MDeC to move from Science to Multimedia ministry

  • Widely seen as positive move to deepen technology adoption
  • Concerns though over short-term impact on Digital Malaysia

IT has been an open secret that national ICT custodian the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) is going to be moved to the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia from its current ‘home’ in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI).
 
Digital News Asia (DNA) understands that the official announcement may happen as soon as today (Aug 26).
 
With this move, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia will bear the responsibility of being the key champion to drive ICT adoption in the country.
 
The sooner it is announced, the better. According to sources, the expectations of the move, which has been buzzing since late May, has delayed some plans with the national Digital Malaysia programme.
 
The programme, which aims to make Malaysia a ‘digital economy,’ has been particularly affected with a number of meetings and decisions around budgets and execution delayed since the May general election.
 
MDeC is the quasi-government body in charge of both Digital Malaysia and the earlier Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC Malaysia) project, which aims to develop ICT industry and skills within the country.
 
Factor in the inevitable settling-in period, and for officials from the new ministry to understand what MDeC is doing and how it gels with their existing plans, and the concerns are that more time could be lost.
 
It should be noted though that MDeC is playing the role of coordinating the various Digital Malaysia initiatives, with the execution responsibility held by various relevant agencies and the private sector.
 
Don’t even mention the talk already on the ground of the consolidation of overlapping programmes. This is actually one of the strengths of the move, according to various industry players DNA spoke to.
 
Yet it is inevitable that this consolidation will be a long drawn affair with no agency willing to concede its programmes without a fight. However, if the newly-minted Minister of Communications and Multimedia Ahmad Shabery Cheek acts with decisiveness and stands firm, then we could see things move speedily along over this overlapping part.
 
It should be noted that MDeC, which since 2004 has been under MOSTI, has a strong creative content component to its mission, with one of its three main clusters being the Creative Multimedia and Content cluster.
 
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the most prominent of the tech-centric agencies under the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, also has a strong content focus, with a content network fund too.
 
MDeC to move from Science to Multimedia ministryHowever, industry observers point to the warm personal relationship between MDeC chief executive officer Badlisham Ghazali (pic) and MCMC chairman Sharil Tarmizi as being a key factor in ensuring any consolidation between their agencies is carried out with the national agenda as the primary concern over any inter-agency squabbles.
 
One industry body clearly delighted at the move is the national ICT association or Pikom, which has been lobbying for the last five years for a single ICT ministry. This is a big step towards that, and a Pikom spokesman told DNA, “We welcome MDeC under the fold of the (ministry) as this will better streamline the ICT focus.”
 
While there is a concern over Digital Malaysia’s rollout affected in the short term, other observers see MDeC’s shift to the new ministry as an opportunity for the Government to re-emphasise its commitment to Digital Malaysia and its desire to deepen the use of ICT in all national initiatives.
 
Industry observers also expect MDeC to be able to focus more on the programmes it can deliver with greater impact, rather than delve into too many areas and dilute its efforts.
 
There will be loose ends to tie up for the move to be effective and to act as a boost to national ICT development. One of them is to transfer the ICT Blueprint which sits under MOSTI to the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia.
 
Overall, there is optimism that this is the right move to make, with industry players expecting Ministry of Communications and Multimedia and MDeC to have more of an impact with the various programmes to deepen ICT adoption into nation-building.
 
As Andrew Wong, founder of MAD Incubator and co-founder of BootstrapAccelerator Asia, notes, “When MDeC was established in 1996, it was an innovation-focused effort to propel Malaysia up the value chain and was ideally parked under MOSTI. But after 16 years, with ICT now quite mature in Malaysia, it is better driven by a ministry that is more ICT-skewed.”
 
The media will play its part too and keep an eye on the performance of the newly powered ICT ministry once the move has been formally completed. With this, the buck clearly stops at the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia’s door, and that is a good thing.
 
Related Stories:
 
The new science minister … who again? (Updated)
 
Digital Malaysia: Whither now, wither now?
 
For Digital Malaysia, MDeC plays role akin to Pemandu
 
Digital Malaysia should focus on ‘policies, not projects’
 
 
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