When Ernst & Young (EY) recently released a study, which confirmed that digital resilience has risen to the top of the post-pandemic recovery agenda, several industry leaders told me they envision resilience as both a strategic and tactical goal.
According to Susanna Lim, Partner, Consulting, Ernst & Young Advisory Services, “The key risks outlined in this new report echo consistently across the telco sector in Malaysia and the region. The Covid-19 pandemic has cast a spotlight on issues such as digital infrastructure, network returns, the digital divide, consumer protection, data privacy and security, sustainable talent pipeline and new areas of stakeholder scrutiny, including regulation, among others.
“It is therefore critical, particularly given the increasing competition around emerging technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), that communications providers continue to assess the evolving dynamics and understand the interplay between them as they look to respond and thrive beyond,” she added.
Writing in Forbes, customer experience futurist Blake Morgan agrees that without the cloud, companies would struggle to share and collaborate on information during a crisis such as the current pandemic. Real-time wouldn’t be as easy, streaming would be a problem, smartphones wouldn’t be smart, and rapid data a challenge – to name a few.
In any crisis, the word ‘resilience’ tends to become a much-touted buzzword. Even before the release of the EY study, Telekom Malaysia’s (TM’s) enterprise solutions arm, TM ONE had urged a more in-depth focus on strategies that build resilience coupled with digital transformation to sustain growth into the future.
The telecoms sector has largely coped with addressing the surge in demand with traffic spikes of up to 70% during initial Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns around the world.
Connecting the dots
During an online discussion on sustaining and redefining productivity, hosted in May 2020 by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), TM ONE’s Executive Vice President & CEO Ahmad Taufek Omar, pointed to the importance of starting from “the people, circling out to the office, the community” in adapting and forming the ‘new normal’ – or ‘next normal’ of working and living.”
“The economy is of course more than people meeting each other – it is about how people reach and connect to other,” Ahmad Taufek said.
When detailing how the Telekom Malaysia Group is stepping up as the national telco provider, both Ahmad Taufek and Mohamad Rejab Sulaiman, TM ONE’s Head of Internet, DC and Cloud underlined the importance of using the cloud to advance frontier technologies – including as Big Data, AI and IoT – to better prepare Malaysia’s organisations to be ‘future-ready’ and to ensure a safe working environment for employees and visitors to facilities through health screening and monitoring systems.
Ahmad Taufek pointed to another example: a smart digital health screening solution – TM ONE Predictive Analytics Screening Solution, or ONE PASS, – which screens the body temperature of individuals as they enter business premises.
“[This is] a purely local product developed by our own software designers, software architects and coders, ONE PASS is aimed at providing business continuity for organisations to declare their building as a ‘safe zone’ to work by implementing state-of-the-art health screening solutions,” Ahmad Taufek explained.
ONE PASS is described as a non-contact connected solution with three main digital service features such as visitor management, thermal sensors, and monitoring and contact tracing. The real-time digital solution includes an employee and visitor management app for self-declaration assessment and deployment of thermal cameras and sensors to check body temperatures before entering a building.
Turning to the vital role of industry and enterprise, he stresses: “The enterprise and public sectors in Malaysia are significant catalysts to inspire transformation into other areas of business and societal life.”
“We are moving into the new era of digitalised industries at these levels. The knock-on effects include reviewing skillsets and continuing to address issues of connectivity in rural and semi-urban areas.”
“We are seeing surges and paradigm change,” he adds. “Online eCommerce in Malaysia increased by 50% in just two months this year over the whole of last year. TM’s focus will be to become more agile, and we are boosting cloud services to address the demand. Cloud is the platform enables digitalised working.”
Rejab recently noted that global internet exchange operator DE-CIX saw data traffic rise 20% for its internet nodes worldwide since March — comprising 50% rise in video conferencing traffic, and a 25% increase in cloud gaming.
“Concurrent with this, at TM, we have seen more than a 30% increase in usage trending during the Movement Control Order (MCO) era. Fortunately, our extensive, and diverse network connectivity both nationwide and worldwide, has comfortably supported sudden spikes in internet bandwidth demands.”
This scenario is confirmed by the Malaysia Internet Exchange, MyIX, that reported the highest-ever peak of internet traffic at 532Gbps after the start of the MCO on 18 March 2020 – an increase of 6.4% from 2019’s highest traffic peak point record of 500Gbps.
“Many companies have enhanced adoption of cloud services to bolster their digital infrastructure backbone to more efficiently support remote working – as well as to deliver digital services to their customers,” Rejab said.
“In Malaysia, we find that Software as a Service (SaaS) accounts for about 50% of enterprise expenditure on cloud computing, while spending in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) is expected to rise due to increasing demand from enterprises looking for more cloud storage, compute capacity, cloud-based database, application development software, and analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities.”
Securing the journey
Ahmad Taufek also recommends ‘changing the rules of the game by first taking time to select the right technology partner and then the right cloud configuration as a foundation from which to achieve resilience and build a secure space for transformational steps into the future.’
He stressed the importance of considering cybersecurity as both a strategic as well as tactical goal.
Malaysia’s National Cyber Security Agency (NACSA), and Malaysia Computer Emergency Response Team (MyCERT) have recently released warnings of the increase of scam campaigns and phishing attacks. This heightened wave targets personal identifiable information (PII) by using Covid-19 fears as bait.
Both Ahmad Taufek and Rejab point out that security steps today “are simply part of the critical planning and implementation that businesses must utilise when scaling up their IT capabilities. This is especially true considering that digital identity is expected to become a foundation layer for all things that we do online and will be another aspect of multiple levels of security measures.”
In addition to scaling up layers of cybersecurity provisions, education has proven to be key. Increasing our people’s awareness about today’s highly sophisticated attacks, such as personalised spoofing, is a must.
Ahmad Taufek opines: “The country and companies are largely on the right path and on the right traction to move forward. We still need to get things done, so digital is the way to go.”
The digital journey extends into the future, and he points out: “Digital, of course, goes beyond purely having a conference call. Many challenges and opportunities are coming towards us, and we are continually asking questions such as ‘What is next? How will daily life change for people’.”
“We need to have a strong, solid platform in order to work from an application level. Cloud Alpha’s robust and resilient infrastructure is hosted in our highly secured, Tier III certified, and global standards-compliant data centres within Malaysia,” Rejab has said.
One positive sign is that multiple cybersecurity technologies are currently being tested in the market. Blockchain authentication, for example, holds some potential to address password issues as well as to provide a more secure and advanced login method.
“Migration, disaster recovery and data centre extension are among the main hybrid cloud services available delivered with the same look and feel across the board,” he said.
Building the post-pandemic future with cloud
On the path to enhancing resilience, in addition to selecting the right partner, ensuring security and team education, one of the key questions TM ONE is asked is: ‘Where is the data residing?’
“Data sovereignty is on a par with security and privacy. TM ONE is the only provider currently that has full data sovereignty in Malaysia. This is important to shield data here from laws applicable to other territories.
“Part of our job as a responsible corporation is to deliver that sovereignty,” said Ahmad Taufek explaining that TM ONE has its own data centre assets established many years ago – joined most recently by the addition of a Twin Core Data Centre in Cyberjaya as well as Johor last year.
The track record of continually establishing new hosting facilities – which enable co-location and cloud-related facilities, essential for software services – has proved a double blessing in the light of the current tumultuous year.
“Additionally, the keywords of ‘long term’ are reflected in our vow to be partners throughout our partner’s journey. We work with all the major brands – especially as a collaborator – such as Microsoft, VMware, and recently Huawei – to offer complete, end-to-end cloud services.”
Rejab noted that the establishment of the new data centre adds another milestone for TM ONE as this strengthens their full cloud capability as a core offering to contribute and drive cloud growth in Malaysia, which is expected to increase at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27% in the next five years.
Reiterating his comments during a recent MDEC roundtable discussion, Rejab also recently stressed to media that ” despite today’s extremely challenging times.”
“A future enterprise demands the acceleration of digital transformation to be more nimble, innovative all powered by the cost-efficient – OpEx engine of the cloud. This approach also opens to emerging technologies such as AI and data analytics. “
Ahmad Taufek concluded with stressing that the key is to “assess your business requirements and objectives in detail – with our assistance – formulate the best journey to implement the right mix of cloud solutions. As a key enabler of Digital Malaysia, TM ONE is on a mission to build ecosystems to advance digital society, digital business, and digital government in the country.”