Digital dialogue focuses on growing Malaysia's digital economy inclusively


PETALING JAYA: The first forum under the Digital Native Agenda 23 (DNA23) initiative championed by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim isn't just about growing Malaysia’s digital economy, but also doing so in an inclusive manner.

Held on Wednesday (April 17) at Sunway University, the Digital Dialogue Series forum was attended by nearly 300 participants, including Anwar and famed American entrepreneur Mitch Kapor.

The participants heard from academic startup Genius Plaza CEO Ana Roca-Castro, entrepreneur and investor Ganesh Bangah, bitcoin startup NEM Malaysia CEO Jasmine Ng, and Digital Durian CEO

Sinan Ismail as they shared lessons and anecdotes about digital entrepreneurship.

Sinan, whose company produces the popular Didi & Friends children’s animated series, encouraged Malaysian entrepreneurs to not only embrace technology, but to do so in a way that adds value to people’s lives.

He shared the story of how his initial foray into animated content faced a lot of rejection when he was marketing it to traditional broadcasters, but became a massive hit after he noticed a gap in the online market.

"I did a Google keyword search and found a lot of people looking for ‘lagu kanak-kanak’ (children’s songs), but there was nobody delivering it.

"So I created these characters (on Didi & Friends), this singing chicken, to deliver these songs to the people,” he said.

Didi & Friends now has 1.8 million subscribers on YouTube, and Sinan said the educational nature of the videos is his way of giving value to children, parents and teachers’ lives.

Participants also had a chance to learn from and network with Kapor, whose venture capital company, Kapor Capital, invests in inclusive companies that aim to create a more equal society.

"Everybody should have the opportunity to develop themselves,” he said.

"Genius is evenly distributed by zip code, but opportunity and access are not.”

The talks gave entrepreneurs something to really think about, said startup Drouper executive director Nelson Rizal Radzmi.

"Today’s session was really great, because (Kapor) gave us tips on how to get funding and we also learned about the need for a company to have a strong identity,” he said enthusiastically.

"I really hope there will be many more discussions like this in the future.”

Fellow participant Ainarull Assikin Abdul Hadi said that Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming, who gave the opening address, had given her new ideas on how digitalisation could positively impact her construction company.

"My company isn’t really digital at all right now, but listening to Ong gave me a better idea of how many opportunities lie ahead of us, and it makes me feel good about the future,” she said.

The forum, which was organised by BMT Management Consulting in partnership with Star Media Group, dimsum, and the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, aims to inspire Malaysians from all walks of life to think about digital entrepreneurship, said BMT co-founder Andrew Lee.

"I’m extremely pleased with how the forum turned out, and we hope this will spark a dialogue that will eventually connect the rakyat with the digital challenges that all Malaysians need to work together to address.”

The Digital Dialogue Series is a key component in Anwar’s DNA23 initiative, which he launched last month as part of his efforts to bridge the "digital gap”, while calling for the "digital have-nots” to be included in the nation’s digital economy agenda.

"The focus, while we continue to engineer this Fourth Industrial Revolution, is steering our economy towards meritocracy.

"We can’t ignore the plight of our urban and rural poor. Adequate opportunities must be shared with every citizen of our country,” he said.

All Malaysians can participate in the dialogue on digital opportunities by logging on to dna23.org/digital-dialogue-series.

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