Move spearheaded by landowner Cyberview
MD Faris Yahaya feels city is at ‘tipping point’
WHILE its impact is not being felt yet, you can mark the shift in focus for Cyberjaya from being a national ICT (information and communications technology) hub to becoming a global tech hub as a significant moment in Malaysia’s technology journey.
Yet the new managing director of Cyberjaya’s landowner Cyberview Sdn Bhd, Faris Yahaya (pic), admits to “the word ‘hub’ sending chills down my spine.”
This is mainly in reference to Malaysia’s fondness for declaring its ambitions to be the hub for a multitude of verticals.
But Faris, who says that Cyberview will now downplay its property part and focus more on the tech component, is going to be guided by its new tech focus through the results of a study currently being undertaken.
“The study will take into account other past studies and will identify niches within the technology space that Cyberjaya can genuinely play a meaningful role in, and be a winner in,” he says, adding that any output from the research will be converted into an action plan.
Cyberview is a government-linked company (GLC) that is 92% owned by Malaysia’s Ministry of Finance, with about 5% held by property developer Sime Darby Bhd and the remainder by Permodalan Nasional Bhd, the Malaysian Government’s investment arm.
This new role Cyberview will play is the third permutation of its ongoing relationship with Cyberjaya, Malaysia’s premier smart city. Back in the 1990s, it first had a passive role of monitoring developments.
Then in early 2000, the Malaysian Government asked Cyberview to play a more active role in promoting the enterprise segment in Cyberjaya.
“And now, with this new direction, we are to help create an ecosystem and collaborate more than ever before with other players,” Faris says.
Describing Cyberjaya as a smart city at “the tipping point,” to Faris, the results of the new study that will be out in June, will demand Cyberjaya to build complementary parts to complete the cycle.
He sees the impending launch of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) as being one of these parts. “It will act as a catalyst and position Cyberjaya as an innovative and creative centre for both local and international talent.”
The diversity that this international talent presents, “provided it is of the right skills set,” is an important value-add for Cyberjaya as a future tech hub for the world, Faris feels.
He is happy to share that the city hosts 23,000 students, and boasts of the wide variety of the international student population, as well as his belief that these bright young Generation Y population will act as a critical talent pool for the 815 companies residing in Cyberjaya itself.
Even before Cyberview was tasked with building up Cyberjaya’s ecosystem role, it has been playing a role in the technology space by hosting and supporting 1337 Accelerator, launched in Cyberjaya in March 2013.
Managed by 1337 Ventures Sdn Bhd, the accelerator programme received funding of US$1.54 million (RM5 million) from the Government via the Ministry of Finance. The money will be spread over five years at RM1 million a year, with 20 app startups receiving seed funding of RM50,000 each.
Faris points to these activities and others, such as the hosting of a Lego Robotics event, as being beneficial to the ecosystem and promoting tech entrepreneurship.
Meanwhile on the investments that need to be made to make Cyberjaya a world-class smart city, Faris says he is aware of the realities on the ground and what the stakes are for Cyberjaya if it does not succeed.
“Someone has to accept that investments have to be made into Cyberjaya for it to live up to its ambitions,” he says, acknowledging that Cyberview has the most to gain and most to lose.
“We need to realise that the returns cannot match any tangible ROI formula and that even intangible benefits will boost Cyberjaya and attract the right key companies,” he says, highlighting that the city’s WiFi service served as a grim reminder to him of the task ahead during his first week on the job.
With only 22 current nodes, Faris plans to more than double the coverage and increase the speeds offered. He looks to San Francisco for inspiration.
“In its CBD (Community Benefit District), they have 10MB free WiFi and it is indefinite. So, why can’t we do it too,” he poses, adding that the speed in San Francisco is a reflection of what the city believes in.
With the right investments and focus area, he believes that Cyberjaya too can make its mark as an emerging global technology hub. He is also frank in his assessment of where Cyberjaya stands as a tech hub versus its ambitions by 2020: “We are not there yet.”
However, he also urges critics to be patient and to not doubt the sincerity of the efforts being put into helping Cyberjaya achieve its goals.
“Those efforts have been sincerely made and will continue to be genuinely made. I am happy to accept any criticisms made of Cyberjaya and will use them as an opportunity to improve things,” he declares.
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