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Is Malaysia Competitive Enough to Become the Region’s Digital Hub?
October 14, 2022 News


Written by: Khairul Haqeem, Journalist, AOPG.

Everyone in the country has been wondering the same thing since the dissolution of parliament a few days ago. Will the momentum that Malaysia’s digital landscape has built since the pandemic be lost? This past Wednesday marked the beginning of Malaysia Digital Week 2022, hosted by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) at the Connexion Conference & Event Centre in Bangsar South from October 11th to the 14th.

MDEC’s goal is to attract RM 50 billion in digital investments from Foreign Direct Investments and Domestic Direct Investments to generate 50,000 new employment by 2025, and MDW2022 is a key element of this strategy.

The Launch

An impressive line-up of speakers attended the inaugural session. Dato’ Sri Haji Mohammad bin Mentek, Secretary General of the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, gave the opening remarks (K-KOMM). Since the whole economy is undergoing digital transformation, he began by reiterating Malaysia’s position as the ASEAN digital hub. One of his intriguing ideas was that the government, whoever is in charge, plays a crucial role in preserving the digital economy’s portfolio and pace.

Ts Mahadhir Aziz, the MDEC CEO then took over the session. During his speech, Ts Mahadhir noted, “MDW2022 will offer us the appropriate venue to highlight Malaysia’s major digital capability and capacity propositions.” To further catalyse and accelerate the expansion of the digital economy in line with the aims of Malaysia Digital (MD), we also look forward to broadening our horizons, engaging in dialogues, and exchanging ideas throughout the event.

The MDW2022 launch was then jointly officiated by Dato’ Sri Haji Mohammad and Ts Mahadhir, making this the fourth iteration of MDEC’s exclusive event. It’s interesting to note that this year marks only the second physical event for MDW since the first.

A Long Way to Go for Malaysia

Numerous elements contribute to a state’s potential to serve as the regional centre for digital innovation. Malaysia is, in my perspective, still developing, and I’m delighted to report that it’s catching up with everyone on the same peer level. We have a long way to go before we catch up to our southern neighbour, Singapore but there is plenty to learn.

I was able to have a brief session with Lord Ed Vaizey, the longest-serving former Government Culture and Digital Minister in the United Kingdom. Vaizey lauded Malaysia’s geographical and geopolitical advantages as key factors in the country’s potential to serve as the ASEAN digital centre. “Malaysia does not need to learn from the UK. I think Malaysia and UK would be better in a partnership and exchanges of ideas,” is what Vaizey says.

Vaizey thinks Malaysia’s ambition for a digital economy is amazing. He gave a brief speech about how enticing a fair tax policy would be for foreign technology companies considering expanding their operations into Malaysia. Vaizey also taught me something valuable: The importance of Malaysia’s investment in its people.

In today’s digital world, countries like Malaysia have a talent pool that is woefully inadequate due to a lack of digitally competent individuals. Malaysia has to stop looking abroad for skilled workers and instead invest in developing its own workforce and preparing the next generation of digital professionals. For this scenario to actualise, it will be crucial to combine educational efforts with those of the industrial world.

Vaizey concludes with the need of investing in digital infrastructure. We are all aware that 5G is a turning point for all nations in their adoption of digital transformation. The delayed rollout of 5G, which is scheduled to begin by the end of the year, has dealt a serious setback to Malaysia. As he concluded his remarks, Vaizey emphasised the importance for Malaysia to keep an eye on the global competition, arguing that if Malaysia does not act on the issues he raised, other nations will.