Crowdsourcing off to good start in Malaysia, challenges remain

  • Digital Malaysia’s crowdsourcing project kicks off, but cultural challenges remain
  • MDeC working on bringing together all players to create the required momentum

Crowdsourcing off to good start in Malaysia, challenges remainCROWDSOURCING under the Digital Malaysia initiative may have got off to a good start, but challenges remain, according to the head of national ICT custodian the Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC).
“In fact, there are more challenges than anything else when it comes to bringing crowdsourcing to Malaysia,” the agency’s chief executive officer Badlisham Ghazali (pic) said after the inaugural Digital Malaysia National Crowdsourcing Conference held in Kuala Lumpur on June 10.
Digital Malaysia is a programme, launched last year, to transform Malaysia into a digital economy. Among its many initiatives was one focused on crowdsourcing and micro-tasking, specifically targeted at the B40 (Below 40) group, the lowest 40% of the Malaysian population in terms of household income.

The Development by the Community for the Community project, known by its Malay acronym Pokok (Pembangunan Oleh Komuniti Untuk Komuniti), is run by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
“More than 500 Malaysians have been trained and taken part in various micro-tasking projects, and our aim is to hit 340,000 of the B40 by 2020,” said Badlisham.
However, he acknowledged the difficulty the overall concept of crowdsourcing faces in Malaysia. “The culture of risk is not there – or rather, our culture must be shown the way, which was part of the agenda for this (Digital Malaysia National Crowdsourcing) conference,” he said.
Micro-tasking is one aspect of crowdsourcing; another popular one is crowdfunding. Sam Shafie, one of the founders of Malaysia’s first homegrown crowdfunding platform pitchIN, which saw only three of its 15 projects since its launch in June last year successfully hit their pledge targets, concurred with Badlisham on the cultural barrier.
“There is the cultural fear of exposing oneself publicly, or not wanting to fail in public,” he told a small media briefing after the conference. “Malaysians also fear having their ideas stolen, or when they fail in their pledges, there is also the fear of ‘losing face’.”
But when it comes to the number of failures on his platform, Sam did not spare himself either, saying that the No 1 lesson pitchIN has learned in the last one year is the need for constant engagement.
“Before the community will part with their money, they need to be engaged,” he said. “We learned that we, including the project owners, couldn’t just sit back after launching a pledge drive – we needed to constantly engage and communicate with the community,” he said.
Govt role not as driver
MDeC is trying to play its role by bringing together all three components of crowdsourcing – platform, suppliers and the side.
“It’s not just about creating greater public awareness, but also to bring in the other players into the system,” said Badlisham. “Individually, there is the desire on the platform side to expand the concept of crowdsourcing beyond what they’re doing on their own.
“Collectively, we can show there is momentum,” he said.
These players include those who provide the platforms, training and demand-generation, as well as the Government which will look at the supply side – the ‘micro-workers’ and training that is needed.
“Hopefully, you will see the culmination of these three components – supply, demand and platform – actually come to the fore, especially for the first Digital Malaysia project on micro-tasking under the Women’s Ministry,” Badlisham said.
The Government can also play the role of demand-generator, he added, noting the example of the USAID and its crowdsourcing project which was launched in the middle of last year.
Ross Dawson, chairman of Advanced Human Technologies and author of Getting Results From Crowds, said that USAID, which is tasked with disbursing funds for aid globally, has something like 110,000 loans available.
“They created a crowdsourcing project to cleanse that data, clean up the location and unstructured data that could get messy,” he said. “There were also 10,000 difficult loans to cleanse, and this wad one by the ‘crowd’ within 16 hours.
Dawson, also a renowned futurist and crowdsourcing expert, said this was all done within a tight framework of regulations covering privacy and user data, and showed that crowdsourcing could surmount regulatory challenges in much the same way the financial services industry did when it began outsourcing some of its work.
MDeC’s Badlisham noted that government could also play the role of demand-generator. “We’ll be talking to the Government on which portions of its work it can release to micro-tasking,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Women’s Ministry has a subcommittee looking into governance and certification.
“Trust is important on both the supply and demand sides,” said Badlisham. “So the Government is hearing from the industry on what level of governance should be put in place.”
He said the Malaysian public is wary of scams, so the subcommittee wants a framework in place for understanding contracts and payments, ensuring the quality of work and certifying the platforms “so there will be confidence.”
“These things are important. We can’t just facilitate and then wash our hands of it, or there will be a high degree of mistrust and the whole thing will crumble,” he said. “All this must be done in a collaborative manner; it cannot be driven by government.”

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