KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Malaysia could take the lead in economic growth in the region by implementing a digital economy that is both inclusive and resilient by design, by consciously enabling the active participation of people with disabilities.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed said with 90.1 per cent of the Malaysian households currently connected via mobile and fixed broadband, the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDIGITAL) aimed to achieve 100 per cent Internet access across households by 2025.
“Given the remote working practices of the new normal, we have an opportunity to mainstream accessibility as a horizontal consideration in realising Malaysia’s digital economy aspirations.
“Covid-19 has forced educational, social, and economic interactions into online spaces. Through this blueprint, we aimed to digitalise our public sector, build digital infrastructure, develop our workforce to be digital-ready, boost our economy, and foster a more inclusive society,” he said.
Mustapa said this during the Digital Dialogue Series 2021 on MyDIGITAL organised by the Social and Economic Research Initiative (SERI), a non-partisan think-tank dedicated to the promotion of evidence-based policies that address issues of inequality.
SERI chief executive officer Helmy Haja Mydin shared that the digital economy currently contributes 19.1 per cent to Malaysia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and was forecast to reach 20 per cent this year.
“We are looking forward to the inclusive implementation of the blueprint which will accelerate the nation’s efforts to exceed the blueprint’s target of 22.6 per cent digital economy contribution to GDP by 2025.
“As the Government works towards its vision of trusted, inclusive, and sustainable socio-economic development, we must ensure that the implementation matches the aspirations of this comprehensive blueprint,” he said.
A panellist in the dialogue, Microsoft director of legal and government affairs, Asean and SEA new markets, Jasmine Begum, viewed that data provide the necessary fuel for emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing.
“With data being the lifeblood of the digital economy, unlocking the potential of the digital era will be reliant on the people’s ability to innovate, compete, and transact across borders.
“The digital-first, cloud-first policy outlined in the blueprint will further propel innovation in the public and private sectors and accelerate the nation’s transformation to become a regional leader in the digital economy,” she said.
In the case of Malaysia, the government’s efforts to open digital borders would expand its opportunities beyond 32 million people, with intra-Asean cross border data flows allowing for greater competitiveness and economic growth within a market 20 times the size of the country’s population, she noted.
Meanwhile, another panellist, Southeast Asia Roland Berger co-managing partner, John Low, opined that digital exclusion is by no means a problem unique to Malaysia.
In Southeast Asia, a region of approximately 700 million people, 150 million adult individuals are estimated to be digitally excluded, he said, adding that the exclusion is fuelled by disability, illiteracy, gender, age, wealth, and the concentration of economic activity predominantly in urban areas.
“The key to bridging the divide is to understand how ready the nation is in embracing digitalisation, what the barriers are, and what more needs to be done to ensure digital equity.
Roland Berger’s Digital Inclusion Index assesses the state of digital inclusiveness, considering four key aspects: accessibility, affordability, ability, and attitude, and Malaysia is considered a frontrunner in Southeast Asia, ranking at number two right behind Singapore.
“Globally, Malaysia is ranked at number 21. While it lagged behind in terms of accessibility and affordability, Malaysia performed highly in relation to ability, and is best in the region for attitude,” he added. — Bernama