Malaysia’s digital economy on a slow and steady incline
By Anushia Kandasivam February 7, 2017
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THOUGH Malaysia is a relatively young player in the digital technology world, it is not a baby. In fact, the country can be said to be emerging from toddlerhood slowly but steadily.
It was only in 2011 that Digital Malaysia, the national programme to advance the country towards a developed digital economy by 2020 was introduced. Part of the bigger National Transformation Programme, Digital Malaysia has seen policies put in place to enable the creation of an ecosystem that promotes the pervasive use of digital technology.
Five years on, Malaysia is in a position where things are already moving along. Government policies and initiatives, aided and promoted by bodies such as the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDeC) and more recently the Malaysia Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) were and have been put in place to ease the transition into digital technology and enable future growth in this area.
Already, the nation’s economy seems ready to leave behind some of its neighbours who have been slower to get on the digital highway. But how far ahead is Malaysia really?
Organic growth is key
A successful startup ecosystem is one that is in a cycle of growth, development and evolution, and that needs little or no push from the government to continue this movement.
One of the most important pillars of such an ecosystem is collaboration – startups that are able to solve the problems of the communities they are in and obtain community support at the same time. According to CEO of MaGIC Ashran Ghazi (pic), this is a vital measure of success: looking beyond how the ecosystem as a whole is doing and examining how startups and communities interact and behave with each other.
“Looking at Malaysia, I think this is how we will be able to create sustainable growth moving forward,” he says.
Ashran says that relying on the government to continuously inject policies, funds and other initiatives to drive growth is an unsustainable concept. Instead, when growth is driven by the community it is steered by market forces and experiences much more natural advancement.
However, to achieve this, the Malaysian government, through MaGIC, is still in the stage of rolling out initiatives that connect the players – entrepreneurs, investors and communities – enabling collaboration and creating opportunities for growth through various accelerator programmes leading up to the time when the ecosystem’s movement has enough forward momentum to ride on market forces alone.
Taking a closer look again, Ashran says that for these initiatives to work and goals to be reached, Malaysian entrepreneurs must be able to identify opportunities in the market; diagnosing a problem in the community and then solving it correctly and systematically is an essential skill.
“We cannot afford to be random about this. If we are able to harness the entrepreneurs with the talent to take whatever opportunities they see out there and run with it, our goals can be reached,” he says.
Next page: Harnessing the right talent