Malaysia as a Regional Digital Economy Hub
28 Oct 2022
Vision for a Digital Malaysia
Much of our world today is powered by science and technology. Businesses and organisations have shown incredible resilience as they navigated uncertainty and changes brought about by the pandemic through the adoption of digital upgrades. Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IOT) or big data analytics and blockchain, all have a profound impact, causing a digital transformation in the world’s economy and the way of life of modern society.
The ability to seize opportunities emerging from innovative technologies and business models plays an important role in driving new engines of the country’s economic growth.
I believe that Malaysia is on the right trajectory, and is attracting the right type of investments in transforming us into a high-income digital nation, aligning with the government’s MyDIGITAL blueprint and National Investment Aspirations (NIA). We need to collectively do more to amplify the impact of innovation, and channel the momentum of change to build a better world.
Let me put forth some ways that we can maximise the impact of innovation in this time of rapid change.
For the period of January to June 2022, Malaysia has attracted a total of RM123.3 billion (USD28.0 billion) worth of approved investments in the manufacturing, services and primary sectors involving 1,714 projects, and these are expected to create 57,771 job opportunities in the country.
In this period, the services sector assumed a significant role towards driving the country’s economic recovery, accounting for 63.3 per cent of total approved investments involving RM78.0 billion (USD17.7 billion). Three data centre projects alone accounted for RM51.1 billion or 95.2 per cent of the investment. The stellar performance for the services sector exceeded expectations for January to June 2022, an increase of 48.8 per cent from the achievement attained in the same period in 2021. This is followed by the manufacturing sector at RM43.1 billion (USD9.8 billion).
This shows Malaysia’s diversified services sector continues to embrace digitalisation to move up the value chain and boost operational efficiency when remote-working and automation trends have accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New services have materialised through the invention of the IOT. AI and the cloud network have redefined the service sector’s importance in Malaysia’s economy.
National Investment Aspirations (NIA) which serve as a roadmap for the New Investment Policy (NIP), launched on 6 October 2022, includes overarching objective and strategic policies to promote the steady growth of Domestic Direct Investment as well as Foreign Direct Investment and continue Malaysia’s transition towards a knowledge-based and digital economy. The NIP emphasised the nurturing of innovative, high-impact and high-tech investments which would be conducive to the creation of high-skilled jobs. Under the NIP, the digital economy is identified as one of the major cornerstones for the nation’s economic growth with significant development opportunities. As such, Malaysia aspires to emerge as one of the regional leaders in the digital economy, with an increased proportion of exports coming from digital content and services.
Digital Economy Facilitation
Concerted efforts that include infrastructure expansion, policy development, investment promotion, sustainability awareness, and talent development will lay a sturdy foundation for Malaysia’s digital economy landscape.
The Digital Investment Office (DIO), a collaborative platform between MIDA and MDEC, was established to coordinate and streamline digital investments into the country while providing end-to-end facilitation to investors, thus helping investors to realise their business growth expansion in Malaysia. The office is committed towards attracting digital investments that embody high-quality, sustainability and technologies.
This is in line with the government’s aim to attract RM70.0 billion (USD15.6 billion) investments to accelerate digitalisation efforts by 2025. This initiative is timely and in line with the evolution of the global investment landscape towards digitalisation and Industry 4.0, creating unique and interesting value propositions for digital projects which involves digital infrastructure projects like data centres and submarine cables as well as digital technology projects that utilise IR4.0 technology.
The DIO also advocates for future-ready policies and guides talent requirements and digital infrastructure networks and addresses operational issues faced by businesses beyond the pandemic. The efforts undertaken by MIDA through its branch offices locally and internationally as well as through its digital facilitation platforms with partner agencies are expected to contribute positively to serve the growing needs of digital industries.
The strengthening of our digital landscape will empower all industries and local SMEs to participate in complex activities with higher value-add. As such, a digitally-enabled supply chain is a great attraction for foreign and domestic investors who have already taken the leap to digitise their operations.
The establishment of data centres and network infrastructures in Malaysia by local and global players such as YTL, NTT and Google is a testament of the country’s readiness to become a regional data centre hub.
Broader sectors which are poised for growth in the long run include applications and services (the e- or digital version of all social and economic segments), digital platforms that enable authentication and government delivery, and connectivity and infrastructure which is continuously being established or improved nationwide.
MIDA is also focused on ensuring that domestic industry players, particularly SMEs harness new sources of growth to deliver the next age of economic prosperity in Malaysia.
As such, the Domestic Investment Coordination Platform (DICP) team identifies missing links between businesses, funding, technology, and research capability and aims to fill them effectively.
The vision is to bring R&D to commercialisation for domestic investors through the provision of funding and technological support. The role of the DICP team includes business matching with financial institutions, collaborative partners or tech providers based on SMEs needs; identifying accessibility of funds depending on the nature and size of the company; and assisting to address commercialisation challenges for domestic players.
Moving forward, MIDA aims to anchor global technology leaders and build the capacity of our local supply chain, nurture future ready talent, and attract targeted quality investments in better preparing us for the surge of digitalisation, positioning Malaysia as a Digital Economy Hub.
Datuk Wira Arham Abdul Rahman is the CEO of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA).
Source: The Edge Markets