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Dig­i­tal Transformation

MyDIG­I­TAL can pow­er up Malaysi­a’s econ­o­my, but imple­ment­ing it effec­tive­ly is cru­cial to its success



Krish­na Paupamah

Founder/Group CEO

“If you build it, they will come.”

That say­ing came to my mind when Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter, Muhyid­din Yassin announced the Dig­i­tal Econ­o­my Blue­print (MyDIG­I­TAL) on 19 Feb.

When I think about MyDIG­I­TAL, I pic­ture a high­way being built on vir­gin land. After it is built, town­ships will form along the stretch; busi­ness­es will soon pop up to serve these com­mu­ni­ties. Years after, the econ­o­my along the stretch is booming.

There are big plans ahead to devel­op and enhance the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions (espe­cial­ly 5G), cloud tech­nol­o­gy and dig­i­tal con­nec­tiv­i­ty infra­struc­ture of the coun­try. These are the bricks of the dig­i­tal high­way that will help Malaysia attract invest­ments and enable the local econ­o­my to pros­per. This, in turn, will improve the lives of Malaysians and pro­vide them with more opportunities.

How­ev­er, while tech­no­log­i­cal infra­struc­ture is impor­tant and plays a big part in MyDIGITAL’s suc­cess, much work needs to be done before things are built.

Like any dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tive, the suc­cess of MyDIG­I­TAL lies in its exe­cu­tion. I’ve seen com­pa­nies loose hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars because a dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tive was bad­ly imple­ment­ed. For a coun­try, the amount could end up being in the bil­lions. So, the stakes are high.

But first, the good news

Before I explain fur­ther, let me first high­light the good things I picked up from Muhyiddin’s speech.

For one, I’m real­ly glad that the prob­lem of the dig­i­tal divide is being acknowl­edged, and that there will be a plan to address it. Dig­i­tal lit­er­a­cy is impor­tant; it will ensure that every Malaysian gets to ben­e­fit from the devel­op­ment and it cre­ates a work­force for the dig­i­tal econ­o­my. Also impor­tant is the mes­sage that MyDIG­I­TAL will only suc­ceed if the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor gets involved. All these are crit­i­cal fac­tors to con­sid­er when imple­ment­ing the plan and should not be ignored.

And here’s anoth­er impor­tant note: The Gov­ern­ment is very clear about what it wants to achieve through MyDIG­I­TAL. Some of these include:

  • 22.6 per­cent con­tri­bu­tion to the GDP from the dig­i­tal econ­o­my by 2025
  • 500,000 job oppor­tu­ni­ties in the dig­i­tal economy
  • 5,000 start-up com­pa­nies to begin oper­at­ing in the next five years
  • RM70 bil­lion new invest­ments in the dig­i­tal sector
  • 30 per­cent high­er pro­duc­tiv­i­ty in the eco­nom­ic sec­tor by 2030

You’d be sur­prised, but many com­pa­nies embark on a dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion ini­tia­tive with­out hav­ing a clear idea what ben­e­fits they’d like to achieve through it. Is it a sur­prise then when the ini­tia­tive ends up not fur­ther­ing the company’s goals and vision? Worse, it often intro­duces new prob­lems and the com­pa­ny has to fork out mil­lions to solve it. So, I’m glad that the Gov­ern­ment is clear about what it wants to achieve. We can work towards a goal more strate­gi­cal­ly and effi­cient­ly when it is clear­ly defined.

Prepar­ing the road ahead

Before a high­way is built, a care­ful analy­sis will be done to deter­mine impacts on traf­fic, ecol­o­gy and the econ­o­my. Is the high­way even needed?

In my expe­ri­ence, when it comes to projects, not enough time is spent on this stage.

MyDIG­I­TAL needs the same care­ful analy­sis and plan­ning before a sin­gle wire is con­nect­ed. The most impor­tant ques­tion to ask before any­thing begins is this: Are we clear on what the nation needs, not what we want?

A prod­uct that doesn’t address con­sumer need tends to flop. An infra­struc­ture roll out that doesn’t meet the needs of the peo­ple ends up being a white ele­phant. So, the Gov­ern­ment and busi­ness­es must clear­ly iden­ti­fy Malaysia’s needs and dif­fer­en­ti­ate it from wants.

Here are some poten­tial challenges:

  1. What are the gov­ern­ment process­es that will make MyDIG­I­TAL pos­si­ble? Are they effi­cient and effec­tive? Are there gaps in the process? Bro­ken process­es and inef­fi­cien­cies will not mag­i­cal­ly dis­ap­pear when a dig­i­tal solu­tion appears, so these must be addressed first.
  2. How do we ensure that Malaysians are pre­pared to embrace and take advan­tage of these advance­ments? How do we upskill them so that they will not be left behind and the dig­i­tal divide grow bigger?
  3. If we are to get NGOs, big cor­po­ra­tions and SMEs to con­tribute, how do we com­mu­ni­cate the vision to them effec­tive­ly so that we get their buy-in and cooperation?

One of the most impor­tant steps to take for MyDIG­I­TAL is to form a trans­for­ma­tion man­age­ment office (TMO).

The TMO can be espe­cial­ly ben­e­fi­cial as they will not just over­see an ini­tia­tive and make sure that they are on track and deliv­er­ing results as expect­ed but will also ensure that it aligns to the vision, mis­sion, goals and objec­tives of the coun­try. Most impor­tant­ly, they ensure that Malaysia’s needs are iden­ti­fied and addressed.

Sec­ond­ly, it is vital that lead­er­ship artic­u­late the case for change to every Malaysian busi­ness. How will they ben­e­fit from MyDIG­I­TAL? Why must it be done? This will ensure that com­pa­nies will be behind the plan and help it succeed.

Third, have a sol­id com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­e­gy to com­mu­ni­cate that vision to every stake­hold­er. The mes­sage must be con­sis­tent and com­mu­ni­cat­ed often so that it will be top-of-mind for stakeholders.

Fourth, it is real­ly, real­ly impor­tant to upskill and improve the dig­i­tal lit­er­a­cy of the Malaysian work­force. A lot of hard work needs to be done on the ground so that means we need a skilled work­force. Com­pa­nies need to seri­ous­ly start to train their work­force for the dig­i­tal econ­o­my and take advan­tage of gov­ern­ment train­ing incen­tives if there are any.

High­way to success

With good imple­men­ta­tion, MyDIG­I­TAL will allow for the smooth instal­la­tion of tech­nol­o­gy that will pow­er up Malaysia’s dig­i­tal high­way. Best of all, its ben­e­fits will trick­le down to every lay­er of Malaysian society.

The key is to do the ini­tial work to ensure that the ini­tia­tive is rolled out well. These steps are often for­got­ten, some­times ignored, because the tech­no­log­i­cal aspects are shinier and shout the loudest.

With the world more con­nect­ed than ever through dig­i­tal sys­tems, Malaysia, while already plugged in, stands to ben­e­fit if it’s dig­i­tal capa­bil­i­ties are enhanced. MyDIG­I­TAL could be the cat­a­lyst to trans­form Malaysia into a more effi­cient, pro­duc­tive and com­pet­i­tive econ­o­my in an ever-evolving world.


This col­umn was first pub­lished in Busi­ness Today Malaysia.


Krish­na Paupamah

Founder/Group CEO

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