“The digital economy contributed 18.3% to the nation’s GDP”

Enabling Malaysia’s Digital Future

Reading Time: 4:50 minutes

By Hazmin Abdul Rahim, Director and Industry Business Architect (Public Sector), Malaysia, SAP

Malaysia’s digital journey well underway

Like many nations around the world, Malaysia too, is on a digital transformation journey.

The development of any digital economy requires several critical foundations. First, available, affordable and reliable internet connectivity. Second, a population with robust digital competencies. This may range from fundamental computer skills to more advanced expertise such as data analytics, along with other essential life skills such as leadership and communication. And third, an enabling policy environment that engenders innovation and supports digital initiatives. Other factors such as digital payments (expanding its use and acceptance) and dependable logistics and customs procedures are also important to support increasing digital services and ecommerce.

Malaysia is doing well in some of these vital elements and has results to show for the country’s efforts. The Government’s Eleventh Plan, the final leg in its journey towards realizing Vision 2020, is 95% accomplished. And according to Malaysia’s Department of Statistics, the digital economy contributed 18.3% to the nation’s GDP in 2017 and is on its way to reach a stretched target of 20% by 2020.

Clear strategic directions going forward

Going forward, the government also has clear strategic directions. Its Public Sector ICT Framework 2016-2020 coherently articulates an ICT vision supported by various strategic thrusts, enabling ecosystem and basic principles. The clarity of the framework is laudable as it enhances any nation’s ability to systematically drive digitization across the government and the country.

The strategic thrusts communicated are especially commendable as it shows the government is in sync with the realities of the areas which need strengthening.

Fig 1: The Malaysian Public Sector ICT Strategic Plan 2016-2020

Closer collaboration across sectors will spur the digital economy

As with any digitization efforts, these endeavors cannot be about the government going at it alone. For a connected Malaysia that can stand on its own alongside the neighbors the country is frequently compared to, this transformation must entail close partnership – across the public, private and even social sectors.

Developing world-class technology solutions in house is not always feasible. In such scenarios, governments can look at how to engage industry partners to develop digital platforms together. With compelling enough reasons, organizations that have the technology and positioning to help government agencies meets their mission will come forward.

Some examples:

The right partners matter

Choosing the right partners matter too. Some commonsensical but critical questions to ask when considering partners to work with include:

  • How aligned and supportive are your partners to your transformation goals?
  • Do they understand your culture and the way you operate?
  • Are they giving you the right foundation on which to build subsequent digital plans on?
  • Are they helping you reduce costs and risks in your digitization journey?
  • Do they possess proven best practices?
  • Do they have deep industry and technical knowledge to facilitate the transformation journey?

The right partners can help governments take the right approach to digitize the public sector, and in turn, the nation successfully. For example, one of Malaysia’s strategic thrusts entail optimizing shared services. In identifying the right partners, it would be useful to look at how nations who have been successfully digitizing their government shared services have approached this. Say, for instance, Singapore’s VITAL, which is a good case study. VITAL began in 2006 as a shared services center for 18 agencies. The agency today serves more than 100 public sector organizations and over 90,000 public officers. Its shared services suite includes finance, human resources, payroll and claims, learning and development and travel management. Why did they choose who they are working with? What were the key considerations? Did VITAL’s partners fulfil the requirements raised by those important questions above?

Our citizens’ collective future depends on the journey ahead

Year 2020 marks the end of Eleventh Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) and Vision 2020.

As a continuation, a post-2020 development plan with clear strategic directions will be formulated. This will set the way forward for the national development agenda along with the implementation framework over the next decade. To ensure an inclusive and meaningful socioeconomic development. Towards a more prosperous society which focus on these three areas: Economic Empowerment, Environmental Sustainability and Social Re-engineering.

As the Malaysian government embarks on the next chapter of the digitization journey, it is essential to get the questions raised earlier dealt with. Afterall, our citizens’ collective future depends on it. And the outcomes of getting is right is a world with greater prosperity, one that is safer, and one where Malaysians lead purposeful lives.

That’s a cause I’ll call meaningful. And a journey I’ll be happy to be a part of.

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