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MyDigital charting Malaysia’s path towards digital transformation

July 25, 2023
The Malaysian Reserve
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As the secretariat of the National Digital Economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) Council, MyDigital Corp is tasked with integrating government efforts with industry stakeholders to improve Malaysia’s digital transformation.

It is a government initiative which reflects the country’s goal of transforming into a high-income nation that is focusing on digitalisation.

The Malaysian Digital Economy Blueprint (MDEB) creates the framework for statewide digitalisation, including measures to bridge the digital divide.

MyDigital is responsible for evaluating the progress of the blueprint’s initiatives, considering specific interventions to accelerate certain tasks and studying specific challenges that impede the fulfilment of the MyDigital agenda.

In 2022, MyDigital developed collaboration and collaborative activities between the public and commercial sectors under MDEB, which resulted in the formation of the MyDigital Catalytic Projects Taskforce. The taskforce established the criteria for selecting catalytic projects across industry verticals and technological domains.

This is to facilitate and debottleneck specific challenges that companies may face when adopting digital technology.

For instance, if a company is having trouble obtaining approval to fly drones for smart farming, MyDigital will offer help by talking to agencies and having them work together.

According to MyDigital CEO Fabian Bigar, the agency has facilitated the agriculture, manufacturing, utilities, logistics and healthcare sectors in adopting digital transformation in 2022.

This year, Bigar noted that the taskforce is focusing on the start-up ecosystem and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and will collaborate with several agencies, namely Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, Malaysian Research Accelerator for Technology & Innovation (Mranti) and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corp Sdn Bhd (MDEC), among others.

“Many agencies are involved along the lifecycle of a start-up. We are working to introduce a single window system so they do not have to run from one agency to another which could be confusing.

“They can access a single platform where all the agencies are available. In fact, we are going to run a similar workshop to streamline everything among the agencies,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Challenges in Advancing the Digital Economy

The MDEB framework identified six issues and challenges in advancing the digital economy.

There is the need for a digital-first mindset and higher digital technology adoption across the public sector; the need to build a more supportive ecosystem for local enterprises to digitalise; and the need for better deployment of quality broadband and digital technologies infrastructure.

It also involves the need to nurture a future-ready workforce; the need to narrow the digital divide among income and age groups, and between gender; and the need to build trust and ethics in using data and technology; as well as increasing awareness on cyber security.

Furthermore, MDEB is made up of six thrusts that support the blueprint’s aims and overall vision.

Each thrust directs the blueprint’s strategic direction in order to address specific concerns and reasons for change.

Bigar said all the activities within the catalytic projects will be under these six thrusts.

According to the blueprint, the future Malaysia envisioned by MyDigital will see the people benefit from improved digital literacy, more high-paying jobs, improved social well-being and environmental sustainability.

Businesses, including micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which form the backbone of Malaysia’s economy, will benefit from greater opportunities to build and expand locally, regionally and even globally through digital revenue streams. There will also be more opportunities to integrate digital revenue streams.

A digitally-equipped government will provide end-to-end integrated online government services that are more efficient, effective and transparent.

In addition, the implementation of the proposed initiatives is envisioned to help achieve the outcomes of each phase and, eventually, the blueprint’s goals through three phases in the implementation roadmap to attain the long-term aspirations.

According to Bigar, the MyDigital Catalytic Projects Taskforce has facilitated various sectors in adopting digital transformation in 2022

According to Bigar, the MyDigital Catalytic Projects Taskforce has facilitated various sectors in adopting digital transformation in 2022 (pic: Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

The three phases are, namely, the acceleration of adoption towards strengthening the digital foundation (2021-2022); driving digital transformation and inclusion (2023-2025); and becoming a regional market producer for digital products and digital solutions provider (2026-2030).

Addressing the funding issues related to catalytic projects, Bigar mentioned that some of the initiatives are sponsored by specific ministries, and thus, funding will be provided by those respective ministries.

However, he expressed concern that if the effort is not undertaken proactively, and MyDigital is compelled to seek assistance later, it could be challenging due to potential constraints on the government’s financial situation.

Hence, he added, the need for the private sector to come in and undertake some of the activities within the initiatives.

In getting the ball rolling, Bigar said industry players are keen with the catalytic projects particularly in training to raise more awareness on their services.

For instance, in cloud computing, service providers like Google LLC, Microsoft Corp, Amazon Web Services Inc (AWS), among others, are more than willing to offer training to raise awareness about their available services and encourage people to utilise the services.

On the MyDigital side, the corporation will utilise these and provide assistance in terms of highlighting target groups for the service providers.

Aside from that, interactions with industry players enable MyDigital to receive policy input on challenges that the country may not currently be facing but will have an impact on the private sector in the future. This is achieved through roundtable discussions.

Among the critical concerns expressed by players in the digital space, according to Bigar, are whether Malaysia is producing enough digitally-savvy workers, relying on overseas talent due to the limitations of formally trained local talents, as well as the challenges faced by policymakers in streamlining activities across different branches.

“There are already courses designed to prepare people for digital transformation. If you look at the array of courses, sometimes the titles are no longer traditional.

“But having said that, you must also look at institutions of higher learning that offer short courses, because we are not just producing computer engineers. For leaders in the government or in companies, they must also understand what digital is,” he said.

He added that it has become talk of the town, but when speaking of digital leadership, how does one transform an organisation to be ready for the digital transformation?

“There are some companies that are still very traditional and probably do not understand the benefits or the need to transform to be competitive. So that is the mindset that we need to tackle,” he said.

In accordance, Bigar saw that more institutions are offering digital leadership courses which he deemed very critical and needed by both the government and private sectors, especially the non-tech incumbent.

In the blueprint, the government, through the MyDigital initiatives, also targets a 22.6% of GDP contribution from the digital economy by 2025. However, it has been revised in the 12th Malaysian Plan (12MP) to 25.5%, with the contribution reaching 23.2% in 2022.

Cloud Computing in Govt Institutions

In the case of cloud computing, Bigar highlighted its utilisation in government organisations, with the blueprint targeting 80% cloud storage and cloud computing adoption across government institutions.

“As far as that is concerned, the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu) is monitoring the usage.

“To migrate 100% is not easy because not all government data is open due to different classification. Also, there could be sensitive information that they may not be able to put on the cloud, especially when the data centres are elsewhere,” he said.

Nevertheless, Bigar assured that there are regulations for cloud computing within the government institutions as there are circular guidelines on cloud storage.

Apart from that, there are also guidelines from the chief government security office on what can and cannot be stored in the cloud.

Although guidelines are there, Bigar opined that awareness on cloud is crucial in guiding government staff on the classification of data to be shared on the cloud.

“What is secret, should remain secret, such as security and defence which are very sensitive; but certain data that are being aggregated and not personally identifiable, I think, are something that we should consider allowing access to, so that people can come up with solutions,” he said.

For instance, the use of MySejahtera apps during the pandemic enabled the public to avoid Covid-19 hotspots, which is a good use of big data, he added.

Malaysia Centre IR4.0

Malaysia’s Centre for the IR4.0 (C4IR), hosted by MyDigital, plays a crucial role in propelling forward Malaysia’s digital economy, with an emphasis on assisting the country’s digital transformation and advancements in fast-growing sectors such as green energy transition.

In other words, C4IR is a platform for collaboration between the government and the private sector, to address issues specifically pertaining to technology and new technology, such as the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) into generative AI.

“We may need some form of policy or governance to outline some parameters. I personally think that we do not talk enough about it.

“For me, before western countries come out with their AI laws and we follow suit, we should see how we can address this from our point of view. Hence, we have run a roundtable under C4IR, and are working with the private sector to come out with a white paper on the implication of generative AI on the Malaysian economy, which is expected to be launched this August,” Bigar said to TMR.

He concluded that Malaysia is on the right path towards digital transformation. However, efforts and initiatives from the government alone are not sufficient. Apart from setting guidelines and policy, the need for awareness and literacy on digital transformation and digital economy is still widely crucial for Malaysians.

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