Allocations in Budget 2021 look set to beef up the country’s tech industry, with money pumped into Internet connectivity, online education, entrepreneurship and cybersecurity.
To recap, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz, when tabling Budget 2021 on Nov 6, announced that RM500mil would be allocated towards the National Digital Network Initiative (Jendela) to improve connectivity in 430 schools and that RM42mil will go towards improving Internet connectivity in 25 industrial parks.
Students in tertiary education would receive direct aid, to purchase laptops for online learning through an RM100mil allocation for the BSN MyRinggit-i Comsis scheme.
The scheme, for students who had taken PTPTN loans, would enable them to get the funding through Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN).
Government-Linked Companies (GLC) and Government-Linked Investment Companies (GLIC) would also be contributing RM150mil into the Cerdik Fund to provide laptops to 150,000 students in 500 schools as a pilot project that will be supervised by Yayasan Hasanah.
Telcos would also be assisting the public to get Internet access, with the companies expected to set aside RM1.5bil in benefits, including free mobile data.
The management of Maxis, Celcom and Digi said they were in talks with the Finance Ministry on how they could aid the B40 group through the Jaringan Prihatin programme.
The programme would also see the government offering RM180 telecommunication credit for eight million individuals under the B40 group.
The credit could be used to support the purchase of an Internet subscription plan or subsidise the cost of a new smartphone.
Beyond Internet connectivity, it was also aiming to aid social enterprises (SE) with RM20mil allocated to the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) for its work in fostering the industry.
The budget also introduced the government e-procurement impact programme (e-PIK), which called for SEs to supply it with goods and services in total of up to RM20mil per year.
MaGIC CEO Dzuleira Abu Bakar revealed the initiative will begin its pilot phase next year to establish a viable proof of concept by testing the programme among eligible SEs and a few ministries.
So far MaGIC has accredited 29 SEs, while a total of 330 such companies have received training through the centre.
Another agency receiving budget funds was CyberSecurity Malaysia (CSM), which got RM27mil to strengthen the nation’s cybersecurity.
“The allocation is a recognition for CSM and it clearly shows that the government is committed in addressing and preventing cybercrime threats, and ensuring the existence of a safe and conducive cybersecurity infrastructure in Malaysia,” said its CEO Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab.
He noted the Cyber999 Help Centre, where users can file reports on matters related to computer security, saw a 3.1% increase in reports compared to last year.
Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) also received RM100mil, to transition the nation’s existing workforce to jobs in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry.
Its CEO Surina Shukri said the corporation would work with other stakeholders to expand its digital talent development programmes beyond the current initiatives for students from Premiere Digital Tech Institutions (PDTI).
Surina said MDEC would also support businesses to adopt automation and digitisation through various new funds like the SME Digitalisation Grant Scheme and Smart Automation Grant (SAG).
Separately, MDEC appointed four new members to its board of directors, which included AirAsia Group president (AirAsia Digital) Aireen Omar, Artificial Intelligence in Medical Epidemiology co-founder Dr Dhesi Baha Raja, AXA Group Asia Market operations general manager Farouk Peter Lee and AHB International Bhd director of legal and administration Jaleeludeen Abu Baker.
In a statement, MDEC chairman Datuk Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff said the new appointments would recalibrate and diversify the composition of the board of directors to strengthen its mission to bring the benefits of digital technologies and solutions to all levels of Malaysian society.