08/06/2020 08:52 AM
Opinions on topical issues from thought leaders, columnists and editors.
By :
Lee Heng Guie

The digital economy has been playing an increasingly significant role as a new driver for Malaysia’s economic growth, to drive transformation in our daily life, social-economic as well as business dealings and operations.

In 2018, the digital economy contributed 18.5 per cent of the Malaysian economy as it had grown by 7.9 per cent per annum to RM267.6 billion from RM213 billion in 2015. The e-commerce share to GDP stood at eight per cent in 2018 to amount RM115.5 billion, an increase of nine per cent per annum from RM89.1 billion in 2015 (7.6 per cent of GDP).

Public-Private Partnership

Malaysia’s new policy-thinking on the future digital transformation in a “post-COVID-19 era” requires Public-Private Partnership and collaboration as well as innovation in ICT development and contribution to digital transformation.

We outline the following TECHNOLOGY TRENDS, BUSINESS SCENARIOS AND MAJOR OBSTACLES for future digital investments and transformation.

(a) FOUR key technologies for future digital investments and business development: Big data, IoT, AI, cloud computing and 5G.

(b) THREE most-applied scenarios: marketing, services delivery development and communication /telecommuting.

(c) FIVE major obstacles for digital transformation: ecosystem, regulation and cyber security, lack of funds, talent shortage and finding proper business models.

Determined leadership and infrastructure

The government, people and businesses must work together with the parallel “policy push” in accelerating and deepening the evolution of how ICT and digital technologies in the public delivery services, consumer, business and market dynamics.

Determined leadership and infrastructure are important prerequisites for Malaysia to become the leading mover in harnessing the opportunities of sustainable digital transformation. In a fast-paced digital environment, we must be quick to adapt to the demands of people and businesses and deliver the goods and services in a fast, cost-efficient and quality manner.

Digitally skilled and digitally secure people are needed to lead and be able to drive innovation and translate that knowledge into leading others and forming effective team collaboration in the digital age.

National Digital Strategy Plan

In our view, Malaysia’s National Digital Strategy Plan should rest on five pillars as follows:

1. DIGITAL LEADERSHIP - The government takes the lead role to drive the catalysts of digital transformation through a well-executed plan with measurement outcomes in terms of inclusiveness and reaching out.

KEY FOCUS AREAS - A strong and clearer mandate high ministerial council, to be led by the Prime Minister with senior representatives from the government, private sector and chambers. Clearly-defined structures of governance are required to produce visionary digital plans, along with policies for their implementation and regulations to make them happen.

2. DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE- The digital infrastructure (soft and hard), in particular high-speed broadband, must be further enhanced and reinforced for electronic communications and applications that are crucial for transmitting data. The government should indicate what it needs from digital infrastructure. Let the ICT experts work closely with the experts in the sectors to ensure the best service outcomes.

KEY FOCUS AREAS - A well-developed broadband infrastructure entails improved access to ‘hard’ infrastructure; and continued development of ‘soft’ infrastructure. Investment in digital infrastructure needs to include digital financial infrastructure on four digital fronts: payments; currency; identity, and data.

3. DIGITAL SKILLS - Digital skills have moved from ‘optional’ to ‘critical’ and need to be complemented with transversal ‘soft skills’ such as the ability to communicate effectively in both online and offline mediums. Major digital transformations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, big data analytics necessitate change skills requirements and, in turn, impact capacity building and skills development for the digital economy.

KEY FOCUS AREAS - Modernising the education system focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Digital literacy should be seen as a core skill alongside English and Maths. Tackling inequalities and gender divide through the provision of programmes and capacity development initiatives for disadvantaged groups, and re-skilling adults at risk for job displacement. In terms of skills matching, digital curricula should be devised in partnership with industry, to provide people with the skills they will need in their roles across the workforce. Public sector needs to bridge the digital skills gap to become a trend setter in a digital economy.

4. DIGITAL SECURITY - Digital issues such as data privacy, data protection and cybersecurity are of utmost importance and absolutely essential if Malaysia is to become a smart nation. People, companies and organisations must have trust and confidence in the use of digital services and be able to use them easily.

KEY FOCUS AREAS - The policies and procedures cover a digital identity; high security protection requirements; privacy in the digital society; and safeguarding consumers in digital environments. Priority will be given to critical sectors of energy, water, transport, health, government, information communication, media, security and emergency services, and banking and finance. We should place a strong focus on growing cyber security talent and manpower.

5. DIGITAL INNOVATION - The government should create a conducive ecosystem and competitive conditions for the creation and spread of new or improved products and services.

KEY FOCUS AREAS - Strengthen innovation climate for data-driven and digitally driven innovation through grants and incentives tailored outcome-based R&D and innovation research in collaboration between academia and industry. Robust intellectual property rights spur innovative activity by increasing the appropriability of the returns to innovation, enabling innovators to capture enough of the benefits of their own innovative activity to justify taking considerable risks. Position Malaysia as one of the leading innovations and creativity hubs in the region through creating a conducive ecosystem (through removal of regulatory barriers, facilitation and financial supports, tax break, skills support, etc.).


Lee Heng Guie is Executive Director of Socio-Economic Research Centre (SERC), an independent and non-profit think tank.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of BERNAMA)


Malaysia National News Agency
No.28 Jalan BERNAMA
Off Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur

Tel : +603-2693 9933 (General Line)
Email :


Exclusive Press


Privacy Policy
Security Policy