“We work with big companies, start-ups and a wide range of ecosystems; as such, the objective now is to bolster our team and continue hiring, ’’ said MDEC CEO Surina Shukri. IF the pace of digitalisation in 2020 was hectic, the challenge in 2021 and beyond would be to scale up on the momentum and deliver on the impact. Having cultivated the technology industry, foreign investments and start-ups, it is now time for Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC) to solidify the technology industry. For more effective delivery of digitalisation services, MDEC is working to change mindsets and break silos among ministries and agencies, and find new ways of doing things with less resources and within half the time. Apart from speed and effectiveness, the challenge in the digital transformation of companies is to ensure good co-ordination and communication internally within MDEC itself, by an execution-oriented team. The management team at MDEC is being expanded to include professionals with fresh ideas, expertise as well as industry and operational experience. “We work with big companies, start-ups and a wide range of ecosystems; as such, the objective now is to bolster our team and continue hiring, ’’ said MDEC CEO Surina Shukri. With a strong background in investment and commercial banking on Wall Street, Surina, also an active investor in blockchain, wants to contribute towards nation building and is brimming with ideas on improvements on all fronts. As a lot of focus is placed on the digitalisation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), MDEC is also looking into faster delivery of the smart automation and small business digitalisation grants. This includes working with various partners that have the same goals and want to provide the technology support that SMEs require. Currently, the smart automation grant is part of the RM100mil allocation within the National Recovery Plan (Penjana). The SME digitalisation grant will provide each company with a 50% matching grant, up to RM5,000, for the approved adoption of digitalisation capability. For 2021, the allocation for SME digitalisation has doubled from RM140mil. With the increased focus, companies of all sizes – be they micro-SMEs or SMEs – will receive some form of assistance from technology solution providers. SMEs will also be trained to use and engage with digital tools for, among other things, payroll and data systems. Amidst all these plans, Surina has identified the changing of mindsets as a key factor. “Digitalisation for SMEs can be an overwhelming topic. We try to make it easy and deliver to them in bite sizes, as we work towards changing their mindset to think of savings in the long term, via digitalisation, ’’ said Surina. For 2021, there will be more intense training for SMEs to re-invent themselves digitally, through the SME digital accelerator programmes. Under these endeavours, SMEs are trained to think holistically about how to improve their businesses, while being exposed to the various digital tools. Participants in this accelerator programme are given a step-by-step approach to adopt digital tools and work on a small projects, aimed at solving their business pain-points via digitalisation. The goal is to ensure that they gain an immediate return on investment after the three-month “boot camp” accelerator exercise. These SME accelerator programmes are open to traditional businesses with the focus on the food and beverage, retail and logistics sectors as well as professional services. Once they sign up, these SMEs will work with established private sector companies that have existing accelerator programmes like the UOB Finlab Jom Transform initiative, said Surina. Following the training, participants had experienced a 30% increase in productivity through this platform. SMEs that have gone through this accelerator programme include Serai, myBurgerLab, Alien Logistics, VCR, and Big Onion Food Caterer. The first phase of digitalisation saw MDEC helping to onboard 145,000 SMEs onto e-commerce platforms, and getting many micro-SMEs to consider and engage e-commerce services too. To date, there are over 20 e-commerce local and international platforms that include Grab, Touch ‘n Go and Maybank, helping to train and onboard these micro-SMEs. There are also 416 technology solution providers, including banks and telcos, helping to scale some of the programmes. This includes assistance in providing support capabilities and developing their own accelerator programmes for SMEs. “Resulting from the pandemic, the pace of digitalisation had changed in 2020, and we were firing on all cylinders. It was as if, suddenly, SMEs realised how important technology is to them, and thus, we were experiencing demand for digitalisation services, non-stop. “It is no more ‘why’ we need to digitalise, it is now all about ‘how.’ “Being aware of this, we had very quickly mobilised the know-how and connected the dots, ’’ said Surina. To further enhance the digitalisation and automation of Malaysian businesses, MDEC also advises the government on working with venture capital firms that are keen on investing in start-ups. This had resulted in the RM600mil investment fund called Penjana Kapital. Some of these initiatives will drive up Malaysia’s investment capabilities. This is positive, as currently, competition to attract digital investments within the region is intense. In attracting and building new technologies as well as navigating regulatory reforms, the challenge is to provide a stable and friendly environment. Among Big Tech ecosystem players that have partnered with Malaysian firms to provide jobs for the local workforce include: > Global internet giant Ten Cent Cloud, which had signed on with Green Packet as its partner for cloud computing development in Malaysia. > ICT infrastructure and smart devices provider Huawei Technologies and its collaboration with Serba Dinamik to develop digital solutions via the adoption of Huawei Cloud and Artificial Intelligence. > Operating systems technologies provider Thundersoft which had added Penang as one of the sites for its global research and development centre. > Clarivate Analytics which had also picked Penang for its global business centre. With Malaysia on track to being the hub for digital investments in Asean, MDEC is working hard to develop a holistic approach that will be used to drive forward the digital economy and its socio-economic transformative agenda. This mainly involves establishing next-generation digital alliances, creating more public-private collaborations and developing digital skills for all Malaysians. In line with the government’s aim to ensure shared prosperity among all Malaysians, MDEC ensures there is adequate focus on all levels of society. This ranges from talent development to business empowerment, and MDEC being the primary “go-to” body for those who need both skill sets or are keen to do more in this growth sector. Yap Leng Kuen is the former business editor of StarBiz. The views expressed here are her own.
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