By Dr Rais Hussin
Digitisation and digitalisation of the economy is at the forefront of societal change today, as countries emerge from a debilitating pandemic and face the challenges of recovery in the new normal.
This unique and unprecedented moment has unleashed structural change without parallel in living memory. Many will have no choice but adjust to a new paradigm, as their old world reality is permanently altered.
While concern for those swept aside is of paramount important, the same crisis has concurrently unleashed the agents of change, ushering in a new digital age.
The industrial revolution which encompassed mankind into the ranks of technological civilisations only 200 years ago has reached another major milestone with the quantum leap into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
While there is no doubt that 4IR is here to stay, it will surely be the manner of its implementation that will differentiate progressive societies from repressive ones.
Just as the steam engine triggered the widespread exploitation of fossil fuels that exacerbated the climate crisis we face today, the awesome power of 4IR technology – AI, blockchain, IoT, robotics. crypto, to name a few, will define the quality of human experience and its consequent well-being or angst.
Tasked with the responsibility to digitally reskill Malaysians most greatly affected by this transformation, the role of MDEC can therefore not be overstated.
It is our task to ensure wide dispersion and early adoption of 4IR tools so that even marginal elements of society can keep pace with the widespread displacement that is bound to occur – not just within Malaysia but also for the nation among our regional and international peers.
Given that over 90% of Malaysian businesses can be categorised as SME’s, it is imperative that smaller businesses are also digitally empowered; hence the focus of the many schemes promoted and operated by MDEC towards supporting digitisation and digitalisation of “mom and pop” enterprises.
Investment by way of training, subsidies, incentives, grants and loans are all integral to achieving digital inclusion goals, more so now in these difficult times when it is hard for many to make ends meet.
MDEC is uniquely positioned to engender grass roots involvement by sharing resources across all stakeholders in society in an equitable way.
The overriding philosophy governing the penetration of 4IR technology in Malaysia’s digital economy is the objective of achieving a shared prosperity for all regardless of class, colour or creed.
In the shade of the global crisis brought about by Covid-19 is the opportunity to reinvent ourselves for a better future, with greater possibilities for the have-nots (as well as the haves), by placing society at the centre of 4IR technology rather than the other way around.
This is our new narrative at MDEC and the stated vision behind Malaysia 5.0. Change we can. Change we must.
Dr Rais Hussin is the chairman of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), chartered to lead Malaysian Digital Economy.