The Perfect ‘Storm’: Malaysia as World’s Most Ideal Location for Digital Services

It seems only a moment ago that we were all counting down the seconds to welcome in 2019, closely followed of course by Chinese New Year!

The close of 2018 saw the unveiling of Malaysia’s Industry 4WRD Policy – which has been designed to speed Malaysia into the digital age with an especial focus on our manufacturing sector.

It’s an open secret that our manufacturing sector remains a key economic pillar of Malaysia contributing more than 22 percent of GDP [Gross Domestic Product]. At MDEC, we see this policy as a prelude to even more exciting milestones that lie ahead for Malaysia’s Digital Economy in 2019. 

Investor Confidence

Investor interest in Malaysia’s Digital Economy continues to grow in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data Analytics (BDA), Internet of Things (IoT) and cybersecurity.

We are seeing a surge of new accelerators and venture builders from abroad, which symbolises a healthy thumbs up for our nation’s startup ecosystem. This surge includes Lumenlabs (Insurtech) and Future Labs (AI and BDA). In fact, in the area of AI alone, Malaysia already is home to a healthy number of 70 startups – and growing rapidly.

As part of Malaysia’s digital transformation strategy, verticals such as healthcare, education and agriculture will be prioritised in order to speed up our rate of digital transformation. In the light of this, the Investment team will be on the lookout for innovative technology companies from abroad to spawn new opportunities in these sectors.

Healthy Confluence

As Head of the Investment team at MDEC, I see a recipe coming to the boil featuring a healthy confluence of vital ingredients: talent, capital and markets right here in Malaysia. In my ongoing engagement with many captains of industry – spanning the banking, oil and gas, consulting, technology and pharmaceuticals sectors, a common thread is emerging. And this is the tremendous power and potential of data. To use what is fast becoming a cliché, data truly is the oil of our rapidly dawning future economy.

As a result of Malaysia’s long-standing recognition as one of the world’s best locations for Digital Services, we are now poised to attract the capital, the markets and capabilities of large multinationals with nimble and innovative startups to generate the perfect “storm.” 

Key Digital Investment Hub

Despite the fragile global economy – with some MNCs revising their business models – Malaysia continues to be an attractive location for expansion of digital services. 

Indeed, another recent exciting instance of Malaysia’s attractiveness is the forthcoming expansion of the Shell Business Service Center, which has been operating in Cyberjaya for almost 20 years. 

By leveraging on Malaysia’s increasingly agile and versatile talent base, Shell has made another strategic move by bringing additional value adding activities to its Malaysia centre. With the transformation of the centre into a high performing competitive business operations hub, Malaysia is now the global hub for the Shell Group.

Powered by big data analytics, Shell’s Cyberjaya hub offers a wide portfolio of services, which goes beyond IT, finance, contracting & procurement functions, and now includes new, unique digital services such as legal, Retail Center of Excellence, Creative Solutions, and regional Human Resource Advisory Operations. Moving ahead, Shell will be providing more services from its Malaysia hub.

This translates into the creation of even more higher value jobs in Malaysia, which is in line with Malaysia’s aspiration to become a key regional digital investment hub.

More to come

As a teaser of things to come, MDEC is currently working on a national A.I. strategy that will provide a powerful platform to fuel this “storm.” 

On a related note, Malaysia’s continuous efforts in improving the ease of doing business is reflected in our international rankings considerably – we jumped 9 spots in World Bank’s 2019 Doing Business Report

On top of this, Malaysia’s global talent ranking according to IMD jumped 6 spots in 2018, even ahead of UK, France and Japan.

In closing, I am pleased to share that Malaysia will be playing host once again to the World Congress of Information Technology (WCIT) in 2020. Malaysia first graced the global stage at WCIT 2008 in Kuala Lumpur with luminaries such as Craig Venter, who led the world’s first draft of the human genome, and Bill Gates (who appeared as a holograph).  

Stay tuned for more updates: We are all looking forward to an exciting 2019 – so let me close by wishing everybody a great year ahead! 

Hew Wee Chong is the Vice President for Investment & Industry Development, at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)

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