Malaysian minister proposes open data exchange

malaysia data digital
Malaysia’s Minister of Communications and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo addresses Digital Transformation Asia 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, November 13, 2018.

In his keynote address at Digital Transformation Asia 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s Minister of Communications and Multimedia Gobind Singh Deo announced an open data exchange platform for the country. Could this signal the re-emergence of Malaysia at the digital forefront more than two decades after the country established the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) back in 1996?

Gobind Singh Deo announced the new initiative in collaboration with Malaysia’s Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) and Department of Personal Data Protection (JPDP). He did not announce specific details of the plan because, as he made clear to journalists just after his speech, the ministry and its agencies are still studying the process and mechanisms for the initiative.

“I have to bring the matter to the Cabinet in the first quarter next year,” he said. “If the Cabinet approves, we can start working on it. It takes time. I think if we look at other parts of the world, some countries have already started it.”

A new digital age

The proposal could be heralding a new digital age for Malaysia, one that will hopefully build on its MSC Malaysia predecessor. Many companies are taking advantage of the incentives, rights and privileges afforded under the MSC Malaysia Bill of Guarantees (BoGs) but the aim is to increase this. According to the Government’s Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), there are currently 3,241 active companies with MSC Malaysia status, and the initiative has generated a total of RM47.1 billion in revenue and creation of 167,044 jobs.

Now the government wants to unlock more of the trillion-dollar opportunity and dive in carefully but ambitiously.

Gobind Singh Deo made the announcement on the same day he told reporters at the Pikom Leadership Summit 2018: “We seem to have dropped behind. As such, we have to find ways to make Malaysia a champion again and become a leader in the industry in the future.”

What’s different?

One problem with MSC Malaysia has been that the government tried to create an IT entrepreneurial hub from scratch (this is noted in a report from Malaysia’s Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs – IDEAS). This digital initiative could be different because it extends far beyond simply trying to make the city more digital. Instead of simply offering incentives to business as MSC Malaysia does and introducing an open data platform, the government is now pursuing multiple strategies (see below).

“I don’t view the internet as a privilege which is accessible to only those who are deemed as economically viable by those who provide internet services, but rather I take it as a right of every citizen of this country,” Gobind Singh Deo said.

He laid out five building blocks that he believes need to be in place for this to be achieved:

1. High-quality, world-class infrastructure (affordably priced)

The Malaysian government launched its National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) in October this year reducing broadband prices, which in turn has stimulated higher demand of fixed broadband services. The government is pursuing an ambitious plan to connect the entire country in three to five years at world-class standards.

“I look forward to a day when I see long houses in remote areas and micro businesses in all parts of the country connected to the internet allowing everyone to participate in the digital economy effortlessly,” Gobind Singh Deo said.

2. Developing tech talent

“My ministry continues to seek ways to develop our tech talent we have in pace together with the ministry of education, programs that emphasize computation thinking from an early age,” he added.

The ministry has expanded its programs from primary and secondary schools and continues to work with universities to develop programs that can provide the talent required for tomorrow’s industries. It’s also now looking to partner with a new and innovative schools for those between the ages of 18-30 who want to develop their tech skills.

“I pledge to leave to no one behind, every person of any age [will have] an equal chance to participate in the world’s digital economy,” Gobind Singh Deo said.

3. Enhanced cybersecurity

The ministry has been championing the cause of cyber security through cross-border cooperation and cooperation with law enforcement, and Gobind Singh Deo implored companies to leverage their vast and valuable networks and resources to formulate and devise a platform to fight cyber crime.

“Cybers ecurity issues are not purely a technological issue and we all need your help to look at frameworks and best practices for managing cyber security risks,” he said. “As for my ministry, we will strike to be vigilant and also ensure that our strategies, systems processes and organization are at the forefront of combating what we now describe as cyber crimes.”

4. Developing platforms and enablers such as digital ID, open data and open APIs

Tuesday’s announcement is a step toward a more technologically open Malaysia.

5. Legislation, regulation, policies and industry structure that  support the growth of the Malaysian digital economy

Gobind Singh Deo believes that government must play a role so that no one is left out and left behind in this new digital era.

“Some call it regulation, and when I speak of regulation, people say that’s not something you want to look at, other describe it as incentives. Either way, I think we all have to look ahead, in 10 years we want to make sure all of us here are proud of our achievements,” he said.

This includes ensuring that even citizens in the deepest jungles of Malaysian Borneo, where networks may not profit or could even lose money providing connectivity, can participate in the digital economy.

“If you ask the telco to wire up a particular area, the first consideration in their minds is the commercial benefit; perhaps rightly so,” he said. “But the question is: Do we then leave the rural and remote folk behind?”

He is asking the industry to step up.

“I’ve articulated what the government intends to do to increase digital adoption, but as all of us know, this is only half the story. We need the industry to step up and be a partner to the government,” he said.

“We need you to evangelize, educate invest and of course show the people of Malaysia how widespread digital adoption is not only good but an absolute necessity in the current world. Many countries around the world have created industries which we can say lead the way.”

He concluded: “Apple, Microsoft, Alibaba, Tencent, these organizations did not wait for government grants incentives or programs to change the world; they did it out of passion to see widespread user technology in the daily lives in each and every one of us. Maybe they did it for profit, or for altruistic reasons, or both. Either way is was the industry’s passion that changed the world, and I think it’s the same passion that will change the future and the way all of us live our lives, this is the passion I would like to see from the industry.”

Arti Mehta, editor of TM Forum InformWritten by Arti Mehta, editor, TM Forum | Original story posted at TM Forum Inform

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