At 5G big bash, Mahathir hammers home economic message

  • Sees in 5G opportunity for Malaysia to regain manufacturing prowess
  • With over 40 pilots on going, Langkawi gains moniker 5G Island

At 5G big bash, Mahathir hammers home economic message

IN AN event attended by the who's who of the Malaysian telco world, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed (pic, above) was the guest of honour at the 5G Demonstration Projects Ceremony in Langkawi last night. And just as Gobind Singh Deo, the Malaysian Minister of Communications & Multimedia and Al-Ishsal Ishak, chairman of the Malaysian Communications & Multimedia Commission have made clear in recent days, Dr Mahathir too made the point that Malaysia does not see 5G as a shiny new toy.

Rather it is a key foundation for Malaysia's economic strength, providing a set of tools for businesses and consumers to use to elevate their capabilities. Here, Dr Mahathir is adopting a page from his old playbook in seeing manufacturing as a key pillar to help raise incomes and living standards. He pointed out how, in developed nations, manufacturing has remained as a key source of innovation and competitiveness - with strong contributions to R&D, exports and productivity growth.

He acknowledges that the manufacturing sector in Malaysia has played a key role in turning the country into a major player in the global value chain. However, with the advent of  the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us, he poses a meaningful question.,"Are we ready for it? How do we leverage on this transformative technology to enhance productivity and growth?" And as usual, Dr Mahathir expects Malaysians to be ready, sooner rather than later.

And as the education minister to boot, his words on the vital importance of education being the key to unlocking the power of a 5G-enabled world, carried extra weight. Al-Ishsal, in his presentation, traced the economic growth of Malaysia and noted how from 1980 to 2000, it was industrialisation and manufacturing that powered the strong economic growth of the country. Yet, he noted that the current average growth of the manufacturing sector was below 5%.


At 5G big bash, Mahathir hammers home economic message


But with various technologies that can be unlocked with 5G, Al-Ishsal feels that there is great opportunity to reinvigorate economic growth with a revitalised manufacturing sector. Dr Mahathir wants to see a manufacturing sector that works to complement its human talent with technology. To him, education is key in ensuring that technology is able to benefit society.

"The understanding of technology among students as well as those who are in the workforce cannot wait. It has to be emphasised and promoted now," he stressed. At the same time, only 27.4% of Malaysian workers are college graduates. Dr Mahathir  knows he has to increase this number and sees the advent of 5G as giving youth enough incentive to reskill themselves, especially those in his constituency. He is MP for Langkawi.

With the slew of 5G pilots being conducted on the island, it is little surprise that Langkawi has become recognised as the first 5G island in the word. For the locals on the languid, idyllic island, nothing may really change. However, for service providers, it will be a stressful three months as they run their use cases and refine their pilot networks, all with an eye to launching their enterprise services by 3Q of this year.


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