Harnessing the power of Digital Malaysia [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) FACT 1: There are 14.6 million Facebook users in Malaysia, one of the highest in the world.
FACT 2: Of the 11.5 million people aged 15 and above who access the Internet from home or work in Malaysia, 92.4 per cent visit Google sites.
FACT 3: Malaysia has 42.6 million mobile users and 18 million Internet users, the latter rising to 21 million by 2016.
These are some of the staggering figures on the extent of social media and Internet in Malaysia, not to mention the number of Twitter users or YouTube viewers.
Malaysia may be ahead of some of its Southeast Asian neighbours in the shift from the "analogue economy" to "the digital age", harnessing latest technology, new innovations and better talent to drive business and generate the economy.
But in the scheme of things, we are still behind established players such as Japan, South Korea or Australia in the race towards creating a matured digital economy.
In order to support the growth of the digital economy, certain things need to be in place.
First, we should further encourage a higher penetration of smart mobile devices among Malaysians;
Second, social networking, supported by user-generated content, should be enhanced; and
Third, there should be a further push for cloud computing, which allows real-time access to big data with unlimited storage capacity.
Last but not least, we also need to facilitate what scientists called "Internet of Things", the convergence between the real and the virtual worlds. Apparently, more than 30 billion devices will be connected wirelessly to the Internet of Things by 2020, according to a research company.
The government has initiated a programme called "Digital Malaysia" to help leapfrog into the Digital Age.
According to the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), Digital Malaysia is a national programme to spur Malaysians to "create, innovate and grow using the power of digital - creating a better life for ourselves, innovating the way we work, and growing Malaysia into a vibrant digital economy by 2020".
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's "eye-opener" visit to the Silicon Valley last week en-route to the United Nations could not have come at a better time.
It was also a landmark visit by a Malaysian leader to the headquarters of Twitter, Facebook and Google, where Najib had separate discussions with Twitter chief executive officer Dick Costolo, Facebook chairman and chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg and top Google executives.
These high-level engagements came at the right time when MSC Malaysia and the level of broadband development (68 per cent take- up) spearheaded by the MCMC is reaching a "tipping point" where there is a need to focus on content and applications.
(MCMC, or the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, is the industry regulator.)
The Silicon Valley is clearly the global hub of tech innovations and home to tech giants, such as Google and Facebook.
These trips would provide an opportunity for us to forge a win- win partnership with Silicon Valley companies.
This should also support the Digital Malaysia agenda and the MSC 2.0.
Given that Malaysia is aiming for developed nation status by 2020, we have to link up with this global centre. Not taking this opportunity, may mean we lose what we have achieved so far.
Najib, accompanied by some ministers as well as MDeC and MCMC top officials, was clearly impressed with what he saw or heard.
"The experience is very interesting, an eye-opener not only for its products but also the lifestyle, especially the culture of innovation," he said.
"How do we promote the culture of innovation? It's not about the hardware, it's not about the regulations and incentives but also about the way of life and the culture of innovation which is important because that's the underpinning for innovation to really succeed," Najib told accompanying reporters.
Malaysia has already built a strong foundation for digital economy, thanks to the foresight and vision of then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
It is now up to Najib to take it to the next level. He has lined up a host of economic and government transformation initiatives and other MSC Malaysia flagship projects to support the digital agenda.
Target-wise, the government expects the digital economy to add 160,000 high-value jobs and contribute 17 per cent to the gross national income by 2020.
In the process, it hopes to move Malaysia, currently ranked 36 out of 70 top "digital" nations to the leading pack by 2020.
It is not a far-fetched goal. But it is not without hurdles and challenges.
There should also be a deep culture of entrepreneurship among information technology IT companies.
Start-up IT companies should not be penalised if they failed in their first attempt. IT funding for start-ups should not be limited to Malaysians or Malaysian companies. Non-Malaysian talent should also be welcomed.
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