Ramping up digital infrastructure
16 May 2020
The Covid-19 global pandemic has forced protocol and behavioural changes on governments, consumers and businesses. They have to adopt a digitalised network and digital solutions in the conduct of daily dealings.
Delivery applications, contactless payments and mobile banking have emerged as important tools for transactions between individuals, companies, traders, businessmen and governments. Cross border e-payments and transactions, including buisiness-to-business and government-to-government, have gathered momentum.
The new normal is that countries, which are ahead of the curve in adapting and applying digitalised-technology mechanisms, are more likely to succeed in the new digital paradigm.
Businesses are focusing on the deployment and upgrading of digital solutions to keep pace with rising consumer expectations for fast, cost-efficient and quality delivery services.Robots, drones with sensors can be deployed to complete the delivery of physical goods while contactless mechanisms using big carriers can be used for large machinery delivery. E-commerce will flourish with the support of digital orders. Except for physical goods that need to be transported, most other underlying workflows are likely to be digitised to avoid human-to- human contacts.
As Malaysia races to contain Covid-19, it had to launch the movement control order (MCO) – a necessary but costly move that comes with devastating economic costs. The government, people and businesses are forced to move all possible economic activity online.
During the MCO, the usage of digital technology applications and data solutions has increased. We are witnessing three major occurrences in day-to-day life, workplace and business: increasing acceptance of online and e-services, humongous requirement for Internet services, IT and data solutions for conventional industries; and rise in seamless technology connectivity and communications between people and businesses among many industries.A shift in working patterns has also emerged as employees and companies are compelled to embrace remote working, building on pre-existing infrastructure such as office chat groups, remote access to critical tools.
In 2019, only 23.1% of Malaysians accessed online discussion and 11% worked from home. But this Covid-19 crisis has forced a change in lifestyle and work process.
Business meetings and forums as well as video conferencing are now conducted using the tools provided free by start-ups, such as Slack and Zoom, and established giants (Google and Microsoft and Webinars). The volume on Google’s Meet and Hangouts (meet.google.com and hangout.google.com) have recorded phenomenal traffic surge (~950%). And its rival Zoom sees growth in excess of 3,180%.
Food delivery and grocery shopping applications have witnessed a surge of clients. Owing to restrictions on movement and limited business operating hours, Malaysian households have made large orders of on-line purchases (from supermarket chains such as Jaya Grocer (jayagrocer.com) and grocery delivery service (such as HappyFresh happyfresh.my).
As people are forced to stay at home, there has been an increased use of entertainment services such as streaming video on-demand: +195% for Netflix (netflix.com) while local subscription service Dimsum (dimsum.my) increased by 140%).Malaysia’s eight key media publishers also see sequential traffic growth of between 190% and 250% in their platforms. With the changes in behavioural protocols of households and businesses, we will see record number of people working remotely in the foreseeable future.
The challenge for Malaysia now is to ramp up digital infrastructure and fix the technology gap as well as cybersecurity.
Digital experience needs to be enhanced in terms of speed, reliability and coverage to narrow the urban-rural digital divides.
Some systems are creaking at the edges: corporate networks are unable to cope overloaded connections coming in over virtual private networks. Internet service providers have come under pressure to lift bandwidth caps to minimise interruptions in video conferencing. Malaysia has a lot to catch up in terms of broadband speed. In October 2019, its fixed-broadband average download speed of 78.82 (Mpbs) was ranked 37th in Asia.
It is behind Singapore (first, 194.09); South Korea (second, 165.82); Hong Kong (third, 159.96); Taiwan (seventh, 132.57); Thailand (24th, 97.11); Japan (26th, 95.27) and United Arab Emirates (UAE) (30th, 89.30).In terms of mobile broadband average download speed, Malaysia’s speed of 22.52 Mbps came in 84th compared with UAE (fifth, 65.29); Singapore (11th, 52.96); Taiwan (24th, 46.09); Japan (53th, 32.84); Laos (63th, 28.49); Vietnam (68th, 26.50); and Thailand (80th, 23.43).
The government needs to ramp up a full-fledge e-government as well as coordinate a public-private partnership to win public trust in using technology tools to increase process efficiency, reduce cost and boost productivity.
The e–government development index, which measures national institutions’ readiness and capacity to use ICTs to deliver public services, shows that Malaysia was ranked 48th – markedly behind Singapore (7th) and Japan (10th).
The current e-government system is probably at 30%-40%, meaning that the process of digitalising public delivery services must be more comprehensive and accelerated.For the network readiness index 2019, Malaysia’s 4G mobile network coverage was ranked 60th out of 121 countries, lagging behind Vietnam (56th), India (54th), Thailand (38th), Japan (24th) and Singapore (first).
A 5G network must be rolled out fast to be the “catalytic enabler” of the digital economy to boost Malaysia’s growth potential and sustainability. With the government expected to lead the e-curve, businesses and people are hoping for a strong political will and action to improve the current digital infrastructure.
Source: The Star