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Leaping towards a digital economy

Leaping towards a digital economy

11 Jul 2022

The global community is running towards a digital economy, and Sarawak does not want to lose out in this race. Thus, it has heightened its efforts to achieve its goal of becoming a digitalised state by 2030, guided by two blueprints: the Sarawak Digital Economy Strategy 2018-2022 and Post Covid-19 Development Strategy 2030.

Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg is proud to share that the state government has achieved remarkable progress since the first International Digital Economy Conference Sarawak (IDECS) in 2017.

Some of the agencies that were formed to catalyse the state’s digitalisation efforts are the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA) and the Sarawak Digital Economy Corporation (SDEC). The state government has also established digital hubs in rural areas.

Abang Johari acknowledges that the youth is the most volatile community in this era due to the ever changing technology. Hence, training has become an essential part of Sarawak’s digital economy strategy.

Several efforts that have been undertaken by the Centre of Technical Excellence (CENTEXS) were collaborations with industry partners such as Huawei to provide micro-credential courses, focusing on key digitalisation areas such as Web3 and hardware and software development.

Despite the achievements, Abang Johari does not deny that digitalising Sarawak has its challenges. “The real challenge that Sarawak faces is our terrain because the moment you have a hill [in an area], it will disrupt [connection] signals. A lot of investment has to be made for our infrastructure and we have spent our own money to do that, besides the assistance from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC),” he says.

Abang Johari points out that the state is rarely highlighted and sometimes ignored by the world. “In order to solve that, we have to be on our own. We have to spearhead whatever policies we have.”

IDECS 2022 was held using a hybrid mode on June 21 and 22 at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK). The prestigious event attracted more than 40,000 local and foreign attendees.

Drive for data

Throughout IDECS’ five-year run, data has been highlighted as one of the greatest components to drive digitalisation. This year, the theme “Decoding Big Data for Environmental and Energy Sustainability” anchored the conference in the light of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) fundamentals that have become the state’s priority.

Abang Johari asserts that Sarawak is focused on positioning itself as a data-driven state and emphasises the importance of fellow leaders tapping into it as well.

“It is our responsibility as leaders to continuously improve our products and services to our stakeholders. In order to improve products or service delivery, we must embrace the use of data analytics and build capable teams to turn big data into a competitive advantage,” he says.

As a state blessed with an abundance of resources, the data collected can be turned into a means of revenue. For example, the geospatial and land data that the state has compiled can be monetised whenever it is requested locally and internationally. Additionally, the data can be adopted by local businesses and talents such as farmers to improve farming techniques to generate better yields in crop production.

Apart from data, IDECS 2022 also focused on sustainability and the adoption of renewable energy such as hydrogen and biofuel. Abang Johari had been invited to the World Hydrogen Summit in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in May. He has confirmed that the Southeast Asian summit will be held in Kuching in the next couple of years.

As the pioneer of hydrogen production in Southeast Asia, Sarawak is looking to produce 100,000 tonnes of hydrogen by 2025 and export it to South Korea and Japan. While there are not many use cases of hydrogen in Malaysia, the state is taking a step further by exploring the production of alternative aviation fuels such as sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

According to Abang Johari, the Petronas Resource Centre Bangi has done research on SAF. He affirms that the state is open to collaborating with Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) to produce biofuel.

While the price of hydrogen is a concern to some people, Abang Johari is optimistic that with greater acceptance, the price will come down over time. “I believe that in five to 10 years, the cost of producing hydrogen will be cheaper, but you must get the right water to produce green hydrogen as the quality of water is important. I think we are blessed with this one [quality water],” he says.

Sarawak is looking to invest in regenerative renewable and sustainable feedstock and algae biomass. It is also exploring the potential of geothermal repurposing of its depleted onshore oil and gas wells to generate power for its northern region. But this requires in-depth feasibility studies.

Source: The Edge Markers

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