DNA on BFM: In Malaysia, women are rocking IT

  • The CEOs of two of the most impactful government agencies are women
  • Oh, but some guys did good too, and how Pikom ‘has found its voice’

DNA on BFM: In Malaysia, women are rocking ITTODAY’S Tech Talk show on BFM was different because: 1) Our formidable founder Karamjit Singh was not around, so it was left to me to entertain BFM presenter Freda Liu; and 2) It was essentially a ‘Year in Review’ look at the Malaysian technology ecosystem.
Of course, we didn’t get to cover everything that has happened over the last year. There were so many developments that this would have been an impossible task anyway – which just goes to show that, while fraught with ongoing issues, it continues to be a very vibrant and dynamic sector.
As with many other developing economies, in Malaysia, the Government continues to play a very important role in the technology scene. But it only occurred to me halfway through the show that two of the most impactful government agencies are run by women.
Yup, women CEOs (chief executive officers) are rocking it in the local tech scene.
Put one of that in the past tense though: One of them was run by a woman. By now, it’s old news that Cheryl Yeoh is leaving her post as CEO of the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC).
While MaGIC continues to deny it was facing pressures – at least, on social media and some blogs – the fact is, as a government agency, it did. But you cannot lay this on Yeoh’s shoulders alone either: She was given a mandate when she first took the post. And she has delivered.
The Asean-wide MaGIC Accelerator Programme took off, and while its impact will not be felt for a few years, it helped position Malaysia as a regional startup hub of sorts. Singapore will continue to be the hub (for the next few years at least), but at least now Malaysia has been noticed too.
There were a whole lot of other MaGIC successes and developments, some of which we briefly touched on, but the one major development – which both Freda and I agreed deserved more publicity – was Malaysia launching its Social Enterprise Blueprint 2015-2018.
MaGIC was appointed the lead agency to drive this, and even formed a special Social Enterprise unit – MaGIC SE – to coordinate it.
The other female public sector CEO who rocked it was of course Yasmin Mahmood of Malaysia’s national ICT custodian Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC).
Sure, I had my doubts when Yasmin was first appointed to the role, and will continue to question some of its initiatives – my main criticism usually revolving around whether it is the right agency for the task – but she has certainly done what any good CEO should do: Made her mark.
Under her stewardship, MDeC has played a key role in seeing Malaysia launch its National Big Data Framework and the National IoT Strategic Roadmap, and has deepened some of the Digital Malaysia programmes involving the B40 group (the bottom 40 of society in terms of household income).
I did note that many of these initiatives were begun or mooted during her predecessor Badlisham Ghazali’s time, but BFM’s Freda rightfully pointed out that this is another mark of a good CEO: To build on your predecessor’s foundation, and then take it to new levels and directions.
Meanwhile, the ICT Association of Malaysia (Pikom) has also seen a change of guard, with chairman Cheah Kok Hoong’s term just being completed.
Cheah believes he could have done a better job, but we also discussed how, over the past few years, Pikom – which describes itself as ‘the voice of the industry’ – has been increasingly finding that voice, especially over national policy and industry issues.
I have no doubt that his successor CS Chin will continue the good work of both Cheah and his own predecessor Woon Tai Hai.
Finally, you cannot speak about the startup scene in Malaysia without talking about GrabTaxi and its funding success.
While I can fully empathise with my founder Karamjit’s regret that GrabTaxi does not officially acknowledge how Ministry of Finance agency Cradle Fund gave it a leg-up in its early years, both Freda and I agreed that what CEO Anthony Tan is doing with his startup – moving it to Singapore and allowing itself to be referred to as a ‘Singapore startup success story’ – makes good business sense.
And that is a fundamental issue that the new MaGIC CEO – whoever he or she may be – will have to tackle.
For all this and more, click on the podcast below:

Previous Instalments:
Three telcos, a bank and you, the customer
4G bragging rights and Maslow

Why no Asian interest in iProperty?
The real challenge is within
What’s Next dominates the conversation

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