On track to be high-tech nation

ON June 5, the government announced the short-term revival plan (Penjana) to empower people, propel businesses and stimulate the economy in the wake of the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has 40 initiatives worth RM35bil, of which RM10bil is a direct fiscal injection by the government.

Among the key initiatives are:

> RM100mil for the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox to explore new technologies and innovations;

> A national fund worth RM700mil to drive the digitalisation of businesses and innovation;

> RM75mil to draft policies related to the so-called gig economy; and

> Allocation for a national “Buy Malaysia” campaign to encourage consumption of local products and a dedicated e-marketplace platform for such products.

The establishment of the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox gives us an opportunity to accelerate development of local technologies, products and services. It would increase technology usage, which would help to accelerate economic recovery, provide alternative procurement routes for local solutions, act as a platform and meeting place for the government and private sector and ensure the interaction of problems and innovative solutions.

We believe these initiatives will help to accelerate advanced technology adoption and transform Malaysia into a hi-tech nation.

The hi-tech industry has been a key contributor to the national economy, contributing US$90.3bil worth of exports in 2018 (52.8% of total manufacturing exports). In comparison, electrical and electronic products comprised 38% of 2018 export values.

Malaysia has achieved double-digit growth in high-tech exports for the last two years, with year-on-year growth of 17.2% in 2017 and 22.0% in 2018.

In 2017, Malaysia was ranked the 11th largest exporter of high-tech merchandise in the world (in terms of export value), up by one position from 2016.

The importance of the hi-tech sector, especially digital technologies, has been most apparent during the Covic-19 crisis when digital tools and platforms became enablers to mediate the effects of social distancing policies enacted under the movement control order.

People, businesses and governments became digital by default, opening up opportunities in local and regional markets where existing services were digitalised and new digital offerings were created to meet growing demand.

While certain sub-segments under the hi-tech and digital economy have benefited from the crisis (e.g. content consumption and grocery deliveries), the larger traditional non-digital economy needs to play catch-up to seize the opportunity and ensure resilience in the new normal. Government will play a critical role in helping citizens, businesses and investors to transform and benefit from digital economy.

The hi-tech and digital tech sector positions our nation as a hi-tech nation. Local economies benefit from the international reach that our companies create and the global investment they attract. They are able to do this by harnessing the world class talent this country offers, which allows them to take their Malaysian products and services global.

Clusters built around artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, cyber security and fintech are supporting growth, jobs and productivity in communities large and small. Backing the industries of the future is a key part of our modern industrial strategy to build a more resilient economy.

Every entrepreneur, innovator and employer in the tech sector and beyond can help make this happen. Together, we can build a stronger and fairer country. We can do this by ensuring that we continue to be a hub on the global stage, and connected with our fellow innovators.


Senior vice-president,

Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT)

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