As the world moves towards a digital economy, ideas and technology will be a nation's primary export, not physical resources or capital, predicts Tencent Holdings senior executive vice-president Lau Seng Yee.
He says by 2025, a common focus for many economies will be on white collar jobs working hand-in-hand with artificial intelligence (AI).
He adds that modern factories will depend more on 3D printing rather than a traditional assembly line to produce consumer products.
Lau, 54, is also Tencent group marketing and global branding chairman and was recently selected to join the sovereign wealth Khazanah National's board of directors.
"Our country's future doesn't rely on how we can develop the domestic economy, it hinges on the international digital economy," he said at the Digital Dialogue Series held at National University of Malaysia (UKM).
A UKM alumni, Lau shared about how his interest in AI lead him to tech companies and eventually Tencent Holdings, even though his degree was not in the same field.
He added that anyone could get into the field even if they had a foundation in something else.
Part of the Tencent top management steering committee since 2006, Lau served 11 years as the president of Tencent Online Media Group before assuming dual chairmanship corporate roles in 2017.
The forum, which attracted hundreds of students, also featured Naluri Hidup chief executive officer Azman Osman Rani and KiddoCare CEO and co-founder, Nadira Yusoff who talked on life lessons and digital entrepreneurship.
The Digital Dialogue Series is part of the Digital Native Agenda 23 (DNA23) initiative – launched in March to bridge the digital gap, it calls for “digital have-nots” to be included in the nation’s digital economy agenda.