Boldly going where few tech publications have gone before

  • Technology shapes nations and people; DNA’s mission is to stir deeper discussions, checking & balancing the news
  • Working with the best assembled team anyone can ask for; DNA has become an extension of my journalism career

Boldly going where few tech publications have gone beforePeriscope by Edwin Yapp

SO dear readers, now that you’ve read the two reflections written by my esteemed colleagues, Karamjit Singh and A. Asohan, you would think you’re in the know about the true story behind how Digital News Asia (DNA) was started, wouldn’t you?
Well, don’t get me wrong, as Asohan’s recounting of the facts was correct for the most part, save that line in which he said I said, “Wow! Whoa! We need to talk. Can we meet after the press conference?” – which was a bit of a stretch.
But unbeknownst to him and many of you reading this, the whole idea of DNA – which was a name coined by Asohan from a name he does not want to reveal (perhaps only after some drinks!) – actually materialised way back. 
In fact, the first time I had heard about DNA was at the most unlikely of places: Under a tree at the external section of the iconic Kanna Curry House, a famous banana leaf restaurant in Petaling Jaya.
Sitting there with Karam sometime in April 2011 discussing the up-and-coming World Telecommunication Day pullout, the six-foot-four editor of the then technology pullout, [email protected], said to me, “I want to share with you an idea I have in mind. I’m thinking of leaving [email protected] and coming out to start a new publication!”
Now that’s when I truly said, “Whoa, whoa!”
Those of you who know Karam will know that he can give you a deadpan look at times, but not this time as he sat outside with the sun in his eyes, passionately explaining to me why he wanted to kick off his own publication.
As he spoke more and more, I actually began wondering if Karam was off his rocker, or perhaps his meds, that morning.
After all, why would the founder and founding editor of a successful, iconic technology pullout suddenly want to leave his comfort zone, his job; and risk everything he has established over the last 17 years in his editorial career, to be an entrepreneur in his mid-forties, not knowing if he would be successful doing so?
For that, read his thoughts, if you haven’t already.

In any case, I went away thinking that while it was a bold step, Karam would not follow through with it.

But two months after that fateful day under the tree at Kanna, Karam, as he likes to say, “felt it in his bones,” believing that it was the ripe time to start a tech-based publication covering the ecosystem here, beginning with Malaysia and on to other markets later.
That was about the time Asohan was brought up to speed with this DNA project. And as they say, the rest was history.
So why DNA? As Asohan had already concisely explained, there was very little coverage of the enterprise technology scene, the business aspects of IT, the national policy facets of technology, or more critically, the Malaysian tech ecosystem itself.
Reflecting back, I too felt that way about the ecosystem.
While there was a great sea of news portals dedicated to consumer information and communication technology (ICT), which in themselves were important, there weren’t enough tech news portals aming to explain the true value of ICT to businesses, and how technology can transform organisations and economies.
This conclusion, while anecdotal, wasn’t without foundation, as I can say with conviction that this was my very experience covering the tech scene in Malaysia.
By the time Karam approached me with his idea for what would become DNA, I had already been covering the local ICT scene for a decade – half of which was with the now-defunct technology pullout In.Tech, the other half freelancing for half-a-dozen or so magazines, as well as being the Malaysian correspondent for regional news portal ZDNet Asia.
So while it was true that I may have ‘infected’ Asohan with the idea of starting this journey together, and while all three of us had our own reasons for doing so, we already had a common goal in mind – to stir up deeper discussions within the Malaysian, and South-East Asian, technology landscape.
And why do I think doing this is important?

There are many reasons, but suffice to say that the key one for me is my belief that technology in this new millennium has permeated into so much of our lives that we – whether individuals or organisations – cannot afford to do without it.
It has changed the way we live and forced us to be dependent on it, often in a positive way, though not always. It has influenced the very fabric of our socio-economicand political life, and will continue to do so in the coming years. Just take a look at the recent developments in Malaysia’s socio-political landscape and I dare say you’ll readily agree with me.
In this context, it becomes more imperative that news publications such as DNA, and others too if they come into being, become not only a conduit for which information can be explained and expounded to people, but also as a guardian – the ‘fourth estate’ as Asohan noted – watching the developments that are taking place in Malaysia and in South-East Asia, ensuring that checks and balances are maintained.
Boldly going where few tech publications have gone beforeThis, for me, is why DNA is important and why I have chosen to embark on this journey.
Of course, it has also been a dream of mine to come together and work with whom I believe are some of the best tech-based journalists there are in the country, and indeed in the region, in the form of the other three members of DNA: There is Karam and his passion, belief and deep insights into the local ecosystem; Asohan and his editorial excellence and invaluable experience as a veteran newsman; and Gabey Goh and her youthful Gen-Y exuberance and articulate self-expression. What more can I ask for?
On a personal note, I’d like to say that this journey with DNA has turned out to be an extension of my roundabout career switch in 2001. Some of you who know me personally will recall that I kind of ‘fell’ into journalism when I went knocking on In.Tech’s doors looking for a job as a tech journalist.
My friends thought I was crazy: Why would I switch to a career that doesn’t exactly pay well? I recall my interview with Asohan, then the editor of In.Tech, when he said, “You’re over-qualified for this job and there is no money in journalism – so, you sure you want this?”
Truthfully, I could have had a more lucrative career in the technical line, but I have no regrets. For journalism has given me back in other aspects, such as perspective, knowledge and a sense of being able to do something positive for society, which I may not have been able to do otherwise.
And because of this, I’m glad to be a part of DNA.
Finally, a special appreciative shout-out to Asohan, who was the one who hired me, believed in me, and gave me my first crack at tech journalism in In.Tech.
To him, I say this as we journey together: “I’ve never had a better time since switching careers as this has allowed me not only to reach out to audiences through journalism, but to use my tech background wisely to educate the public. And hopefully, we’ll do okay financially too!”
So as we reach our first major milestone, I on behalf of DNA, would like to thank all of you, dear readers, for making us one of your favourite tech reads for the day, believing in us, encouraging us to keep going, and supporting us in more ways than one – you know who you are!
On a side note, come join us at our special first-anniversary Disrupt session, which will discuss ‘Are you your startup’s worse enemy?’
We are capping the audience at 200, so please get your seat early with the RSVP. The venue is the Securities Commission Malaysia, Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, from 5:30pm-7:30pm, May 15. Join us, and go ahead and ask Karam all the tough questions you like.

Also, as an added bonus, all four of us in Team DNA, will be on BFM's Tech Talk segment this Thursday, May 16 at noon, to share our experiences on this audacious journey we've taken -- so stay tuned.
So now that the ‘third old man’ is done with his reflections, over to you, Gabey Goh .…

Team DNA picture above courtesy of The Malaysian Insider.
Related Stories:

DNA celebrates first anniversary with special Disrupt

When I stepped over the edge

One year on and OMG, we’re doing it!

Three old men, a girl and a tech portal

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