Why investors are bullish on Malaysia’s Digital Economy

Part 2

Malaysia has a rich history as a multinational hub for traders. The Straits of Malacca has long been favoured as a major route connecting Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Today, Malaysia has evolved to being a hub of highly skilled talent, thriving within a vibrant business ecosystem founded on world-class infrastructure.

Opportunities for everyone

As the world moves rapidly into the 4th Industrial Revolution (IR4.0), MDEC is ready and fully focused on leading Malaysia’s digital economy forward by accelerating:

  1. Formulation of policies and coordination of agencies to enable success
  2. Development of future proof workforce to grow the Digital Economy eco-system
  3. Creation of global champions to increase contribution from the Digital Economy to GDP

It case you missed it, Malaysia has gone #SeriouslyDigital with:

  • Cumulative Total Investment of RM472 billion from the MSC (1996 – 2018)
  • Export sales worth RM166 billion
  • More importantly, the MSC creating a total of 182,538 jobs.

We have made significant efforts to establish the right ecosystem to foster wide digital entrepreneurship.

My thoughts here will touch on just a few illustrations of recent and upcoming opportunities that have been built through collaboration; my MDEC colleagues will also be touching on many more initiatives across different parts of the digital economy as we move further into the year.

Just a few examples:

  • Ninety (90)% of future jobs will require some level of digital literacy. The MyDigitalMaker movement has so far seen 450,000 students participating in a national public-private-academia initiative to encourage Malaysian youth to become digital producers and not just digital consumers.
  • Inclusivity — inspiring everyone to take their place in the digital world – includes initiatives such as eRezeki, which empower Malaysians to start generating online income via platforms set up to match their respective skills with digital work. More than 210,000 participants have been trained with more than 110,00 of these reporting additional income amounting to a total of more than RM220 million reported.
  • An initiative to mainstream digital entrepreneurs (eUsahawan) has so far trained 65,000 participants. More than 65,000 have reported additional sales, amounting to a total of more than RM370 million sales reported. Some individual success stories can be found at the site.
  • The Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) is a national initiative to drive Malaysia’s cross border eCommerce through Digitalisation, by focusing on driving SME export through various eCommerce players. Another key outcome of DFTZ is to position Malaysia as Regional efulfilment hub.

And finally, coming back to the theme of investment: Investors come from many countries to Malaysia. Just one example — the USA is one of the top investors in MSC Malaysia, accounting for 10% of total investments as 132 American companies have so far been awarded MSC status, bringing in a total cumulative investment of RM30 billion from this investment channel alone.

However, let’s not forget that investment also begins at home. Let’s invest in our digital economy — invest some of our energy, abilities and desires – to grow and enrich our families and ourselves.

While digital transformation and digital economy may appear to be high-level taglines, digital adoption simplified is about finding out the best-use of digital tools and solutions to help build your place and base in this fast-growing and evolving new world.

As an agency under the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, MDEC remains committed to working closely with all levels of Government to speed the building and development of our digital economy as Malaysia accelerates into a leading Digital Nation.

#DigitalMalaysiaForward   #LetsBuildTogether

Dato’ Ng Wan Peng, Chief Operating Officer

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)

The long and winding road to realise DICE

Ever watched Stranger things on Netflix? Whenever I watched this series and with all its sci-fi trappings, I can’t help but to reminisce my time growing up in the 80s. I spent some of my time in Madison, Wisconsin, a cold place in the north of the USA similar to Hawkins, Indiana.

I followed my father who had a chance to continue his studies to complete his PhD at the university there.  I grew up with in Arcades, read X-men comics and enjoyed Transformers the movie (even cried buckets when my hero Optimus Prime died). These influences still continue to pepper my thoughts as I grow in these years.

Never would I have thought that my journey would land me here.

In 1996 when I returned home to Malaysia, I wasn’t sure where I was headed. All I knew was getting a job.  I was told of a new initiative – and project that the government was embarking on. The Multimedia Super Corridor and the company that was pushing it forward – the Multimedia Development Corporation or MDC.

My early journey in MDC included sleeping in the cold outside the door of the first International Advisory Panel in Stanford (was tired of all the jet lag then). I was tasked to develop one of the 7 flagship applications – the Borderless marketing and Worldwide Manufacturing Web. I also built the first few websites of the MSC and MDC. Creativity was always something that inspired me.

Then I had the opportunity to learn from the process of creating Saladin. It was one of the first large scale animation projects that the country would undertake. I wasn’t part of the team then, but the original team worked beside our IT team and I immersed and listened to what they did.

One day, the Executive Chairman of MDC then, Arwah Tan Sri Othman Yeop called me and colleague of mine to his office and asked if I could be interested to manage the first VR centre in Malaysia. Powered by SGI, this became the premier VR center for the region. This was the starting point for me to be formally part of the CMC team and with that – the journey of into what will become of my lifelong passion.

VR uses real/time engines – the same that powers most 3D games then on consoles like the PlayStation and Dreamcast. As technology pushed forward, 3D cards became available for consumers. We even worked on the Virtual Malacca walkthrough- which was developed by VisualExtreme. We had students by the droves come into our centre and get enraptured by the awe of travelling back to the 1500s. (Fun fact- to those whose seen it – you might have seen the Saladin characters that peppered the virtual space)

This led to the establishment of the CADC of which we had a team that came together from the original Saladin team. Then the true team that made Saladin into the Emmy-award nominated co-production with the renowned al Jazeera’s Children’s Channel was formed. Saladin grew from a trailer we made with Silverant to showcase what our best animation companies could do. That trailer captured the minds of everyone who saw it and also the international community. That one day, a call from the GM of AJC to our producer startled us. He wished to fly us to Qatar and wanted to co-produce with us. As they say, the rest is amazing history.

Dozens of our great animations were created then with Dato Kamil helming our division and our team fueling the industry. Upin & Ipin, Kung Fu Chicken (Chuck Chicken now), BoBoiBoy, Awang Khenit, Didi & Friends, Ejen Ali and so many more have initiated under MDEC’s support.

I then decided to take up an opportunity to be part of industry. I heard that Rhythm and Hues Malaysia – a world-class VFX house – was growing in Cyberjaya. It was also going to work on the Life of Pi, one of my most favorite books. I left the company after 14 years to the hectic life of production. And what an experience it was. It was also one of the toughest points of the journey.

R&H was the home of brilliant artists who created one of the most wondrous things we see on screen. Tirelessly hundreds of talented VFX artists work in many stages to provide the magic to the biggest box office films. What’s more amazing of that over 1000 staff of R&H we had at the peak, almost 120 of them were based in Cyberjaya. We are ever so grateful to the experienced brothers we had from both LA and India who came to uplift our local talent. We had hundreds of apprentices come through our office from around MALAYSIA. Going through many of our programs to train the new breed of VFX artists, R&H believed in Malaysia and our talent pool – and they were not disappointed.

Unfortunately, after celebrating our 25 years of magic, the global business became too competitive and it brought us to our knees.

Many Malaysians would not know that we had great young talents from all over Malaysia who worked on 22 Hollywood films from Cyberjaya, movies like Yogi Bear, Alvin & the Chipmunks, X-men First Class and Snow White and the Huntsman among others.

In 2013, Malaysia was part of the VFX Oscar race for 2 movies – the Life of Pi and Snow White and the Huntsman. We had many of our artists who contributed to both these films and we were all so proud that we Malaysians could do it and compete on the same level as the talents from large global companies.

As we celebrated our win with Life of Pi that day, we also were beset with the news that our company was in dire straits. The business was tough and we were experiencing the downturn. As management, we scrambled every day to look for opportunities to keep going. We had so many talented artists all over the world – including that 120 in Malaysia. It was one of the darkest times for me and the team. When there was some light at the end of the tunnel – it flickered and became dark again. It happened a few times until finally R&H was acquired, but not after major downsizing. As the last few had left, I joined the job market. Until today I remember talking to each and every artist under my care, and the tears that flowed from their eyes. I promised myself that what I would do in the future will matter for these talented artists one day. And this journey was that pit stop that reminded me how far we still need to go. How strong we all need to be to persevere.

After a year outside doing some consultancy and learning a whole lot about the AAA games business, an opportunity came up to rejoin my team in MDEC. This time to lead this great experienced crew to new heights.

And at the end of 2014, the journey in MDEC to build our Digital Creative Content industry just went into overdrive. We pushed out multiple programs and celebrated all our achievements. We kept on educating and creating awareness of the industry within Malaysia and on the global stage. We haven’t let up since.

On the 9th of August 2019, we have collectively come to another point in our journey together. Something the industry deserves, something that will bring together both the public sector and industry and chart the next stage of growth.

YB Gobind Singh Deo, Minister of Multimedia and Communications Malaysia, announced the next evolution of our way forward for the Industry – a policy known as the Digital Content Ecosystem Policy or DICE. The industry and stakeholder engagements and consultations will be the prelude to eventual policy formulation. The vision is to create a digital content ecosystem that is conducive, inclusive and competitive. That is my promise.

YB Gobind Singh Deo, Minister of Multimedia and Communications Malaysia, announcing the DICE policy at the Level Up KL Media Announcement recently.

DICE is the culmination of many years of MDEC’s collaborations, research and experience in developing and promoting the Digital Creative Content Industry. The announcement last week was to initiate the engagement with public and industry stakeholders who are involved and have vested interest to see our Malaysian Digital Creative Content Industry continue its leadership in the region.  It aims to ensure that our industry will have a productive and capable talent pool, a strong industry with global achievements, prolific output of commercial IP and the awareness and push of Malaysia as a regional hub. Several initiatives will be put forward for consideration and will be the basis to grow the industry even further.

I humbly request this – if anyone of you passionately desires to accelerate the growth and success of our amazing industry and help make its mark globally , this is the time to say your thoughts or shout and let it all out.

We will have platforms for you to engage us. In the meantime, email me with your suggestions. I’ll put it on the net for us to talk and figure out how we can push this industry to the stratosphere. This is the time my friends and together let’s make our mark.

DICE will be our Neverending Story.

#DigitalMalaysiaForward #LetsBuildTogether

– Hasnul Hadi Samsudin is the Vice President of Digital Creative Content, at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)

Industry wide collaboration will boost Malaysia’s Digital Economy

In the spirit of the goodwill movement called ‘Pay it Forward,’ the alumni of successful Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) award recipients gathered together recently to celebrate their successful growth as homegrown tech champions.

Since 1998, MDEC has been supporting local companies by providing support through various programmes and initiatives such as the Global Acceleration Innovation Network (GAIN).

The successes of previous companies that were supported by MDEC have continued to fuel the sustainability and continuity of these MDEC initiatives. Some of the highlighted successful local companies include:

  • Jobstreet – crosses RM1 bil market cap in 2013 and was subsequently acquired by Seek Australia for RM1.89 billion in 2014
  • Maestro Planning Solutions (Maestro) who launched QuickSchools for the US market back in 2008 and has setup its headquarters in Silicon Valley.  QuickSchools.com is an online school management system that is optimally designed for private K12 schools all over the world. It now proudly powers over 500 schools in over 30 countries, helping thousands of teachers each day.
  • Vitrox a Penang based company made it to Forbes Asia’s 200 Best Under a Billion list.
  • The animated movie Upin Ipin Keris Siamiang Tunggal by Les’ Copaque Production surpassed Disney Pixar’s Incredibles 2 as the biggest animated movie in Malaysia with collection of RM 25 Mil box office since it released in March 2019. 
  • In 2016, Boboiboy the Movie by Animonsta Sdn Bhd has collected at the box office the value of RM 20 Million including the screening in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Korea. The movie also won the Best Animated Feature Film for the 28th Malaysia Film Festival. Boboiboy the Movie 2 is screening in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam this week.
  • No Straight Roads by Metronomik have won several game awards such as Excellence In Sound Design Award at BitSummit 7 Spirits, Best Indie Project award at Unreal Open Day in Shanghai and Grand Jury Award in the SEA Game Awards.
Among the alumni that attended the session were Malaysia’s renowned content creators.

Surina Shukri, Chief Executive Officer of MDEC said that it would need continued collaborative effort to create more successful Malaysian tech companies. She called upon previous grant recipients to teach the next generation of tech companies and mentor them to become global companies in the future.

Commenting on the power of collaboration and sharing, Surina said: “I hope that all the pioneering Pay It Forward alumni can help to contribute towards developing the nation’s digital economy as we need the private sector to unite together.”

Industry luminaries such as Ganesh Kumar Bangah – Chairman of PIKOM & Commerce.Asia (left) and CC Puan – Group MD & CEO of Green Packet (right) were also present to contribute their wisdom.

To find out more about MDEC’s Digital Economy initiatives, please visit www.mdec.my or follow us on:

#DigitalMalaysiaForward   #LetsBuildTogether

Why investors are bullish on Malaysia’s Digital Economy

Part 1

It’s inspiring to see that the number of companies choosing to come to Malaysia is on the increase. For example, in the past few weeks alone, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) welcomed:

  • Beyondsoft officially launching its first office in Malaysia to help local talent and businesses build a healthy ecosystem.
During the launch of Beyondsoft’s first office launch in Malaysia in June this year.
  • Logicalis officially launching its new headquarters based out of Sunway Velocity in Kuala Lumpur. Besides its new headquarters, Logicalis has also invested in Malaysia’s ICT industry back in 2006, establishing a Global Support Centre in Cyberjaya to provide world class managed services to customers across the globe.
During the launch of Logicalis headquarters in July this year. The launch was officiated by MDEC’s Vice President for Investment & Industry Development, Mr. Hew Wee Choong (centre).

The sustained growth of Malaysia’s digital economy over the past few years, coupled with the rise of digitalization in industry are clear indicators that Malaysia is a country with a robust Digital Economy; one that is increasingly a preferred choice for companies from all over the world.

Despite a delicate global economy, it is gratifying that Malaysia has risen up in several global investment rankings.

Malaysia has been crowned as the best country in the world to invest in or do business for 2019, according to the CEOWORLD magazine. Ranked number 1 among 67 countries, the publication confirms Malaysia continues to be the most attractive destination for investors and businesspeople.

The rankings were based on 11 different factors including corruption, freedom (personal, trade, and monetary), workforce, investor protection, infrastructure, taxes, quality of life, red tape, and technological readiness. Each category was equally weighted.

This latest distinction follows in the wake of many other encouraging plaudits.

According to Malaysia Investment Development Authority’s (MIDA’s) Malaysia Investment Report 2018, these rankings include Bloomberg’s Emerging Market Scorecard where we again clinched the top spot in a line-up of 20 other emerging market peers, ahead of prominent nations like Russia (2nd), China (3rd) and Korea (10th).

Another accolade is Malaysia’s nine-spot leap to secure a global ranking of 15 among 190 economies in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2019 report.

Malaysia was top five in several areas, second only to New Zealand for protecting minority investors, third for dealing with construction permits, and fourth for cost of obtaining electricity.

These significant improvements in our business environment have helped us as a nation to regain a respected position among the world’s top 20 economies.

Leading the digital economy

We know the digital economy drives dynamic growth and productivity and innovation. Other major benefits include reduced transaction costs and enhanced efficiency. Services become faster, cheaper and better.

As of 2018, Malaysia’s MSC/digital sector has attracted investments surpassing 320 billion ringgit ($78.60 billion). It has also seen the creation of 182,538 new high-value jobs and the emergence of a domestic ICT industry worth over 40 billion ringgit.

As we escalate our transition to a high-income and developed economy, incremental growth in incomes will be increasingly dependent on improvements in human capital and productivity. In turn, this will require a multi-year reform agenda to improve the quality of workforce skills and learning outcomes from the education system. (World Bank MEM June 2019)

And there are more positive indicators for 2019: Malaysia is currently leading the pack of ‘Break Out’ nations — and heading towards being a “Stand Up’ digital economy nation. The World Bank puts Malaysia in the league of high income economies where digital adoption levels are high; higher than roughly a third of OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries.

On top of this growing global recognition, our drive to digital adoption and digital transformation will crystallize many real benefits as well as more opportunities for all of us.

Attracting investment

According to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) the contribution by our digital economy already reached the 2020 target of 18.3%, (amounting to RM247.1bil of the national economy) in 2017.

These examples all point to an encouraging scenario for us to power through to the next stage of building our digital nation; one which includes opportunities for every Malaysian willing to reach out to grasp them.

#DigitalMalaysiaForward   #LetsBuildTogether

– Dato’ Ng Wan Peng is the Chief Operating Officer, at Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)

How Malaysia Helps To Future Proof Your Business Services Operations

The digitalization of Global Business Services (GBS) was the main highlight recently when my team and I had the privilege of co-hosting more than 40 GBS business services companies, together with Outsourcing Malaysia (OM), a chapter of PIKOM, the country’s national ICT industry association, at the GBS Focus Group forum held in Kuala Lumpur. 

GBS is an abbreviation for shared services and outsourcing enabled operating model, is an important focus for Malaysia, especially as one of our key initiatives is to strengthen our country’s position as an ideal location of choice for digital services.

To help drive positioning, MDEC in 2011 initiated The GBS Focus Group initiative, which is a platform ‘for the industry by the industry.’

Caption: The GBS Focus Group consists of relevant stakeholders to the GBS industry in Malaysia, i.e. captive shared services, government agencies, industry association, professional bodies and academia.

The forum’s topic – the Digitalisation of GBS – is very close to my heart. In fact, I am heartened by SSON’s 2019 State of the Shared Services Market Report on Malaysia, which mentions that about half of the GBS centres in Malaysia are leveraging on Centres of Excellence (COEs), and shifting away from being just about transactional excellence and improvement.

Now, GBS is fast becoming a value adding partner to the business by offering insights based on thorough understanding of services delivered, optimized by digital technology such as automation and data analytics.

Ascending the value chain

Take Jabil, a US-based global manufacturing services as an example. They first set up their Global IT Services in 2009 in Penang, and 10 years later, they have expanded into a global business centre, spearheading digital transformation within the group with an impressive setup of COEs for Robotics Process Automation, API Management, B2B Services and Cloud Management.

The Penang GBS operation has ascended the value chain by moving from transactional to more strategic consulting and advisory roles that include global finance, centralised procurement and risk governance.

Capitalising on Malaysia’s quality talent (95% of their 950+ employees are Malaysian), they have ventured into data analytics and Factory of the Future initiatives, as well as investing in emerging technologies such as hybrid cloud computing, internet of things, edge computing, next-generation network, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence.

Caption: The GBS Focus Group is chaired by a GBS practitioner, supported by OM as the group secretariat. Immediate past chairman: DHL IT Services. Current chairman: Jabil Global Business Center.

Malaysia’s digital ecosystem: futureproofing business

The Jabil story is strong testament of Malaysia’s capabilities to move up the value chain in digital services.

To ensure that companies such as these continue to augment and accelerate their growth in Malaysia, MDEC is constantly strive to provide the industry with strategic and innovative initiatives, from talent to infrastructure to legal framework, to ensure that the country has a strong and robust ecosystem to meet the growing demand from investors such as Jabil.

Through our digital innovation ecosystem initiatives, we have setup ASEAN Data Analytics eXchange (ADAX), Asia Cybersecurity eXchange (AsiaCyberX) and Orbit, to further spur the growth of data analytics, cybersecurity and fintech respectively, in Malaysia.

 These initiatives focus on building and facilitating skilled digital workforce, as well as creating innovative solutions, increasing technology adoption and building a thriving tech startup ecosystem. We also play an advocacy role in ensuring that Malaysia has supportive government policies, such as national frameworks on big data analytics, artificial intelligence, internet of things, and eCommerce, to move the nation forward towards becoming a leading regional and global player in these areas.

Digitalisation of GBS: Move Up or Move Out

Among the topics discussed during the GBS Focus Group event that I mentioned earlier was on “GBS Moving Forward: Move Up or Move Out”.

The audience expounded the sentiment that as the world rushes headlong into the digitalized era, digitalisation and the holistic support structure that Malaysia offers is the key to futureproofing their operations here.

Digital services is a key sector in driving Malaysia’s digital economy agenda. As the country deepens our niche in digital economy, Malaysia is the right location with the right ecosystem to catalyse a business’ digital transformation.

No matter where you are in your digitalisation journey, it is our focus to encourage more GBS companies to drive transformational excellence and value for your business operations by embracing disruptive technologies such as big data analytics, automation, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

As the Head of the Investment team in MDEC, I welcome you to come talk to me and my team members to learn more about how you can leverage on Malaysia to futureproof your digital services operations.

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

DFTZ’s Second Anniversary: eCommerce Milestone

It seems just like yesterday to me – but it’s actually now the second anniversary of the launch of what is turning out to be a major stride forward in Malaysia’s eCommerce trajectory: the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ).

This is just a brief note to mark the anniversary, so I will briefly run through just a few thoughts:

First of all, DFTZ was an initiative to spearhead our national eCommerce framework and it was launched to intensify Malaysia’s participation in cross border eCommerce.

The aim was to start establishing Malaysia as regional and global eCommerce fulfilment hub and to drive exports. It’s about empowering entrepreneurs and small businesses to do cross-border commerce seamlessly: The vision was to opening up the doors to global markets and to simplify eCommerce by digitalising the trade process.

The DFTZ is a milestone in the national digital economy agenda, which is providing a platform for Malaysian businesses to go online with more ease than before. A growing number of companies have already started to export via the DFTZ partners’ platform and this will only increase as more and more players become aware of and understand the value of participating in this initiative.

Onwards and upwards

I recall that when Jack Ma came to launch DFTZ in Malaysia, he said Malaysia had caught his eye a few decades ago, and that he was proud to be able to do something with the nation. He told world media: “Malaysia inspired me [back] in 1996-1997. When I was starting my Internet business in 1995, I remember that around that time, I read news in China about the Multimedia Super Corridor [MSC Malaysia] in Malaysia… it made me think: ‘Hmm! There is something there in that country! It’s a brave idea for the digital world.”

Indeed, Malaysia now has the potential to become a Stand Out country of the future. In terms of speed of digital transformation, Malaysia ranked second, just behind China and way ahead of India, Singapore and Indonesia (Global Digital Evolution Index 2017). The World Bank puts Malaysia in the league of high-income economies where digital adoption levels are high, and higher than roughly 1/3rd of OECD countries.

An important component of our digital economy is eCommerce, which is an opportunity anyone can take up. We are working in collaboration with government agencies, industry and academia to solidify and guide SMEs to adopt the opportunities in the local, regional and global markets. High inclusivity – ensuring everyone is future-ready – is one of the key building blocks of the digital economy.

Digital adoption and digital transformation are opening up the possibility of a new era of prosperity. Of course, much more needs to be done and we need to move forward wisely. We at MDEC are honoured and thrilled to play our part in forging a digital future for every Malaysian: #LetsBuildTogether!

Dato’ Ng Wan Peng is the Chief Operations Officer of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)

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)

Talent: Vital Building Block for Malaysia’s Digital Future

In my previous article Outsmarting Smart Robots, I said that there is an increasing consensus that jobs are changing in drastic ways and getting our current and future workforce ready for such changes is critical.

More of the same will no longer be enough. This message has been recently affirmed by LinkedIn, the global professionals platform, with the release of its 2019 Emerging Jobs in Malaysia Report. The study, which analysed millions of unique, user-input job titles from the last five years, noted that the top five emerging jobs were linked to technology. And just as important, the report highlighted the demand for ‘hybrid’ skills.

Developing a rounded skill set, which rests on digital competency, needs to be balanced with other core soft skills such as problem solving, communication, creativity, and a measure of what has been called EQ (emotional quotient).

Our strategy to become a stand out nation in the global digital world is powered by five building blocks. Implementing much of this strategy lies within the remit of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), a government-owned agency under the Ministry of Communications & Multimedia (KKMM). The KKMM Minister, YB Gobind Singh Deo, first outlined these building blocks towards the end of last year.

These building blocks, which are important drivers of a strong online ecosystem, are: high-quality infrastructure at affordable prices; tech talent development; increased cybersecurity vigilance; development of platforms and enablers such as Digital ID, open data and so on; and the legislation, policies and industry structures to support the growth of the digital economy.

While the building blocks are intended to produce two key outcomes – widespread digital adoption, and the enhanced growth of digital entrepreneurship throughout the nation – building the right talent is the fuel to power our trajectory into the our future.

Deepening the Momentum

When we look at the top five emerging roles highlighted in the LinkedIn report (data scientist; full stack engineer; drive test Engineer; user experience designer; and content writer), we note that the easiest to teach at scale are the technical skills. While advanced digital skills are usually top of mind – such as coding, data analytics, and so forth – the basics are just as important for all of us to adapt to the workplace of the future.

A vital aspect of our nationwide initiatives is inclusivity. Everyone has an opportunity in Malaysia’s digital future. The basic digital skills required to perform daily tasks online need to be shared across underserved communities, the disabled and the elderly.

Our digital future will increasingly come into the hands of the next generation. MDEC has been actively complementing the Ministry of Education’s initiatives to integrate and embed computational thinking, computer science including coding into the national school syllabus. We are also work closely with a premier group of local universities to strengthen tertiary-level Computer Science curricula and teaching.

Meanwhile, the collaborative approach amplifies another public-private-academia movement, MyDigitalMaker, to transform Malaysian youth from digital users to producers in the digital economy. Digital skills both feed and complement the hybrid skill portfolio by developing problem solving and creativity among our young generation. More than half million students are actively participating in digital making activities such as coding, robotics, data analytics and more.

Transformative support to help teachers includes learning tools and further training through an Educator network. Essentially, short courses and certification programmes on programming/coding, embedded systems, digital making and more offered by #mydigitalmaker partners and university-based teacher-training hubs during weekends and school holidays to support educator readiness. To-date more than 30,000 teachers have become part of this network.

MDEC’s efforts to prepare our future workforce includes working with 12 universities to act as local training hubs for teachers who need to get trained in various digital tools. MDEC provides a computational thinking specialist to train the universities and accredit them to be training centres for the teachers. Some of them are also acting as Digital Maker Hubs, which gives students another option outside of their schools to go and explore and learn about various digital tools. There are currently 48 Digital Maker Hubs around the country, some are hosted by private companies and non-governmental organisations.

MDEC and industry partners further develop students with especial digital innovation and creative potential to help them into tertiary studies with Premier Digital Tech Universities and Preferred Digital Tech Polytechnics. The Premier Digital Tech Institutions comprise local universities and polytechnics with high graduate employability in the digital technology sectors and which have the potential to becoming top regional institutions. To date. MDEC and the Ministry of Education have jointly endorsed 8 Premier Digital Tech Universities and 5 Preferred Digital Tech Polytechnics.

Learning as a Way of Life

Before I sign off, I would like to again stress the importance of remaining relevant in the world we have entered. We must together address the 4th Industrial Revolution as an opportunity to enrich our lives through evolving ourselves and our skills by constantly learning.

One of the results of rapidly evolving digital age is that most of us will have different jobs through our lives. Very few will remain in the job for which they were formally trained. I believe that every day is a day for learning something new: An essential sign that we are producing the right talent for a standout digital future in the world will be a mindset that includes adaptability and one that is tuned always to learning.

Sumitra Nair is the Vice President for Talent & Digital Entrepreneurship in MDEC

Malaysia: Gateway to the Fastest Growing Region in the World

As the ASEAN region continues to boom, investment opportunities in the region have become even more alluring.

However, the cultural complexities of the countries within ASEAN add to the challenges of forming a sound investment strategy. Understanding the big picture includes taking into consideration various factors such as the economics of a country’s Gross National Income (GNI), social landscape, state of digital adoption and talent resources.

So, what would be one of the most attractive investment destinations in the ASEAN region today? Which country would best leverage your investment and deliver significant growth for you?

Not only one of the most visited tourist locations in the world, Malaysia also boasts an economic ecosystem offering a rich ground for investment considerations. Located at the heart of ASEAN, the country is an ideal and cost-effective gateway to access the region’s population base of 640 million with a collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$2.5 trillion. With strong economic fundamentals, the World Bank anticipates Malaysia to become a high-income nation as early as the year 2020.

One of the fastest growing sectors in Malaysia is its digital economy, which consistently continues to be on upward trajectory and accelerates the country’s economic development.

Digital Economy: A Catalyst for Dynamic Growth

Malaysia’s digital economy development is impressive. In 2016, the digital economy contributed 18.2% (RM224 billion, or at current exchange rate, US$54 billion) to Malaysia’s economy, as indicated by Department of Statistics Malaysia. The contribution to the country’s total GDP comes from the digital industry (RM149.4 billion /US$36 billion) and the eCommerce industry (RM74.6 billion/US$18 billion). The digital industry continues to focus on exports (RM216.9 billion/US$52.23 billion); and employs more than 1.07 million people.

This growth seen by Malaysia is a result of its forward-looking vision on driving itself into becoming a highly productive economy through digital transformation. Various government agencies and ministries work in collaboration with the industry to drive digital transformation. Under the Ministry of Communications & Multimedia, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is the lead agency responsible for helping to chart a path for the holistic development of the nation’s digital economy. MDEC’s implementation efforts are centred on four strategic pillars – driving investments, building local tech champions to regional and global markets, catalysing digital innovation ecosystems to nurture start-ups and propagating digital inclusivity among its citizens.

Wooing Foreign Direct Investment

Malaysia has been at the forefront of foreign direct investment and these investments came from various parts of the world such as US, UK, Netherlands, Singapore, Germany, China, India, Australia, and Japan. Global corporations and hyper growth technology companies have been attracted to the conduciveness of setting up businesses in Malaysia. These companies have invested, and continue to invest, in technology and platform, digital and global business services as well as digital content development, to expand these services regionally and globally from Malaysia as their hub.

Malaysia’s position as a favoured country for digital investment has been recognized by its consistent 3rd ranking (behind world giants India and China) in AT Kearney’s Global Services Location Index since the ranking’s inception in 2004.

To ensure that Malaysia continues to attract foreign direct investment, various digital initiatives that fuel investment opportunities have been developed and implemented, including a number of high impact national programmes.  For example, to keep abreast of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, new frameworks are being developed under Malaysia’s Digital Economy plan focusing on Big Data Analytics, eCommerce and Internet of Things (IoT), offering massive growth potential.

In 2018, Malaysia started to promote the adoption and application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. With the objectives of maximising social and economic benefits, Malaysia is accelerating AI development across three key areas: Talent; Industry Development; and High Impact Use Cases in the areas of smart cities and smart manufacturing, resting on a foundation of progressive regulatory framework.

Another example is the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) – the world’s first outside of China that aims to capitalise on the exponential growth of the internet economy and cross-border eCommerce. Established to streamline and augment Malaysia’s constantly growing eCommerce space, this platform will also boost cross-border trade and position Malaysia as a transhipment hub for eCommerce logistics.

A thriving digital ecosystem

Malaysia is constantly looking at initiatives to transform its human capital infrastructure to be ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Coupled with its proficiency in languages including English and other Asian languages such as Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Bahasa, Hindi, Arabic and others, as well as the investment in the hard infrastructure of roads, railways, ports and high-speed internet connectivity, this has undoubtedly been the major attraction for enterprises to expand their operations in Malaysia.

With its diverse multilingual and multicultural population, Malaysia offers a conducive business environment through its unique cultural diversity, making integration of local talent to be part of the global workforce a seamless experience to many global multinationals and unicorns.

The government of Malaysia also places a major emphasis on talent development for the future of work, focusing from primary to tertiary education. MDEC is supporting the Ministry of Education’s efforts to integrate computational thinking including coding and other digital making activities into the national school syllabus. Another core initiative is a joint public-private-academia collaboration to strengthen tertiary-level digital technology curricula and teaching.

These efforts have already seen results and international recognition. Malaysia is 2nd in ASEAN in the Digital Evolution Index 2017; 5th in Asia in the Huawei Global Connectivity Index 2018; 6th in Asia for the Networked Readiness Index 2016 and the Asian Digital Transformation Index 2018; 7th in Asia in the ICT Development Index 2017; and 8th in Asia for the Cloud Readiness Index 2018. Its tech savvy population was also recognised by a 2016 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, which ranked Malaysia the 9th best place to be a social entrepreneur in the world.

As of now, thousands of companies from 60 nations have already cast their anchors in Malaysia. Do not miss out on your opportunity to expand from Malaysia to Asia and the world!

Hew Wee Choong is the Vice President for Investment and Industry Development in MDEC.

Outsmarting Smart Robots

How can humans outsmart robots equipped with artificial intelligence (AI)? This is the million-dollar question that one group of experts the world over is scrambling to answer, while another group races to build machines with near-human capabilities.

One among many predictions is by McKinsey Global Institute, which sees millions of jobs being be wiped out. Others take on a more optimistic view: humans will survive the 4th industrial revolution. Accenture suggests – that if we pick the best from each – humans and machines will work together in harmony, A recent Harvard University study shows that doctors are able to diagnose cancer with greater accuracy when working with AI.

Nevertheless, there is a consensus that jobs are changing in drastic ways and getting our current and future workforce ready for such changes is critical. More of the same will no longer be enough.

Skills to complement AI

As machines become more intelligent, three types of complementary skills are expected to become more important for people to develop.

The easiest to teach at scale are technical skills: Both basic and advanced technical skills are equally important. While advanced digital skills have received much attention – such as coding, data analytics, etc. – basic digital skills will be just as critical for the current workforce to survive the changing workplace.

Learning how to use digital productivity tools, doing online research and transacting are a few of the basic skills many still struggle with, especially in underserved communities like urban poor, rural, disabled and elderly communities. Earlier this year, Sundar Pichai, Google CEO affirmed this when talking about Google’s move to train people with basic digital skills.

Coming back to advanced technical skills, these will be most critical for the next generation of workforce.  Digital natives will need to know how to harness and complement their intelligent-robotic counterparts. A McKinsey survey of 3000 business leaders suggests that demand for technical skills is expected to grow the most compared to the 3 types of skills mentioned in this article, hence the emphasis on STEM, computational thinking, computer science and coding in educational institutions must continue, be it in schools or universities.

Aligned to this, MDEC is supporting the Ministry of Education’s efforts to integrate computational thinking, computer science including coding into the national school syllabus. We are also work closely with a premier group of local universities to strengthen tertiary-level Computer Science curricula and teaching.

The second set of essential skills for the future workforce are higher cognitive skills, or higher order thinking skills. These include creativity, critical thinking, decision making, complex information processing. Basic cognitive skills such as, literacy and numeracy which have been a strong focus point for industrial era education systems, are increasingly becoming hygiene factors, i.e. important for basic survival, but do not give us any edge over AI machines. Higher cognitive skills require deep learning experiences, for example, guiding a student to be aware and understand his/her own thought process. This kind of deep learning is challenging to deploy at scale, and will require significant changes across the education delivery system.

The third set of skills are unique to human beings, i.e. social and emotional skills. These are expected to be the hardest for AI to replace. Inherent but less emphasised skills like adaptability, interpersonal communication, negotiation, empathy, leadership, managing people and relationships, entrepreneurship and innovation, teaching and training people are critical if we are to remain relevant in the future workplace. These skills are often neglected in most conventional education systems which tend to focus more on academic excellence.

Never stop learning

As technology and roles in the workplace evolve, forecasts suggest that most people will have 4-5 careers (not jobs) in their lifetime, hence re-skilling will become extremely important. Formal education may prepare us for our first careers. Thereafter, life-long learning via self-directed, informal learning, and on-the-job training will be key to facing rapidly evolving jobs of the future.  Employers can no longer expect graduates or for that matter, any new employee to come fully-equipped for the role. Instead, they must be prepared to invest in training and re-training staff. From a policy perspective, we must find ways to encourage the culture of life-long learning; and support employers, especially SMEs to provide on-the-job training. In Singapore, for example, all citizens aged 25 and above receive periodic credits of SGD500 to pursue training courses for in-demand skills. Here in Malaysia, similar efforts could be prioritised for those at risk of being displaced by AI.

Education is for life, not just to make a living

Given rapid changes and uncertainty in the type of skills/jobs that will be in demand, experts suggest that universities should prepare students for life, emphasising cross-curricular learning instead of over-specialisation for specific jobs. There is also consensus that real-world experiences will be highly valued compared to pure classroom learning, hence, tertiary institutions and employers must work together to structure robust internship or apprenticeship programmes. Given these scenarios, universities need to re-think and re-focus on the fundamentals of education, while regulatory and policy measures are needed to encourage employers to offer internships or apprenticeships. With regards to the latter, the UK government’s apprenticeship funding model is interesting to study.

There’s obviously a lot that needs to be done to prepare our current and next generation for a future with AI. Tremendous political will and excellent coordination between the powers-that-be will be required to move this massive mountain in the right direction. But we must play our part: Simple acts like taking an online course, and encouraging life-long learning among our employees, colleagues, and loved ones. As the saying goes, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” So, go ahead and secure your seat in the AI world.

Sumitra Nair is the Vice President for Talent & Digital Entrepreneurship in MDEC.

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