IN 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore raised 25 times more capital for tech start-ups than Malaysia. Indonesia managed to raise 22 times more; Vietnam, the Philippines and even Myanmar all eclipsed Malaysia – which only out-paced Cambodia amongst its Asean peers.
By this measure, the institutions charged with modernising the economy – the Malaysia Digital Corp (MDEC) included – need to up the ante, and up it quickly.
Yet changing this dynamic and bridging the gap defies any simple quick-fix; it calls for a grassroots change to take hold in the mind-set of society.
As the digital age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) dawns upon us, it foretells a society evermore deeply integrated with technology.
It is the mission of Malaysia 5.0 that this interplay of technology and society be inclusive and equitable instead of further widening the gap between the haves and have-nots.
In doing so, it aspires to unify society beyond creed and colour identities towards common shared values that promote shared prosperity.
Powerful technologies of 4IR such as AI, block chain, and IOT will usher in digital transformation of society with the potential to decentralise data into the hands of the people creating it for the first time in the human experience, resulting in a democratisation of sorts of information.
It is the critical task of MDEC to equip the rakyat with the tools and skills to not only navigate 4IR in the disruptive era ahead but to thrive and to enjoy personal progress and economic growth at every level of society, leaving no one behind.
We have announced MDEC’s "Reinvent" mission nearing its 25-year Silver Jubilee anniversary this year, heralding a paradigm shift to prepare for the uncharted terrain of the new normal, that will linger around longer than many would have expected.
Our Reinvent mission calls for a new approach and fresh perspectives needed to establish the digital economy as a key driver of the nation’s growth.
The key hallmarks of the mission are:
1. Radical transparency and good governance;
2. Education from primary to tertiary (university); and
3. Collaboration within the government and across the private sector.
Expanding on the above and undertaking an independent holistic governance review to recalibrate our capability and capacity to deliver on our Reinvent mission, MDEC has naturally seen human capital movement at all levels allowing us to now bring in leading industry-focused talents and technocrats.
This is in addition to the many amazing talents already at MDEC.
The second hallmark is comprehensive and wholesome education to increase public understanding of 4IR technologies and make 4IR technologies easily available to SMEs (especially small and micro-SMEs which have the greatest risk of being left behind as 4IR tech is widely implemented).
The third hallmark involves extensive outreach and engagement to instil interest and integrate advanced technologies across all sectors of the economy thereby ensuring equitable and inclusive growth and development of under-served segments, especially in the rural areas.
4IR has the power to change this with a new narrative to move society beyond the informational age and into the ideal age of 4IR and digital transformation - Malaysia 5.0 as we have termed it - in which society is at the center of technology, not the other way around, and data is decentralised into the control of its creators so they can monetise it for themselves.
Admittedly these are gigantic tasks beyond the capability of any one institution. It has to be inter-ministry, intra-ministry, inter-governmental agencies and intra-governmental agencies without any silos.
We envisage MDEC’s role as one amongst many in the peer group leading engagement of all levels of society to partake in and contribute towards the new mindset required to sustain Malaysia 5.0, where society is deeply integrated with technology, governed by inclusive and equitable "eco-vironmental" principles and practices.
In my incoming role as MDEC chairman, I have taken this narrative forward as Malaysia 5.0, which engenders a participatory culture in which social benefits belong to the people and serves the common-wealth of a nation.
It has three main components: firstly, instilling a new core identity philosophy that transcends individual and societal divides and upholds the value of shared prosperity.
Secondly, adopt, value-add and produce digital transformation and 4IR technologies centered on solving eco-vironmental problems.
And thirdly, produce well-rounded citizens who are well positioned and empowered to face, navigate and thrive 4IR.
The goals of Malaysia 5.0 include encouraging growth and progress for all; deep integration of 4IR technologies at every level of society: individual, industry, government and environment; and transform and reform the national education system to reflect ground realities (4IR) from primary school to tertiary education (university).
4IR and digital transformation are inevitable global phenomenon and Malaysia needs to embrace it via taking the appropriate action under the vision of Malaysia 5.0 and embark on it immediately, so as not to be left behind.
As the saying goes, “Time and tide waits for no man”
Dr Rais Hussin is the president and CEO of EMIR Research, an independent think-tank focused on strategic policy recommendation based on rigorous research. He is also the MDEC chairman.
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