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A high bar set for Malaysia’s digital transformation

  • MyDIGITAL, in ensuring alignment, minimising duplication, advices state govts
  • Aiming to be a Top 10 nation in IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking

A high bar set for Malaysia’s digital transformation

Eyebrows were raised recently in Malaysia when it was revealed in Parliament last month that 199 apps were built by 94 different government agencies as of end June 2022.

Although government data shows that the apps have been downloaded a total 63 million times, some angry netizens have panned the efforts as being wasteful, duplicated and not delivering value to citizens.

The eagerness to go out and build apps, many of which do not serve the public that they process to be built for, shows that a clear gap exists in understanding the fundamental difference IT Transformation and Digital Transformation.

At a glance, one could be mistaken for thinking they are both the same and it is just a matter of semantics. But that would be wrong.

There are actually three main difference between IT and Digital Transformation.

  • IT transformation focuses on IT priorities which could be about prioritising cost, capacity, speed etc, while digital transformation focuses very much on customer priorities and works backwards to ensure the tech can support this.
  • The second difference is an interesting one. The only people who really care about IT transformation are those who work in IT. Meanwhile, everybody, both inside a company as well as its customers, partners, vendors, etc – care about digital transformation.
  • Thirdly, IT transformation has a clear, end state. Digital transformation, on the other hand, is an ongoing process of dealing better with change over time, and thus has no end state.


An under-appreciated, though key role of MyDIGITAL Corporation

Deep-dive workshop held in March 2022 which aims to improve Malaysia's competitiveness performance in the IMD World Digital Competitiveness ranking.

[Ed: An earlier version of the caption was wrong. The error is regretted.]

Bridging this gap is among the under-appreciated roles of MyDIGITAL Corporation. Tasked to deliver on the objectives of the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MDEB), MyDIGITAL Corporation has been working diligently to align the MyDIGITAL initiatives with the various state government strategic plans.

In a situation where each State feels they have the best plan to execute, such a task requires patience, persistence, offering support and encouragement in behind the scene settings. This also includes aligning with the National 4IR Policy that was launched a few months after MDEB and which falls under MyDIGITAL’s purview as well.

Ensuring progress and monitoring execution of both MDEB and 4IR Policy, while offering support, is the National Digital Economy and 4IR Council (MED4IRN), the highest governing body set up to determine policies, execute and monitor strategies and initiatives on the digital economy. 

With a seat at the table of this key body, ensuring progress, unblocking obstacles, MyDIGITAL, in ensuring alignment and avoiding/minimising duplication, provides advice, creates opportunities for collaboration with various stakeholders such as potential investors, the private sector, associations, state government and their agencies, including clusters under the MyDIGITAL/4IR.

Read Also: MyDIGITAL to transform Malaysia digitally by 2030 | Digital News Asia

MyDigital with local authorities in Manjung.

Many moving parts need an anchor yardstick – the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking

A quick read through of both the MyDIGITAL/4IR initiatives will immediately make evident the many moving parts of both. MyDIGITAL itself has six strategic thrusts, 22 strategies, 48 national initiatives and 28 sectoral initiatives. To expect the public to sustain interest in its progress and demand progress requires a yardstick that is independent and competitive in nature.

Hence the government has, informally, targeted for strong improvements in some annual digital, global competitiveness rankings with the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking being a key benchmark. This reflects the Government’s seriousness in transforming Malaysia into a high-income nation that is digitally forward and globally competitive.

MyDIGITAL plays a coordinating role between the EPU (Economic Planning Unit), relevant ministries and agencies on the monitoring of Malaysia's international ranking concerning digital competitiveness.

The bar is not set low, for those concerned that the government, to demonstrate progress, will set easily achievable targets. How about aiming to be a Top 10 ranked nation in the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking?

As the table below shows, Malaysia has been slipping in the rankings over the past five years, from 24th to 27th, so there clearly is a lot of hard work and going beyond the call of duty commitment demanded in order to reach the aspired Top 10 target.

And this also means that the transformation into a Top 10 ranked digital economy demands that improvements must be made in a comprehensive manner. A world class infrastructure and connectivity network has to be in place first as the foundational block.

Hence, the key role of the Digital Infrastructure and Data Cluster (IDD), led by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia Malaysia or K-KOMM.

With the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) as a key agency of K-KOMM’s to ensure the IDD is executed, the Jalinan Digital Negara plan (JENDELA) has been running as a lynchpin plan to support the nation’s digitalisation efforts and bridge the connectivity gap in the country.

The good news is that Malaysia's 4G coverage has reached 95.7% as at 31 March 2022 under Phase 1 of the JENDELA initiative. More than 7 million premises already have fibre connectivity, though closing the final 4% will be a Herculean challenge.

But that final connectivity aside, the MCMC does work together to promote all rakyat including those in rural areas to participate in digital economy activity through community touch points – Pusat Ekonomi Digital Keluarga Malaysia (PEDi).

This crucial 95.7% foundation in place thus allows MyDIGITAL to focus on the layer of services and work with key stakeholders to trigger digital innovation in delivering services and products.

The future is promising. That top 10 position though will require much work ahead. But you can be sure, MyDIGITAL, engaging with its various stakeholders, is up to the task.

Fabian Bigar, MyDigital CEO with an executive from the Sabah state government.


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