Week in Review: All eyes will be on Sarawak as it stakes digital economy ambitions

  • New chief minister aims for state to develop into a digital powerhouse
  • Key to appoint young leaders with entrepreneurial background to head new agencies

ITS broadband penetration is at 51.8% while average speed is 4.0 Mbps, both below the national average. And it keeps losing the young talent from its six universities to the bright lights of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. But this has not deterred Sarawak’s new chief minister, Amar Abang Johari Openg, from ambitiously staking a claim in the digital economy as a bedrock of his development plans for the future of the state.

Determined to show that he meant business, Amar had his people scrambling to organize an international digital economy conference on April 3 & 4 (within the first 100 days of his leadership) where DNA was also invited to speak, moderate and prepare a report summarizing the key suggestions the various speakers and panelist had for Sarawak. The headline speaker was author and futurist Don Tapscott.

Amar himself was full of sound bites with both his conference opening and closing filled with strong statements of intent about his seriousness in moving the state to becoming a digital economy player. Fully serious, he said, “We aim to move from electrical power to cyber power to brain power and to become a digital economy powerhouse.”

Well aware that the connectivity infrastructure in the state is seriously lagging behind, Amar had, even before the conference spoke about the state needing to rely on its own resources to quickly get its infrastructure to global standards with the state willing to contribute US$225 million (RM1 billion) to this with the federal government matching it.

At the closing of the conference, in front of an audience of over 1,000 people, he again announced the state would be putting up RM1 billion and doubled down on his digital economy ambitions by announcing the state was creating its own Sarawak Multimedia Authority to regulate ICT infrastructure and digital technology utilization and forming the Sarawak Digital Economy Corporation. Oh, and it is also setting up its own development bank, to fund many of the upcoming digital economy projects. He is that serious.

Now that he has excited his state, comes the hard work of wrapping a plan around the digital ambition and then appointing the right leaders for these two agencies to start executing. I hope he picks young dynamic people with entrepreneurial experience to lead these two agencies. Picking civil servants who will not have a sense of urgency will be a bad move.

But for sure, all eyes will be on Sarawak now as the state, also known as The Land of the Hornbills, with only 2.8 million people, famous for its rainforests, abundance in hydro power and natural resources, turns to its people and global talent to help drive it into the Digital Economy. I wish them luck!

With that, I hope you have had a restful weekend and here’s wishing you a productive week ahead.

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