Malaysia, Heart of Digital ASEAN

The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has been a force to be reckoned with for nearly 25 years. Established in 1996 as the leading agency to lead the MSC Malaysia initiative, it has evolved in the last decade to being a key agency under the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia (KKMM) with a track-record of successfully leading the digital economy growth in Malaysia.

MDEC has been spurring the nation’s digital economy through three key thrusts – empowering digital skills, enabling digitally-powered businesses and driving digital sector investments. The initiatives lead by MDEC have had a positive impact on the nation’s economy; according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia the digital economy accounted for 18.5% of Malaysia’s GDP in 2018 and the growth continues to be bullish with the increase in digital adoption nationwide.

We met with Surina Shukri, CEO of MDEC, for a quick chat.

“Digitalisation of the workforce” has always been a key mandate for MDEC since its inception. How has this mantra shaped MDEC’s journey thus far?

Talent has been a key component of the nation’s digital ecosystem. The digital competency of Malaysians is essential to facilitate digitalisation at all levels of society and businesses as well as to support the development of our digital industries. This thrust is focused on up-skilling Malaysians via initiatives and programmes targeted at different segments of society, so they are equipped to thrive in the various digitalised occupations.

One example is #MyDigitalMaker. Launched in August 2016, it is an initiative that encourages and provides opportunities for students to become digital creators, producers and innovators. The initiative is also in collaboration with the Ministry of Education Malaysia to train teachers on programming, micro controller and computational skills.

To date, 1.3 million students and 88,000 teachers have been empowered with digital skills. For the period Jan-June 2020, 2,000 teachers were trained for computational thinking skills certification and Science Teaching Certificate. Digital Maker Hub is now being scaled-up by the Ministry of Education, resulting in the surge of interest for digital skills among students.

Digital Ninja is another leadership and digital skills enhancement programme that hones the youths’ innate know-how, provides exposure and inspires change-makers. As of 2019, 20 new projects were conceptualised and developed involving 407 students nationwide.

To prepare graduates, we launched the Premier Digital Tech Institutions (PDTI) in August 2017, an initiative we started in recognition of 16 top institutions of higher learning that can deliver first-class training in digital technology. In June 2019, we also began a campaign called Empowering Women in Cyber Risk Management, a reskilling programme to encourage women to return to the workforce. 26 women were trained in 7 different sessions which ultimately saw 42% return to the workforce.

eRezeki is another programme designed to open-up opportunities for Malaysians to leverage on their idle time, under-utilised physical assets or certain knowledge and skills via crowdsourcing and sharing economy platforms. Launched in June 2015, 333,130 participants (till end 2019) have benefited from this initiative and have reported earning an additional income. From Jan-June 2020, 585,662 have gained additional digital skillsets to earn supplementary income.

When MDEC was first established, e-commerce was still fairly new . It has since grown to become one of the key strategic drivers of the digital economy. How has MDEC nurtured e-commerce over the years?

In the late 1990s, we saw the launch of internet companies such as Amazon and eBay as e-commerce slowly made its way to the mainstream. For this revolution in retail to reach Malaysian shores, MDEC had to facilitate an improvement in the country’s internet infrastructure. The rest as they say, is history. Fast forward to the early 2010s, we saw a proliferation of local e-commerce players that have set the benchmark for the industry worldwide.

In 2016, we launched the National Ecommerce Strategic Roadmap (NESR) which has become the primary reference and cornerstone for many e-commerce initiatives. In that vein, we viewed the digitalisation of retail businesses as an opportunity for SMEs and other businesses to diversify their income stream.  As such, we started programs to help them, essentially, go digital.

eUsahawan was launched in November 2015 as a digital entrepreneurship programme that helps onboard micro enterprises onto various e-commerce platforms. From Jan-June 2020, 41,789 entrepreneurs have been trained with a total of sales value of RM65.4 generated.

Launched in July 2017, Go-eCommerce is an online learning platform with internationally recognised curriculum for beginner, intermediate learners and advanced entrepreneurs. From Jan-June 2020, a total of 112, 803 participants from across the country benefited from this initiative. Under the ambit of this platform, we also launched Project DESA which encouraged rural-based merchants to shift their businesses online and continues to drive cross-border trade for all merchants.

As of June 2020, we have had 322,834 SMEs adopting e-commerce with 17,372 actively exporting goods to other markets.

As the country prepares to embrace the “new normal”, how has the COVID-19 pandemic shifted MDEC’s priorities?

The pandemic of 2020 has underscored the urgency and relevancy of digital transformation for the Government, businesses and all socio-economic facets to confront and overcome the challenges of this new era of digitalisation. This includes acknowledging and embracing the digital new norms, gaining access to the right tools and support services that can help all Malaysians, including businesses, make that digital leap.

Specifically, what did programs did MDEC embark upon to answer this clarion call to go digital?

When the first phase of the MCO was enforced on 18 March 2020, MDEC immediately went into triage-mode to attend to the distress calls from the rakyat and businesses that were affected by the regressing economy. The #DIGITALvsCOVID movement was launched on 24th March 2020 with a loud rally call for tech companies to extend digital solutions and services to those who are affected by the MCO.

In just weeks, MDEC’s #DIGITALvsCOVID campaign garnered over 2000 digital solutions offered by 561 homegrown tech companies, which was systematically catalogued in an online directory to aid the unemployed and struggling entrepreneurs.

From the onset of the MCO, MDEC has been resolute to combatting the effects of the pandemic and pivoted its operations and initiatives to ensure Malaysia continues to make the ‘digital leap’ despite any odds.

Recently, we launched the #SayaDigital movement, which aims to improve digital literacy among Malaysians amid the new normal. In the month of August, #SayaDigital featured several MDEC-led capacity-building programmes, providing businesses with various means to go digital and enabling Malaysians to be digitally skilled with speed and at scale.

We also leveraged on our existing Global Online Workforce (GLOW) program which assists those in need of crowdsourcing platforms to generate digital revenue. From the months of January to June this year, the programme generated an income totalling RM190.8 million.

SMEs are the backbone of our economy. How has MDEC worked to empower SMEs that have taken quite a hit during this pandemic?

The transformation of businesses through the adoption of digital tools and platforms is a critical step towards improving their business sustainability, operational efficiency and potential to tap new growth opportunities. Initiatives under this digital adoption pillar are aimed at growing start-ups, digitalising MSMEs and globalising scale-ups.

For example, the SME Business Digitalisation Grant was introduced in February 2020 by MDEC, in partnership with Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN), to provide digitalisation advisory and technology solution providers. The 50% matching grant offers up to RM5,000 per company for subscription of services to go digital. A total of 498 SMEs have been recipients of this grant.

In May 2020, we organised e-Dagang Expo (eDX) a week-long virtual event which engaged over 500,000 micro-entrepreneurs and SMEs looking to take their offline operations to the online space. Partnering with global e-commerce giants, we aimed to address the urgent needs for MSMEs to adopt e-commerce to better mitigate the immediate impact of COVID-19 and beyond.

At the same time, we also launched eBerkat, a platform to increase SME and B40 awareness and access to SLIP (Savings, Lending, Investment, Payment) digital financial services and instruments. We onboarded 2,000 MSMEs and 13% successfully secured funding.

SMEs were also advised to look beyond Malaysia, in search of new markets to expand into. Through the Digital Free Trade Zone, we enabled 4,367 SMEs to engage in cross-border e-commerce. In a similar vein, The Global Acceleration & Innovation Network (GAIN) helped grow 130 local digital companies into global players.

The new normal has thrown digital industries like animation, esports and game development into the spotlight. How robust are investments into such industries which are still very much nascent here in Malaysia?

The digital creative industry in Malaysia is set for a meteoric rise for the next few years thanks to a proliferation of high-quality animation and video game development from local studios. Compounded by pandemic-induced demand, jobs in this sector are skyrocketing in popularity due to their flexibility and “work-from-home” nature.

Malaysia aspires to be a hub of digital creation and innovation by attracting investment in niche areas such as animation; games development and esports; being the regional hub for data centres; and as a test bed for emerging technologies.

At the same time, MDEC is also actively cultivating and tapping e-commerce, Big Data Analytics (BDA), artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) as sources of economic growth.

Our efforts didn’t just begin at the start of the pandemic but in 2016 when we launched the National IoT Framework to create a national Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem to facilitate industrialisation of next-gen network platforms as a new source of economic growth. There are a total of 283 companies in this network that are driving-up the demand for next-gen network transformation, with a cumulative revenue of RM233.8 million and RM121.5 worth of export value.

The focus on the digital content industry kickstarted with the establishment of the Digital Content Ecosystem (DICE) in 2019. Previously, DICE had been a long-running effort to stimulate digital content creation and production with the goal of growing the local digital content sector. Since Jan-June 2020, DICE has benefited 324 companies by enhancing their digital content development. Just this year alone, DICE has generated RM1.6 billion total revenue and RM260 million worth of exports.

We are also aware of the interest that the gaming industry provokes among the younger generation. Level Up @ School is a program we began targeting school students to nurture future talents for the games industry. Thus far, we have discovered and cultivated 1,220 students from 330 schools who are keen on gaining first-hand experience with developing games.

MDEC turns 25 next year. Taking stock of MDEC’s achievements over these years, where do you MDEC heading in the next decade?

With MDEC turning 25 next year, I envisage it taking on a larger role as the forerunner of the nation’s digital economy, setting the course forward to thrive in the 4IR era by empowering digitally-powered talent, enabling digitally-powered businesses and driving digital-sector investments.

MDEC will embrace the concept of Malaysia 5.0 – a human-first society in a tech-age, where digital innovations will capably resolve societal problems while building a sustainable and inclusive economy where Malaysians of all walks-of-life will enjoy shared prosperity.

We are ready to reinvent!

MDEC will run parallel to the tech trends that are evolving at warp-speed, ensuring:

  • Malaysians make the digital-leap and elevate their IR4-readiness
  • Phenomenal acceleration in digitalisation and scaffolding businesses to be global tech champions
  • Malaysia is primed to be a fertile ground for investments and global test bed for emerging technologies

By 2025, the reinvented MDEC will firmly establish Malaysia as the Heart of Digital ASEAN.

First published in the Edge on 26th of October 2020

DONUT RM26 000 BIKIN PENGUSAHA TERSENYUM

Jangan terkejut apabila nilai RM26 000 diletakkan pada tajuk di atas. Ini kerana ‘kuih’ yang dipercayai mula wujud sejak abad ke-18 hasil cetusan idea seorang kapten kapal itu dari Belanda itu masih dijual pada harga yang mampu dinikmati kita semua.

Yang dimaksudkan ialah pendapatan bulanan diraih oleh Noor Azliza Ab Aziz, 32, di Kampung Rabbana, Jeli, Kelantan yang menyara hidup dengan menjual pelbagai jenis donut dan kek.

Menyedari dunia perniagaan hari ini mempunyai hubungan kimia yang sangat rapat dengan pemasaran digital, wanita itu juga menyahut cabaran untuk ‘mendigitalkan’ perniagaannya.

Menyingkap kembali pembabitan selaku chef kek dan donut ‘tersohor’ di kampungnya, Noor Azliza berkata, pada mulanya operasi perniagaan hanya dilakukan pada skala kecil sambal dibantu oleh ahli keluarganya.

“ Ketika awal operasi, Aleeza Bakery menjual donut dengan pendapatan sekitar RM400 hingga RM500 sebulan. Kemudian, saya mula membuat kek bagi memberi lebih pilihan kepada pelanggan,” cerita bekas pelajar bidang bakeri di Kolej Komuniti itu.

Menurutnya, selepas setahun, donut dan kek yang dihasilkan mula menjadi sebutan apabila permintaan meningkat dengan mendadak sehingga tidak menang tangan untuk menyiapkan tempahan.

“ Oleh itu, saya membuat keputusan untuk menyewa sebuah kedai dan mengupah empat pekerja supaya dapat memenuhi permintaan,”katanya ketika ditemui wakil blog Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) baru – baru ini.

Noor Azliza yang turut mendapat ‘sentuhan’ MDEC dalam program pemasaran digital berkata, perkembangan Aleeza Bakery turut membolehkan syarikatnya menawarkan peluang pekerjaan kepada penduduk sekitar.

“ Ini kerana saya memerlukan khidmat ramai runner bagi menghantar pesanan di sekitar Jeli , Gua Musang, Tanah Merah dan Pasir Mas,” katanya.

Ditanya tentang kaedah pemasaran digital, Noor Azliza berkata, kemajuan pesat media sosial seperti Facebook dan Instagram dimanfaatkan sepenuhnya untuk mempromosikan donut dan kek keluaran syarikatnya kepada penduduk setempat.

“ Pada peringkat awal, saya juga tidak begitu mahir sehingga terpaksa menyertai beberapa bengkel keusahawaan digital anjuran pihak swasta dan agensi kerajaan seperti MDEC dan sebagainya. Menerusinya,  pelbagai ilmu baharu yang dipelajari untuk mengembangkan lagi perniagaan,” katanya.

Noor Azliza memberitahu, syarikatnya turut kehilangan pendapatan pada minggu pertama kerajaan melaksanakan Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan (PKP) pada Mac lalu kerana dia menutup operasi.

“ Bagaimanapun, selepas dua minggu, Aleeza Bakery kembali beroperasi malahan saya lebih agresif melakukan pemasaran secara digital. Hasilnya, syarikat mendapat tempahan donut dan kek lebih banyak, mungkin kerana waktu itu masih ramai yang tidak keluar rumah,” katanya

Nor Azliza berkata, hasil pemasaran digital, dia berjaya mengekalkan momentum jualan.

“ Sehingga kini, jualan RM1,000 secara konsisten dijana setiap hari atau bersamaan sekitar RM26,000 sebulan,” katanya yang tidak beroperasi pada setiap Jumaat.

Berkongsi  rahsia donut dan kek yang dihasilkan begitu mendapat sambutan , Noor Azliza berkata, dia menggunakan bahan-bahan bermutu untuk menjaga kualiti produk.

“ Saya pernah membuat bancian terhadap 5,000 penduduk di Jeli dan maklum balas yang diterima ialah , majoriti memberi markah sembilan per sepuluh terhadap donut dan kek yang syarikat saya hasilkan,”katanya.

Katanya lagi, telur ayam yang digunakan pula kategori gred AA yang dibasuh supaya bebas virus samonila manakala bahan-bahan topping pula menggunakan jenama terbaik.

Untuk maklumat lanjut mengenai pendigitalasi peniagaan anda, sila layari https://www.go-ecommerce.my/

Oleh Mohd Firdaus Ismail

SYARIKAT PERMAINAN KREATIF TEMPATAN ‘RM100’ DIBANTU INISATIF DC3 MDEC UNTUK LAKUKAN LONJAKAN DIGITAL KE PERINGKAT ANTARABANGSA

Firma penganalisis bagi sektor permainan kreatif digital, Newzoo menganggarkan nilai pasaran global industri berkenaan mencecah sekitar RM660 bilion pada tahun ini dengan  kadar pertumbuhan tahunan terkumpul (CAGR) sebanyak 11.8% (2015-2019) . Menakjubkan!.

Turut diramalkan mencapai pulangan lumayan ialah segmen permainan telefon pintar yang dijangka mencecah RM359 bilion atau peningkatan CAGR sebanyak 21.2 peratus bagi tempoh 2015-2019.

Menariknya, jumlah ini ialah lebih empat kali ganda lebih tinggi berbanding pendapatan industri pawagam global iaitu sekitar RM186 bilion.

Dalam soal ini, Malaysia sebagai negara yang terkedepan dalam industri kreatif animasi di Asia Tenggara sebenarnya turut memberi tumpuan serius terhadap bidang ini dengan melihat kepada potensi besar terhadap pertumbuhan ekonomi sekaligus boleh memanfaatkan rakyat.

Sejak 2006, kerajaan memberi mandat kepada Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) untuk melonjakkan sektor kandungan kreatif digital ini menerusi pelbagai inisiatif yang dirancang dan telah dilaksanakan.

Sehingga kini sebanyak 303 projek telah dibiayai oleh MDEC membabitkan agihan geran keseluruhan bernilai RM11.35 juta untuk pelbagai projek termasuk yang berjaya menembusi pasaran global menerusi program Cabaran Pencipta Kandungan Digital (DC3) (dahulu dikenali sebagai Cabaran Pencipta Harta Intelek (IPCC) .

Sekadar memberi contoh, Opneon Games Studio menerusi program ini telah menghasilkan permainan Mehabolt Battle Arena yang telah dilancarkan pada tahun ini serta memasuki  pasaran Filipina dan Greece.

Turut membanggakan ialah Why Creative Sdn. Bhd menerusi projek Iteno yang turut mendapat sambutan di Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Korea Selatan, Amerika Syarikat dan Eropah.

Di sebalik lonjakan yang dicatatkan, kehadiran tetamu tidak diundang iaitu pandemik Covid-19 awal tahun ini yang masih belum ‘surut’ menyebabkan banyak negara termasuk Malaysia melaksanakan ‘perintah berkurung’ dalam usaha memutuskan rantaian virus maut ini sekaligus memberi impak kepada ekonomi.

Menyedari kesan yang ditanggung, kerajaan melancarkan beberapa pakej rangsangan ekonomi termasuk Pelan Jana Semula Ekonomi Negara (PENJANA) yang turut memberi ‘talian hayat’ kepada industri kandungan kreatif digital tempatan dengan peruntukkan sebanyak RM35 juta.

Dana Kandungan Digital PENJANA (DKD PENJANA) ini akan memperluaskan dua program kandungan digital sedia ada yang dikendalikan MDEC serta memperkasakan dua program iaitu Cabaran Pencipta Kandungan Digital PENJANA (PENJANA DC3+) dan Geran Kandungan Digital PENJANA (PENJANA DCG).

Inisiatif ini diwujudkan untuk membolehkan bakat tempatan mengasah kreativiti dan kemampuan mereka dalam mengembangkan idea kandungan baharu dan seterusnya mempercepatkan pembangunan serta penkomersialan karya.

Baru – baru ini sempena program Kre8tif!, MDEC telah mengumumkan senarai lima syarikat tempatan yang berjaya memperoleh geran untuk kategori micro indie games membabitkan RM50,000 setiap satu.

Wakil blog MDEC berkesempatan menemubual empat daripada lima syarikat berkenaan untuk mengetahui visi mereka dalam mengembangkan operasi dan seterusnya menjadi pemain utama dalam bidang penciptaan kandungan kreatif digital.

1.      Wombatman Games Bagi Projek Cramped Room of Death.

Diasaskan oleh dua beradik, Hafiz Mohd. Rozlan,31 dan Uqbah Mohd. Rozlan ,28, pada pertengahan tahun lepas, Wombatan Games kini sedang mengorak langkah untuk menjadi syarikat pencipta permainan digital kreatif yang diterima di peringkat tempatan dan antarabangsa. 

Kedua-duanya menyerahkan jiwa dan raga untuk  membangunkan projek Cramped Room of Death (CRD) iaitu permainan puzzle 2D yang menumpukan audience casual.

Menurut Hafiz, permainan ini dijangka akan dilancarkan di Steam pada suku pertama 2021 serta diikuti versi iOS. Versi Android akan menyusul kemudian. Ketika ini CRD sudah boleh diwishlist di Steam.

Ujarnya, geran yang diperolehi akan digunakan untuk membiayai pembangunan projek itu yang dianggarkan menelan kos sebanyak RM30,000 membabitkan kerja animasi, muzik dan trailer.

“ Bakinya pula akan digunakan untuk melakukan pemasaran supaya kehadiran produk kami kelak disedari peminat game,” katanya ketika dihubungi baru – baru ini.

Pada masa sama katanya, mereka juga sedang berusaha untuk menyiapkan satu lagi projek yang melibatkan permainan menerusi telefon pintar yang dijangka akan dilancarkan hujung tahun ini.

Berkongsi penglibatan dalam bidang ini, Hafiz berkata, pada mulanya dia belajar sendiri kaedah programming menggunakan engine unity sejak 2012. Mereka kemudian mendapat peluang melanjutkan pengajian Diplomasi Animasi Digital di Universiti Lim Kok Wing menerusi tajaan MDEC.

“ Sebenarnya, kami pernah menyertai pertandingan ini pada tahun lepas di bawah kategori commercial ready namun gagal memikat hati juri dan tahun ini merupakan percubaan kali kedua,” katanya.

Hafiz turut mendedahkan, projek CRD nyaris ‘tidak jadi’ dikembangkan apabila dia mendapat tawaran kerja di Singapura pada March lalu.

“ Bagaimanapun, disebabkan peningkatan kes Covid-19 serta keputusan kerajaan melaksanakan Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan (PKP), saya membatalkan hasrat bekerja di Kota Singa dan meneruskan projek CRD ini sepanjang tempoh kuarantin,” katanya.

Ditanya peranan MDEC dalam membantu syarikat kecil sepertinya untuk mengembangkan potensi permainan digital tempatan, anak kelahiran Gombak, Selangor ini menyambut baik langkah berkenaan.

“ Program MDEC sangat membantu syarikat tempatan untuk berkembang kerana kandungan industri digital boleh diakses oleh seluruh dunia. Bakal pelanggan dapat membelinya dengan kos yang rendah,” katanya mengakhiri perbualan.

2.      ENDURA oleh IFIO Studio

Berbekalkan modal RM100, Muhammad Irfan Hadi,26, yang ketika itu masih menuntut di Kolej Universiti Damansara Utama (KDU) mengambil langkah berani menubuhkan syarikat ini untuk menterjemahkan idea kandungan permainan digital kreatifnya sejak 2008 ke dalam bentuk projek nyata.

Anak jati Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu ini membuktikan walaupun masih ‘hijau’ , dia mampu mengembleng tenaga untuk meningkatkan reputasi syarikat  ‘RM100’ itu supaya terus berkembang.

Pada April lepas , ‘taraf’ IFIO berjaya ditingkatkan menjadi IFIO Sdn. Bhd. dengan modal berbayar sebanyak RM50,000 serta menggaji dua pekerja.

“ Projek ENDURA yang berjaya memenangi geran MDEC mula tercetus dua tahun lepas.

“ Secara ringkasnya, permainan ini mempunyai unsur-unsur aksi pengembaraan di alam Bunian sebagai penghantar ‘benih’ bagi membantu penduduk Yagra yang sedang berada dalam kesusahan. Pemain juga perlu menjiwai kisah protagonis utama, Jack J. Rahman,” dedahnya.

Mengulas lanjut, Muhammad Ifran Hadi berkata, IFIO Sdn. Bhd. juga mempunyai tiga projek lain ketika ini yang berada pada peringkat prototype namun keutamaan mereka adalah untuk menyiapkan ENDURA.

“ Geran yang diterima akan digunakan untuk melaksanakan verticle slice bagi ENDURA. Syarikat juga telah membuat penyelidikan pasaran tempatan dan China yang mana kami mendapat maklum balas positif dari pemain-pemain luar dan dalam negara,” katanya.

Berkenaan penyertaan dalam program MDEC, dia berterus terang bahawa syarikatnya tidak meletakkan harapan untuk terpilih pada tahun ini kerana gagal pada dua percubaan pertama.

“ Alhamdulillah rezeki berpihak kepada IFIO Studio pada tahun ini. Ini memberi harapan baharu kepada kami untuk merealisasikan projek ini. Apa yang dilakukan oleh MDEC sangat membantu kelangsungan industri permainan digital kreatif tempatan,” katanya.

– oleh Mohd Firdaus Ismail

China-ASEAN Digital Economy Cooperation: Malaysia’s Win-Win Story

The year 2020 is a year that will be remembered as the most surreal year in modern history, due to the unprecedented Covid-19 global pandemic. While the coronavirus crisis is wreaking socio-economic havoc around the world, it has its silver linings. Governments and businesses are putting digitalization at the forefront of their efforts to survive Covid-19, creating opportunities for more international collaborations.

Accelerated Digitalization

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), has long been touted as the new frontier of the Internet economy. Already the world’s third largest population and fifth largest economy, ASEAN is a key market for investors looking for growth and expansion to remain resilient.

According to a recent study by Facebook and Bain & Company, 70% of consumers in ASEAN will go digital, five years ahead of previous forecast, with higher spending power and increased preference for contactless transactions amidst physical distancing efforts as key drivers. Malaysia leads the region, where 83% of its population are already digital consumers, the highest in ASEAN.

Malaysia has emerged to be a more attractive location for business continuity, amidst lockdown pressures necessitated to dampen the spread of Covid-19. For many companies that made Malaysia their regional/global business services hub, the transition from business-as-usual to remote working arrangement that happened almost overnight, was a smooth experience, enabling them to continue operations with minimal disruptions. This is largely due to the country’s reliable and affordable digital connectivity and infrastructure, as well as the agility and digital-savviness of its talent with a prevalent culture of working from home.

The Malaysian government also has ramped up efforts to drive digital adoption among businesses, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and its citizens, through various economic stimulus and recovery plan. Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), tasked to lead Malaysia’s digital economy forward, is playing a critical role to accelerate the growth of the nation’s digital economy post-Covid19.

For example, 100 Go Digital is an initiative to rally brick-and-mortar enterprises to move towards digitalization by providing in-depth assistance for them to start their digital journey. The Smart Automation Grant is a matching grant under the PENJANA short-term economic recovery plan for services companies to kickstart automation of their business processes. ePENJANA is an initiative to enhance consumer spending and drive e-wallet adoption, impacting 15 million Malaysians.

Enhancing Digital Talent

The accelerated digitalization and the stability as a location for business services has created more digital jobs in Malaysia, outpacing the growth pre-Covid19 times. The demand for digital talent has spurred MDEC to launch the #myDigitalWorkforce movement, an initiative to marshal local talent to upskill/reskill themselves with digital skillsets and grab digital job opportunities, in collaboration with the private sector and academia.

The Global Online Workforce (GLOW) is a national program to train and provide free training for Malaysians affected by Covid-19 to compete for global freelancing opportunities and earn high income through digital work platforms.  

Malaysia’s young, multilingual, multicultural, agile, and digitally-savvy talent pool makes the country stand out as a location of choice for foreign direct investments.

Malaysia on the Digital Silk Road

Malaysia, strategically located at the centre of ASEAN alongside the Maritime Silk Road, has always been a major trading gateway between the West and the East since antiquity. Today, Malaysia continues to play a vital role in the Digital Silk Road, well-poised to be the heart of Digital ASEAN. Collectively, ASEAN’s digital economy is expected to increase from 1.3% of GDP in 2015 to 8.5% by 2025.

A rising number of Chinese tech giants and digital enterprises are leveraging the ASEAN opportunities for win-win cooperation. Market leaders such as Alibaba, China Mobile, ChinData and Beyondsoft, are expanding into this region, making Malaysia their technology and digital services operations hub.

Malaysia is also home to a thriving pool of fast-growing tech companies with regional and global footprint, spanning sectors such as cloud, big data, artificial intelligence, internet of things, e-commerce, cybersecurity and drone technology, making them invaluable partners for Chinese investors who are looking for opportunities outside of China.

For example, Aemulus Corporation, a leading provider of R&D and design services for the Automotive Test Equipment (ATE) industry, has setup a joint venture with China’s Tangren Microtelligence. Last year, Feitian Technologies acquired a stake in digital security solutions provider, SecureMetric, to form strategic partnership for the ASEAN market. Tencent has selected homegrown technology group, Green Packet, to be its local partner for the AI-enabled cloud computing solutions. Just recently, Huawei and Serba Dinamik, Malaysia’s international engineering services provider, have teamed up to bring 5G, Cloud and AI solutions to develop digital industry and smart campuses in Malaysia.

The growing wave of collaboration between Chinese and Malaysian digital enterprises is a prime testament to Malaysia’s strength in Digital Economy ecosystem, which prioritises greater growth, innovation, and shared prosperity.

Malaysia: Your Digital Home

The year 2020 is also the year of China-ASEAN Digital Economy Cooperation. ASEAN became China’s largest trading partner in the first quarter of 2020, overtaking the European Union.

The commitment of member countries to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement between ASEAN and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, expected to be the world’s largest FTA, will further cement the region’s attractiveness for foreign investors keen to enter the ASEAN market.

As the specialist Investment Promotion Agency for Malaysia’s digital economy, MDEC is well-versed in facilitating and easing the entry of companies into Malaysia, supporting growth and expansion at all stages and as a springboard into ASEAN. Please reach out to MDEC (www.mdec.my)  and learn how to get started on this process.

MDEC welcomes you to make Malaysia your digital home.

The author is the Vice President of Investment Development at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation. He oversees the investment attraction to client development and supporting Malaysian digital services companies to go global.

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