Digerati50: ‘Break things before they get broken’

  • Trying to help education providers find right “psyche and culture” to produce entrepreneurs
  • Launched cloud-based platform, EduCloud, to deliver all activities linked to education

Digerati50: ‘Break things before they get broken’

Digital News Asia (DNA) continues its series that profiles the 50 influencers who are helping shape Malaysia’s Digital Economy, from Digerati50 2018-2019 (Vol 3), a special print publication released in March 2018. The digital version can be downloaded from the link at the top right corner of the page thanks to the sponsorship of The Center of Applied Data Science (CADS) ASEAN's first and only one-stop platform and center of excellence for Data Science.

For information on customised reprints email [email protected]

"IF you look at education, people think going to university for four, years is now obsolete."

This is the opinion of Dr Abu Hassan Ismail (pic), one of the founders of Multimedia University and the former Dean of the Faculty of Creative Multimedia (a name that he coined).

He believes universities produce poor entrepreneurs. "I think the psyche and maybe the culture in the system are not there to support enterprise culture," he conjectures.

Abu Hassan feels confident saying this because he left academia behind in 2003 to become an entrepreneur with his Prestariang Bhd which he listed in 2011. Staying true to his roots as an educationist Prestariang started out as an education services and training company offering certification of various technical programmes as well as selling Mac machines to the government.

Citing statistics that 20 percent of those in the database of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation or known by its Bahasa Malaysia acronym, PTPN, are not currently working, he argues that education providers should adapt better to what industry needs. Instead of thinking about careers three years away, they need to cater for immediate demand even three months down the road.

Deciding to do something about this, in Jan 2017 he set up a cloud-based platform called EduCloud, to deliver education over the net with partners Alibaba Cloud and Conversant Solutions. EduCloud is a single platform to deliver all activities linked to education and related services including campus management, teaching and learning, entertainment, digital payment, and many other services.

"This is how knowledge will be delivered in the future," says Abu Hassan confidently.  "If we can do it better, cheaper, faster, why not?"

Meanwhile, no one can talk about Abu Hassan’s Prestariang without talking about the 2016 deal he won based on the PPP (Public Private Partnership) model worth RM3.5 billion over a 15-year concession with the Ministry of Home Affairs to implement a new immigration system called Sistem Kawalan Imigresen Nasional (SKIN).

"The new concept is about pushing your border as far away from your country as possible," explains Abu Hassan about the system expected to be fully commissioned in 2020. "Screen them before they board the plane."

One of components of SKIN will be a risk assessment engine to help flag potential troublesome visa applicants that will be implemented in 37 embassies around the world. "It's about how you put intelligence around data," he says.

But Abu Hassan understands that the real value of SKIN will be the people involved. "In SKIN, the change management (will be) one of the biggest ever in the country." The plan is to involve the 13,000 personnel who make up the Immigration Department across the country.

His conjecture is that it’s the people that tend to be the sticking point, rather than the technology.

It is with this mind-set that he still participates with the more traditional educational institutions in roles as diverse as a Council Member at Taylor's University, an Adjunct Professor at Universiti Teknologi MARA, as well as serving on the Board of Governors of University Malaysia of Computer Science & Engineering.

He also encourages lecturers to prepare students to be future entrepreneurs with a pragmatic mind-set. For example, lecturers should form a company together with their students, in the process coming up with a good idea, pitch for funding, and put real money at risk. This is where you get real learning for the students, he believes.

Abu Hassan himself is wired up this way. "For me, I've never done anything well that I didn't do badly first. I have to learn,” he says. “I'm excited about the culture of unlearning and relearning," he confides.

He is trying hard to encourage people to learn not just from their own mistakes, but also that of others. "What are the companies I don't want to be like?" he asks. "If I don't transform I will end up like them."

But he admits that success also makes people afraid to try something new, lest they lose what they already have. Still he stresses: "Break things before they get broken. I think that's where success meets risk and you know that that is the future."

As arguably the most successful academic turned entrepreneur in the country, that may well be advice well worth following.

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