Challenges industry associations to be more specific in the issues they want resolved
MDeC still very much relevant even with Digital Malaysia introduced
“IT is not 1996; you entrepreneurs and your industry associations are all more seasoned now. You have to better articulate what you need,” challenged Datuk Badlisham Ghazali, Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) chief executive officer at the recent inaugural DNA-TeAM Disrupt networking session.
Ganesh Kumar Bangah, CEO of MOL Global was the other speaker for the night where the topic of discussion was: With Digital Malaysia, is MDeC still relevant?
To cut to the chase, the answer was, “Absolutely!” But the evening of sharing, learning and growing also threw up various questions about MDeC and its role in regards to the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) and Digital Malaysia.
I felt that most of the questions were answered but some were just beyond Badlisham to address, especially those with regards to deep structural issues in our business environment.
Badlisham (pic, left) took all the questions and challenges very well, including those from his fellow panellist Ganesh. But I also felt that he is now clearly at the stage where he just wants to get things that are within his purview done.
He is tired of hearing, probably, the same old complaints or even new issues brought by entrepreneurs but which he cannot possibly tackle within the scope of MDeC.
He has also moved on from the perception about MDeC not having as much clout as it used to. This is, I suspect, purely down to the fact that it is not an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department, from where it began life in 1996. And to the fact that the prime mover behind MDeC’s existence is no longer the then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
But life goes on. Business goes on. And Sham, as he is popularly called, has never dwelt on this issue as he came into MDeC in 2008 when it was and still is under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
Hence his “It’s not 1996” challenge.
He gave the example of the creative content industry which identified a policy change that needed to happen for it to be able to access a larger pool of talent. MDeC then went out and made this happen, claims Badlisham.
Basically the industry wanted to be able to hire foreign students majoring in the creative arts/multimedia media, right away. But the previous policy, painfully outdated it must be said, had it that international students must return home after graduation and can only return to Malaysia for employment after two years’ experience.
MDeC has now basically got a policy change approved where the creative content industry can hire up to 1,000 foreign graduates a year right after they graduate from any Malaysian institution.
These are the type of interventions Badlisham is challenging the audience to come up with and not be fixated with issues way beyond his scope of authority. “We want to hear from industry associations. Be more specific in articulating your member needs and understand our processes and how we can move the agenda forward.”
But clearly, larger structural issues still gnaw away with probably the desire to have one all-encompassing IT ministry as the solution that many seem to think will wash away the issues impeding the breakout growth of smaller dynamic Malaysian tech companies.
It has to be said that Pikom, the National ICT Association of Malaysia, has been a loud and persistent voice in articulating the need for this ministry and yes, Ganesh, a Pikom council member, did bring it up.
In fact Ganesh (pic above, right) even threw Sham a curve ball by suggesting that a specific Digital Malaysia ministry be set up to ensure a laser focus on the execution of the Digital Economy Framework of which Digital Malaysia is the anchor.
Sham’s response was simple and to the point. “Look, I can focus my energy and my agency on structural issues or I can focus on what needs to be done to move the industry forward. I choose to focus my energies here; truly I am no politician. If you want to wait for the perfect structure, you will not move.”
He adds that it will likely take 110% of his time to work on any deep structural change, “which means you won’t see me [working for your immediate needs]. So which is better? I came from the tech industry and I think the industry is more important than structure.”
Sham also shared that from his experience, the present structure still works. “We still have the Implementation and Coordination Meeting (ICM) which the Prime Minister chairs and selected cabinet ministers sit in. Decisions and policies are decided on MSC and Digital Malaysia with the best interests in mind.”
Sham feels that as long as the Government commits to this program of ICT transformation, that this is way more important than structure.
Ganesh interjected here to say that he does not totally agree. But you had to be there to understand the gist of his argument (hint, hint).
Sham also clarified that Digital Malaysia is Malaysian economy focused, while the MSC is about creating companies that can compete and win in the tech ecosystem. And while MDeC is the common driver for both, when it comes to Digital Malaysia, the various agencies and ministries that are already deeply involved in areas Digital Malaysia has programs in will be the natural champions and project owners.
For instance, on Sept 13 Digital News Asia wrote about SME Corp and its CEO Datuk Hafsah Hashim talking about the Digital Malaysia entry point project ‘Enabling ePayment for SMEs and Micro Enterprises’.
But really, there was a lot more that was shared during Disrupt. I would recommend that you look out for the next one in October and make that a must-attend experience.
Monday: Digital Malaysia not about projects
Digital Malaysia should focus on ‘policies, not projects’
TeAM and DNA out to ‘Disrupt’ the ecosystem