From recovery to reality: Why technology is key to sustainable economic growth

THE events that began in 2020 presented an unprecedented set of challenges the world has had to overcome in more than a century since the Great Influenza epidemic of 1918.

COVID-19 required the brightest minds and the smartest technologies to ensure we not only live our lives to the fullest possible extent amid various forms of lockdowns – but that we emerge stronger as a global society once the worst of the pandemic is finally behind us.

After close to two years of crisis navigation and laying the groundwork to build back better, more resilient and sustainable economy – Malaysia is looking to transition from designs of recovery to an ambitious, tech-driven reality.

The various stimulus measures aimed at aiding recovery efforts are now supplemented with plans to position digital economy at the heart of the nation’s growth.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL) in tandem with the 12th Malaysia Plan – both announced last year – charts the Government’s commitment to this end over the next decade.

This optimism is, in part, driven by the rollout of vaccines. According to Malaysia’s Health Ministry, almost 98% of Malaysia’s adult population is fully vaccinated as of early January 2022.

However, it is more than that. Businesses around the world have adapted, becoming more efficient and technologically savvy in this period.

Adapting to accelerate new realities

Practical innovations that kept businesses afloat over the best part of almost two years ranged from the embracing of virtual desktops and video conferencing, to more advanced data processing within businesses and organisations.

Meanwhile, investments into cloud-based technologies, as well as AI and machine learning, are allowing entire industries to communicate with citizens, customers and service-users in a faster, more personable fashion, whilst also automating various back-end processes that previously may have been both a financial and time drain.

Underpinning these technology adoptions is also the need for a holistic approach to security – from protecting data that is increasingly at the edge, to building cyber resiliency into the business.

While prospects are improving, progress will be gradual and is dependent on effective vaccination rollout, as well as continued, targeted government stimulus packages.

According to the World Bank, economic recovery in Malaysia is expected to gain momentum in 2022, with the economy projected to grow by 5.8% as the economy reopens.

To ensure that recovery is truly sustainable and benefits everyone, everywhere, it is critical to continue to focus on sustainable, tech-driven and human-centered solutions that help to bridge socio-economic divides.

Tech to continue as the great enabler

Moving beyond recovery and settling into a new reality, technology will do more than sustain businesses. At the height of the pandemic, the Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index found that digital transformation is seen as a critical business driver – 84% of organisations in Asia Pacific & Japan (APJ) have fast-tracked their digital transformation programmes.

A separate McKinsey study also reported that companies that invest in innovation during a time of crisis outperform their peers during the recovery.

The aforementioned MyDIGITAL initiative recognises digital technology as essential to elevating Malaysia’s economy and driving new engines of economic growth.

Robust digital infrastructures are the foundation for those organisations that remain competitive today, and confident in their data management and cybersecurity practices.

Tomorrow, technology will transform the relationship between citizens and governments, personalise blended learning in schools and put patients at the heart of their care plans. Businesses will provide services that are truly innovative, giving consumers experiences they don’t yet know they desire thanks to new 5G speeds, AI-powered insights, and edge computing capabilities.

Overcoming data challenges together

But the complexities of the task at hand should not be understated. Ongoing challenges are buffeting economies around the world and organisations are wrestling with their own data paradoxes, as the sheer scale of data explodes.

A Forrester study commissioned by Dell Technologies found that 73% of organisations in APJ are gathering data faster than they can analyse and use it, and yet 69% say they constantly need more data than their current capabilities provide.

This is just a taste of what is to come in the zettabyte era – and capturing the opportunities on the crest of the 4th Industrial revolution means solving these challenges, now.

That is why collaboration continues to be an essential ingredient for sustainable progress. Bringing together the brightest sparks from the private and public sectors to turbocharge the new reality is key to ensuring everyone benefits – and that those benefits are meaningful and sustainable.

It takes an entire ecosystem to generate momentum, whether that’s creating vaccines for future pandemics, restructuring for a data-centric enterprise, or facilitating the growth of the digital economy.

None of these can be done in isolation and the close collaboration between governments, tech experts and key organisational stakeholders have enabled the level of recovery already experienced.

As the world continues to gain momentum with the move beyond recovery towards reality, collaborative approaches should become the new norm – redefining progress with a fresh collectivism.

A better reality is one that is inclusive, sustainable and built for everyone, with technology being the vehicle to this not-so-distant future as we look towards 2022 and beyond. – March 12, 2022

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