KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysians have not fully accepted the need to digitise the economy despite the fact that the various stages of lockdown during the current Covid-19 pandemic forced many Malaysian businesses to go online.
Leading technology experts say that while infrastructure is in place, Malaysian businesses risk being left behind if digital solutions are not fully adopted.
“If you ask anyone today if in the last 13 months or so if they have done any transaction online you will find that nine out of 10 people would say yes.
“So the digital infrastructure is there but we need to immediately embark on the embrace of the digital economy in a wholehearted way,” he told Malay Mail in an interview.
Dr Rais Hussain, the chairman of MDEC, said that in terms of infrastructure Malaysia was ready as a country, and the only thing left is for Malaysians “to walk the talk.”
He said that if Malaysia did not quickly and fully embrace the digital economy, the country could end up lagging behind other countries when global markets are already driven by digitised systems.
“If you don’t do it now and fast, you will end up becoming a digital colony of others.”
“As we speak, a lot of trading online is done through international portals, but where are our own platforms? There is Agoda.com out of Thailand, Traveloka out of Indonesia, and Booking.com from Singapore.
“Where is Malaysia’s travel platform? That’s billions going out of the country,” he added.
He urged all relevant stakeholders, ministries, non-governmental organisations, universities and start-ups to cooperate with each other in the push to fully digitise the economy.
“Are we doing that? That is a question that we need to ask especially with the syllabus in universities which traces back to the ice age,” he said.
Rais was interviewed as the government prepares to launch this Friday a new national blueprint to chart the path for Malaysia’s digital economy.
On Friday, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is set to launch MyDIGITAL and the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint.
Cloud Technology and Analytics Specialist Fedelis’ senior consultant for Cloud Adoption Vincent Choy told Malay Mail that while Malaysians have the tools in hand, they have not mentally accepted the fact that there is a need to digitise the economy.
What is happening now is that people are only switching or replacing methods of how they function on a daily basis but without fully transforming or willing to adopt digitised methods, he said.
“Especially during the Covid-19 period, you see people are just switching or replacing physical presence with digital format.
“In the school context, instead of seeing the teacher in person, you are meeting the teacher virtually, but this is not digitally transforming,” he said.
Choy cited a recent example of a lecturer who was teaching for two hours online without realising that his device was on mute.
He also pointed to another recent case when a popular restaurant in the city centre here began taking orders online but could not cope with the influx of orders.
“These are only a few examples of how the society is not really transforming because if you were to conduct a lecture online, and if you have fully adopted the system, you would have conducted a lecture in a more interactive manner.
“As for restaurants that have recently gone online to take orders, they have to think about how they can scale their restaurant to cope with the system, how to ensure that the kitchen is internet-ready and can cope with the new normal,” he said.
Choy said the whole of society needs to be on board with any digital economy blueprint and have the willingness to move together.
“My view is that, for those who are not willing to adapt, they have to start somewhere, or forever be pushed out.
“There are grants and incentives at hand by government-linked agencies, but you have to take advantage of it,” he said.
For those who are concerned with failure, Choy said in this brave new world, there is room for mistakes, but one must first take that step to make that first mistake otherwise they cannot improve or become better.
“It’s almost impossible to get it right the first time, but the faster you get over the first try and with the second try you will become better,” he added.
As an expert in the digital industry, Choy said IT solutions use to be very expensive, but that is no longer the case today and this has helped ease and speed up daily company operations.
“Today, the same Google software you are using is the same one as AirAsia is using.
“So what is stopping you?” he said.
On the part of the government, Choy said they too have to play a part in adopting digitised ways of handling daily operations.
For example, file sharing and electronic signature.
“Is the government open for me to electronically sign a document or do they still want me to physically do these things?” he said.
He also cited rural areas where Internet reception is a problem, hindering schools from conducting hybrid classes or when recently during his visit to factories in Klang, he found that some still did not have high-speed internet.
“But I’m optimistic, through the course of my work I have been able to compare customer mindsets and I see that Malaysian customers are a bit more open minded towards technology adoption for example e-wallet services.
“We are halfway there,” he said.
Watch the virtual MyDIGITAL launch – Friday, February 19, 2021, 9.00am at www.epu.gov.my.