Initiative to boost online trade, new tech while aiding recovery efforts

PETALING JAYA: The RM100mil government allocation to establish a National Technology and Innovation Sandbox will drive the digitalisation of businesses in the economic recovery effort, say various stakeholders.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said as part of the Short-Term Economic Revival Plan (Penjana), the sandbox – to be helmed by the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry – would allow the ministry more regulatory leeway while testing new technologies such as deliveries using drones and self-driving cars, for example.

Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said via Twitter that the sandbox would be a platform for local companies to prototype, test, commercialise and get funding for advanced tech with the goal of solving key sectoral issues.

Meanwhile, the National Tech Association of Malaysia (Pikom) said this focus on digitalisation and automation was crucial to help Malaysia achieve good standing during the post Covid-19 recovery phase.

Pikom said the government’s allocation of RM700mil to drive digitalisation in businesses, including smart automation funds of RM100mil, would be a greatly needed shot in the arm for the digital economy.

“This importance of the Digital Economy is very much central to the economic recovery efforts, and will greatly benefit the tech industry, ” said Pikom chairman Danny Lee, adding that the initiative would encourage micro enterprises and SMEs to use digital services.

Likewise, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) also welcomed the emphasis on spurring the growth of the digital economy through Penjana.

“The special allocation for the digitalisation of micro enterprises and SMEs is crucial as the e-commerce sector is estimated to contribute a 20% growth to the digital economy this year, based on projections by the National E-commerce Strategic Roadmap, in light of the new normal created by Covid-19, ” said MDEC chief executive officer Surina Shukri in a statement.

Muhyiddin announced yesterday an injection worth RM1.2bil to drive business digitalisation – made up of RM600mil in domestic and foreign investments, and a matching RM600mil by the government.

Lee said the Penjana fund was timely as Pikom, through its Future Digital Think Tank, had highlighted the need for a technology sandbox.

However, he added that economic recovery could only be sustained if Malaysians continue to be employed.

Thus, the extension of the Wage Support Scheme and Hiring and Training Assistance is also welcomed along with funding for upskilling training programmes.

“The technology sector is prepared to work closely with the government to place unemployed graduates and retrenched workers into a training programme that will equip them for employment in our sector, ” Lee added.

Surina concurred, adding that the RM25mil allocation for MDEC’s Global Online Workforce programme to train Malaysians to generate income through online platforms was timely.

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