By Dr Rais Hussin
Malaysian innovation must rise to overcome the challenges of the post-COVID recovery. When we look back upon this critical time we might even appreciate the unique opportunity it has given us to upgrade some of the legacy infrastructure and future proof it to facilitate new growth in the digital economy.
In the 4IR world, digital information and big data will serve as the fuel that powers the new economy. Societies will increasingly enjoy decentralized access to everything in it -- a new reality which presents game-changing opportunities, but also raises serious concerns.
MDEC, tasked with overseeing the digitalization of the Nation, must fulfill its responsibility to integrate digital society onto a unified platform that serves all its participants efficiently, ensuring that traffic moves smoothly on its networks and that all members of society are equitably served.
A key aspect of the Malaysia 5.0 vision is building this digital infrastructure with a unified alliance of stakeholders both within government and across private enterprise. This "Unity Alliance" is an economic coalition which will serve society in its migration into the digital age.
We see many great initiatives from different agencies, designed to stimulate the growth of Fintech as a means of accelerating the adoption of a digital economy. MDEC will support these initiatives by providing a unified framework on which they are able to interoperate easily and cost-effectively across the entire national digital ecosystem.
Malaysia 5.0, properly implemented, will function as the tracks on which the digital economy travels. If this sounds impossibly ambitious for a country like Malaysia to achieve, then it only underlines the importance of designing a system which caters to our own particular competitive strengths, such as in Islamic Fintech for example, where Malaysia can bid to play a leadership role in an exciting sunrise industry.
Malaysia 5.0 is inspired by Japan's Society 5.0 initiative, which proposes to put society at the center of technology, so that technology serves society and not the other way around. It also allows for the management of disruptive new systems, such as Fintech, to ensure that benefits accrue fairly across society without bias.
To achieve this, Malaysia 5.0 will need to intermediate Digital Marketplaces, Banks, Fintech Companies and make them interoperable for public services and commercial counterparties. This omni-channel access creates the connectivity, services and relationships needed to build the kind of digital economy which supports all members of society, especially SME's which are most vulnerable to the effects of digital transition.
Malaysia 5.0 not only helps in the creation of new spokes in the wheel of the digital economy, but in so doing also serves as a centralized hub for Government to provide its regulatory oversight and public services. The result is massive efficiency gains and comprehensive oversight built into one unified system.
In areas where we enjoy competitive strengths, such as Islamic Fintech, Malaysia 5.0 positions Malaysia in the global marketplace of banks, insurers, telcos, etc. providing Islamic digital services. Certainly I am the first to acknowledge that we are far away from leading the world as an innovation economy, but the first step towards progressing on this path is recognizing the need for an initiative such as Malaysia 5.0 to build a national framework that stimulates and supports our future digital economy.
There has never been a better time to think creatively and implement big change. If we unify around this objective, then we can hope to not only recover lost ground from the pandemic, but also leap-frog into innovation that will serve our future digital age generations. Unity Alliance truly can be an alliance that serves all Malaysians in our shared common goals for recovery, progress, and well-being.
(Datuk Wira Dr. Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff is the President/CEO at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.)