Over the past several decades, the world economy has undergone dramatic structural transformation, stemming from rapid evolution and growing use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Digitalisation, which is the process of leveraging ICTs to improve business processes and productivity, has created new trade opportunities for firms to sell more products to bigger markets, resulting in countries diversifying their export baskets.
The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for further understanding of digitalisation to cope with the heightened reliance on digital technologies. As the global community becomes more dependent on ICTs during this period of uncertainty, more emphasis is being placed on cyber security.
According to Help Net Security, Malware attacks increased by 358 per cent in 2020 as compared with 2019, while Netscout Threat Intelligence reported that there were roughly 26,000 attacks a day or 18 attacks per minute in 2020. Furthermore, the applications of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G have increased the sophistication and risks of cyber threats.
In Malaysia, digital services assume a central role in the economy. In 2019, the ICT sector grew by 7.1 per cent, accumulating RM289 billion, which accounts for 19.1 per cent of GDP. As the country moves towards becoming a developed economy, it needs to position itself as not only to adapt but also to innovate its technology to sustain economic growth.
Malaysia ranks as Southeast Asia’s second most digital advanced country on Huawei’s Global Connectivity Index. In some sectors, the country is a leader in the landscape. The EY Digital Survey, for instance, concluded in 2018 that Malaysia’s banking sector is the most digitally evolved in ASEAN, ahead of peers in Hong Kong, China and Singapore. The COVID-19 pandemic has understandably accelerated the digital economy growth as millions of Malaysians go virtual for their e-Commerce, entertainment and even education needs.
To keep pace with the growing digital economy in Malaysia, the Government recently formulated MyDigital — the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, which emphasises a whole-of-nation approach to digitalisation to complement the upcoming 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) and the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.This includes goals to improve digital literacy, creating highincome employment opportunities and increasing the accessibility of virtual educational and medical facilities in remote areas. It also serves as a digital transformation direction plan to drive businesses to compete globally by improving the expediency and efficiency of their operations.
To improve cyber security capabilities in Malaysia, initiatives are introduced to increase awareness of the Global Accredited Cybersecurity Education (ACE) Certification Scheme. The scheme outlines the proficiencies of skilled cyber security professionals and reinforces the continuous development of these professionals in reducing cyberrelated threats.
In addition, to address the exponential growth of digitalisation and cyber security in the country, the Government has launched the Malaysia Cyber Security Strategy (MCSS) 2020-2024 in October 2020 with an allocation of RM1.8 billion.
The MCSS outlines five strategic pillars to be the guiding principles to improve the country’s cyber security management in the next five (5) years. The five (5) pillars are:
Despite the pandemic accelerating the need for digital adoption, future investment in digitalisation remains cautious, especially among SMEs with costs of technology often cited as one of the top barriers.
With this in mind, the Government continues to introduce packages to facilitate players in their digital transformation journey such as the Smart Automation Grant (SAG) initiative with an allocation of RM150 million under the National Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA) and the People and Economic Strategic Empowerment Programme (PEMERKASA). Under this initiative, the SAG will be given on a matching basis (1:1) based on eligible expenditures, up to a maximum grant of RM1,000,000 per company. SMEs that make up 98 per cent of the overall establishment in Malaysia should leverage this facility to kick start their digitalisation journey which is more imperative now than ever, taking into account disruptive challenges brought about by the pandemic.
Moving forward, MIDA will continue to work alongside other ministries/agencies such as MITI, MCMC and MDEC to further encourage digitalisation across the country as chartered in the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint and execution of other complementary policies; including the National Policy Framework for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the New Services Sector Blueprint.
Continued cross collaboration between the public and private sector can drive the adoption of digital technologies and efficient cyber security practices, moving the country towards becoming a more inclusive, responsible and balanced developed nation.