Technology trends driving the new reality


An illustration of cloud computing.(Shutterstock/Blackboard)

SINCE the onset of the pandemic, we have witnessed massive innovations that have shifted our understanding of the potential that technology can offer. From the development and distribution of vaccines and businesses transitioning to online operations, to tackling climate change and bringing about greater social equality through online learning; technology’s critical role in the world has never been clearer.

As we move forward into the endemic phase and prepare for a new reality, let’s examine the top technology trends that have the potential to shape Malaysia’s future:

Hyperscalers

Hyperscale cloud providers combine in-house business solutions with cloud infrastructure, platforms and Software as a Service (SaaS), enabling holistic cloud-based information technology (IT) strategies and cloud-native solutions.

The cloud service market is set to see more concentration in the years to come, which is driven by hyperscalers’ shortened cycles of innovation – coming down from years to months or even weeks – and impressive research and development spending. Hyperscalers are vertically entering many IT markets that are not cloud-originated but require or benefit from cloud strategies via these investments, making them integral to enterprise digital transformation. Last year, Alibaba Cloud was appointed as an official cloud service provider for the Malaysian government, joining Telekom Malaysia, Amazon, Google and Microsoft, to help accelerate the country’s cloud adoption and digital transformation.

Industry clouds

Industry clouds are cloud and data platforms customised to meet different needs of an industry. They go beyond Platform as a Service (PaaS) or SaaS by vertically integrating business solutions, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, workflows and related services.

They are considered the next step for hyperscalers, moving from generic technology operations to a more customised platform offering macro and micro-applications as well as data management in one place.As tailored platforms are becoming the next big evolution, industry clouds will likely boost the “cloud-everywhere” trend by allowing industries to digitally transform at scale.

This can help an organisation’s agility and reduce complexity through seamlessly coordinated cloud environments. It can also positively impact the speed and cost of IT modernisation, with innovation, upgrading and maintenance coming automatically into the platforms.

Automation

Automation in this context refers to both basic robotic process automation (RPA) that automates routine office work, as well as the automation of complex processes which may see benefit from advanced technology such as machine learning (ML). The effectiveness of routine office work automation has been operationally validated in not only North America, Europe and Japan, but also in Malaysia.

Previously, the technologies were mostly implemented in “pilot stages”. Organisations would play it safe by experimenting with proof-of-concept projects to automate a controlled number of processes within their organisation.

Many organisations have become more aggressive in their implementation with many enterprise processes being automated via RPA and ML.

As these automations become mainstream, many organisations are also establishing their own centres of excellence and in-house RPA developers to sustainably automate routine processes.

While these technologies have been implemented in many organisations across key Malaysian sectors in recent years, we expect them to become more mainstream going forward, with a larger scale of implementation and with more complex processes as candidates.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Oxford Insight’s Government AI Readiness Index 2021 research placed Malaysia 36th out of 160 assessed countries (Oxford Insights, Government AI Readiness Index 2021). The research examines the readiness of a given government to implement AI in the delivery of public services to citizens. Regionally, Malaysia ranked in sixth place after Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

While there are undeniable benefits to using AI at a scale, there are also challenges.

One concerns the embedding of trust and transparency into the equation, as some algorithms can reinforce biases and infringe on privacy and technologies like facial recognition can be discriminatory.

There are few mandates or regulations in this space. The cost and effort to provide sufficient assurance for AI applications can also be prohibitive, and the fear of public scrutiny and ethical implications has previously held organisations back from using AI at scale.

Having a model for trusted and ethical AI is fundamental. More reliable mechanisms are emerging to assist organisation validate, test and create transparency and use AI more confidently.

Quantum computing

It is common to see technologies in the market that leverage quantum computing principles with the potential to make a significant difference in computing power-heavy industries. One way is by helping with optimisation problems. Optimisation algorithms are already being reconfigured using quantum mechanics principles.

Malaysia’s financial services, biotech and pharmaceutical sectors could particularly benefit from quantum computing because they require highly scalable compute power. KPMG has launched a global quantum technology hub based in Denmark, in collaboration with Microsoft’s Azure Quantum platform (Building on quantum advantage, Dec 2, 2021). The hub will focus on researching applications in three main areas: ultra-precise measurements using quantum sensors, computational speed-up on quantum computers and improvements in cybersecurity using quantum cryptography.

Metaverse

More businesses are creating spaces in the metaverse – virtual worlds where users can interact and meet up via avatars.

However, as the metaverse concept has only recently gained mainstream traction, industry leaders often don’t know how to engage with it. The first step is education. More organisations are exploring this concept, as well as opportunities to experiment in today’s metaverses. Within Malaysia, possibilities can include virtual real estate showcases or providing a virtual reality headset for potential customers to remotely experience the “product” without compromising their health/safety in the post-pandemic reality.

Cyber security

While the pandemic has resulted in organisations accelerating their digital transformation, it has also caused cyber security threats to evolve at an even faster pace.

Cyber criminals are getting creative and playing in the blind spots of businesses and governments.

Threat actors are investing time and upskilling to understand security tooling and deploying evasive techniques – dodging detection and working around security protocols. Another issue is software assurance, where hackers infiltrate third-party software providers and place malware undetected directly into the environments.

From January to December 2021, a total of 10,016 cases of cyber incidents were reported to the cyber security incident response centre, Cyber999, operated by Malaysia computer emergency response team. Organisations need to get comfortable with cyber risks. This can include a “trust but verify” approach to security tools, and the consideration of new business services that provide software assurance and monitor technology landscape in real time.

Low-code/no-code

These platforms have become well established, making software development happen faster and at a fraction of the cost by allowing users to easily prototype, iterate and customise applications with little to no experience.

Organisations need to make the necessary cultural shift as this technology is more widely available. These days, many apps are developed by a tech-native cohort of professionals who are well- versed in basic programming skills and have an appetite to innovate and create digital tools outside their domain expertise. To benefit from the potential of low-code/no-code technology, organisational and cultural change needs to follow suit with technological advancements. C-suite needs to get comfortable translating business demands into digital requirements; while technology leaders need to demonstrate that their agenda delivers tangible business outcomes.

Alvin Gan is head of technology consulting, KPMG in Malaysia.

The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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