- The Malaysian digital ecosystem is slowly but surely evolving
- Tech incorporation into traditional industries is essential
IF I had a hard time choosing five articles for my Fave 5 in 2016 after writing for DNA for three months, imagine what a task this was after more than a year and with literally more than a hundred articles.
Unsurprisingly, the articles that stand out most in my memory are those I wrote towards the end of the year, but there are some from earlier and those really made an impression on me to have stayed in my sieve-like brain all this time.
Needless to say, these articles here are only five out of about a dozen of my favourites. I have not included my articles on gaming, cosplay and women in technology. What I have included are articles that came out of meetings with inspiring people and that show where the Malaysian and Southeast Asian digital economies are going and are capable of going.
Cradle’s CIP300 grant is more than free money
DNA covers a lot of news from Malaysian early-stage funding agency cradle Group, so the opportunity to conduct an intimate one-on-one interview with its vice president of Investment (Catalyst) Xelia Tong and talk about Cradle’s grants was an interesting one for me.
Tong explained how Cradle was starting its gradual move towards a grant-to-equity ratio from the current 50:50 to 30:70 by the end of this year, introducing smaller grants and a direct equity investment programme as part of its efforts to drive a maturing ecosystem.
She also said that Cradle is now expecting more even from early-stage startups and entrepreneurs in terms of direction, market traction and potential, as a reflection of how Malaysia’s ecosystem is evolving and the growth that Cradle wants it to achieve.
Michio Kaku talks digital possibilities
When the GECommunity Summit rolls around at the end of every year, everyone in the digital technology space gears up for a busy week. In 2017, the summit’s most exciting keynote speaker (in my geeky opinion) was theoretical physicist and populariser of science Dr Michio Kaku.
Also a futurist, Dr Kaku talked about where he sees the Fourth Industrial Revolution taking technology innovation, what skills people will need in the near future to stay relevant in the digital economy and what he thinks Malaysia and Southeast Asia need for Industry 4.0 to be successful.
I and a few other journalists had the opportunity to sit down with him and pick his brain about his thoughts on capitalism, education and how Industry 4.0 is affecting and will affect societies. That short interaction with him made me realise how Dr Kaku thinks not just about where current technology can go but really of the bigger picture – how technology affects people, society and civilisation now, in the near future and for generations to come – and what a privilege meeting someone with a brain like that was.
AI that enables the blind to ‘see’
Artificial intelligence was one of the buzzwords of 2017 and we will certainly continue to see more of it being incorporated into businesses, products and services this year. AI incorporation is still quite new, however, and there are still times when it seems that science fiction has come to life right in front of you.
This was certainly the case for me when Microsoft software developer Saqib Shaikh demonstrated his remarkable Seeing AI for me. Designed to aid the blind and visually impaired, the AI makes use of your phone’s camera to ‘see’ the world around you and then describes what it sees – spaces, things and people - in amazing detail.
Saqib, who himself is blind, believes strongly in the inclusiveness of technology and said that, because this is a human world, engineers have to create AI that is capable of working with humans. He also said something interesting regarding disability: sometimes it is the environment a person is in that disables them, which is why technology often has more far-reaching use than you might initially think.
Here is something I did not mention in the article: the AI described me so accurately to Saqib that it even got my age right, something that humans find impossible to guess.
Legal tech at the forefront
As I mentioned in my previous Fave 5 article, I can never escape my legal background. This is not necessarily a bad thing; my past sins give me better insight into the burgeoning (in Malaysia) world of legal tech.
This interview with senior lawyer Rajesh Sreenivasan, a partner in Singapore law firm Rajah & Tann LLP, opened my eyes to the vast amount of tech available for law firms and lawyers and to the fact that Malaysia is lagging behind its neighbour not just in terms of tech incorporation but also in a proactive regulatory environment.
Traditionally, the law and lawyers move very slowly but staying this course could very well spell death to the legal industry in this age of digitalisation; Rajesh told me that incorporating technology in law firms and everyday legal practice is not just a good thing to do, it is a must if the industry as a whole is to remain relevant.
If I may make a prediction, I would say we will be seeing more legal tech come into play in Malaysia in the near future. At least, I hope we will.
US$7.4 mil funding brings Zanroo closer to unicorn dream
Zanroo, a Thai insight discovery and marketing technology startup, was one of the few interviews I conducted with startups outside of Malaysia. This interview stands out to me because the founders Chitpol Mungprom and Udomsak Donkampai were two of the most dynamic and engaging people I interviewed last year. I could feel their passion for and conviction in what they are doing even over a Skype video call.
One interesting fact about the founders I did not mention in the article is that their nicknames, by which they are widely known in their local industry, perfectly reflect their personalities – Mungprom (the CEO) is called Fight and Donkampai (the CTO) is called Ome.
Fight and Ome’s dream is to make Zanroo the first Thai unicorn and they are already on their way to this goal, with strategic plans for further technology innovation and global expansion. Their business savvy and firm belief that Thai skills and capabilities can and should compete in the global arena are certainly inspiring.
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