Sarawak upbeat on digital economy

Abang Johari (second right) opening the International ICT Infrastructure and Digital Economy Conference in Kuching. — SHARON LING / The Star

KUCHING: Sarawak can become an ICT powerhouse by using its natural resources to power a digital economy, said Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg.

Abang Johari said this was in line with the two main prongs of the state’s economic development strategy, which were to increase the use of natural resources for industrialisation and to build a digital Sarawak.

“It is of strategic importance that Sarawaks should try to use as much as possible our energy resources for our own economic development and industrialisation.

“But we do not necessarily have to concentrate only on energy-intensive industries in Samalaju.

“We can concentrate on developing downstream industries in Samalaju and extend the scope of the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) to other parts of Sarawak,” he said when opening the International ICT Infrastructure and Digital Economy Conference here.

Abang Johari also said energy-intensive industries did not necessarily mean heavy industries but included data warehouses and server farms.

“This is where Bakun and other hydro dams come in to play a strategic role in powering the digital economy,” he noted.

In addition, he said the state government was committed to developing a digital economy to create new jobs and new successful entrepreneurs.

The digital economy, he said, would have a significant impact on the real economy in terms of design, marketing, production and distribution.

“The hope of the ordinary people of Sarawak about the digital economy is that it may be possible for them to sell their goods and services on the Internet.

“There are serious implications for transport and logistics, especially when we think that the digital economy can bring significant improvements to the livelihoods of communities living in remote areas and wishing to network with the rest of the world.

“In fact, the digital economy can be exciting for basic infrastructure development in Sarawak because it provides another dimension to the economic justification for building basic infrastructure facilities to remote areas in the first place,” Abang Johari said.

To harness Sarawak’s full potential for growth, he said the state must have greater autonomy over its own destiny instead of having it decided by others.

“We must create policies that are Sarawak-centric, which focus on our immediate and strategic needs,” he added.

The two-day conference was organised by the state government as a platform for experts and stakeholders to discuss the latest developments in digital economy.

The keynote speakers were Don Tapscott, a leading practitioner and best-selling author on digital economy, Lazada Malaysia chief executive Hans-Peter Ressel and World Bank digital strategy and government analytics adviser Randeep Sudan.

Other speakers included Prof Jeremy Bailenson from Stanford University, International Data Corporation Europe chief analyst Philip Carter and Grab Malaysia country head Sean Goh.

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