is just the beginning and the aim is to expand into more areas nationwide across Malaysia soon.

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