KJ: To really support local tech talent, we need to put our money where our mouth is

  • MYHackathon 2020 about digitalising govt services with solutions from rakyat
  • 1,850 submissions, 36 winning ideas, 18 pilots - hoping for govt procurement

KJ: To really support local tech talent, we need to put our money where our mouth isOne of the key shifts that has occurred during the pandemic is the acceleration of digital transformation in what, Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, has described as being “in a decisive and often permanent manner”. This means that many of the adjustments we have made to become more reliant on technology for working and socialising will be here to stay even once the pandemic abates.

Malaysia is no different and the past year has brought into sharper focus how much, or little, our government has done in going digital. While there are many success stories of reducing common pain points (renewing driving licenses, paying for traffic summons, etc), these are no longer ground-breaking and there is much more that can be digitised and digitalised. A recent audit showed that only 49% of federal government services were available end-to-end online (based on an internal study by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation).

One way to rapidly do this is to crowdsource solutions from the public. Afterall who better to tell the government where and what the pain points are and how technology can be deployed to solve them. While we do have efficient and dedicated people in government looking at administrative modernisation, the process is often slow and incremental. We need to short circuit and disrupt this process.

The MYHackathon 2020 idea was first presented to further accelerate the digitalisation of selective government services delivery in response to the ‘new normal’ brought about by Covid-19 pandemic. The initiative, announced on 5th June 2020 by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as part of the Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA), is driven by the delivery of services most affected during the movement control order (MCO).

MYHackathon 2020 is Malaysia’s first national-scale hackathon involving not only technopreneurs, innovators and subject matter experts but also concerned Malaysians from all walks of life, to come together to co-create digital solutions that will help improve the delivery of key government services.

While we wanted to crowdsource ideas from Malaysians, we also were cognisant of the need to align this with national objectives. We started by syndicating with relevant ministries to identify 100 problem statements based on the most pressing concerns faced by the rakyat. The problems statements were gathered from all levels of government from Federal, to State, to Local/District and were categorised under six themes, to be hacked at six different locations across the country as follows:

1. Kuala Lumpur on Rakyat Prihatin, focused on solutions to ensure timely assistance to B40 (Bottom 40%), OKU (the physically challenged), senior citizens, and even refugees and migrants;
2. Kuala Terengganu on Rakyat Sihat Sejahtera, looked at enhancing the healthcare sector service level, and inculcate a culture of wellness through digital engagement;
3. Johor Bahru on Ilmu Pelita Hidup, focused on enhancing the education system and quality via digital channels, enhancing capacity building and welfare for educators;
4. Kuching on Bina Negara, for solutions to improve govt-2-citizen business processes, deploy efficient business models and cost management, and gather accurate data for planning of the nation’s infrastructure development programmes;
5. Penang on Inovasi Asas Pembangunan, looked at the contribution of innovation in driving economic growth and address socio-economic challenges; and lastly
6. Kota Kinabalu on Rakyat Produktif, zoomed in at simplifying and streamlining government service that can increase productivity.

Over the course of six months, we received 1,850 submissions from teams all over Malaysia for both Sprint and Marathon categories. These ideas were screened before the selected teams had to go through a week of coaching and mentoring sessions with industry-best coaches, and later further screened to determine only the best went through to the Bootcamp Webinar before finally pitching in front of juries during the Final Pitching day that was held on Jan 26.

The chart below illustrates MYHackathon 2020’s breakdown by numbers:

KJ: To really support local tech talent, we need to put our money where our mouth is

Due to the ongoing pandemic, this series of hackathons (six in total) was run 90% online, giving the opportunity to as many Malaysians to access the event to pitch their ideas before a panel of judges.

At the end of the programme, 36 home-grown winning ideas were selected across Malaysia in the two categories of Sprint and Marathon. The 18 winning Marathon teams will be building their solutions until the pilot deployment stage for the next 12 months. Each of the 18 also received US$61,400 (RM250,00) grant.

[Ed Note: The funding for this came from Ministry of Finance's PENJANA plan, not Cradle's budget] 

The chart below illustrates the breakdown of the winning ideas selected and currently in line to be developed nationwide through its respective ministries and agencies:

KJ: To really support local tech talent, we need to put our money where our mouth is

I had a chance to interact with the winners during the finale webcast. I was impressed but not surprised by the talent we have because I know we have world-class talent. The issue is whether we recognise and nurture them in an enabling environment. If we don’t, they will simply move elsewhere and Malaysia will lose.

Among the winners are ideas that will digitalise services for the disabled community making it easier for them to get support; a blockchain-powered solution to store antenatal and vaccination data; a learning platform using sign language in augmented reality; an automated road inspection solution to fix potholes so I don’t have to crash my bicycle for it to be fixed overnight; and an online platform to match demand and supply for small farmers.

Where do the winners go from here? Apart from Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd organising for them to pitch to potential investors, we will also put some of them into the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS). Further funding from NTIS can be considered on a need basis and meeting the NTIS eligibility criteria. And, I hope government can procure their finished solutions to deploy at a mass scale. If we really mean what we say about supporting local tech talent, we need to put our money where our mouth is.

One final thought. While observing the many ideas that came out of MYHackathon, it cemented further my belief that we need better data governance. Sure some government data is confidential and sure some raw data needs to be processed and curated before sharing but the principle going forward is we should share more. The more data government gets out there the more solutions can be developed. An API economy will explode with innovators monetising the data and creating exciting products and services. If we want technology to drive our economy in this new future, this is the way to go.

More information on MYHackathon 2020 at showcase.myhackathon.com.my

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