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November 30, 2021
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The pandemic caused a seismic shift in our relationship with work. Past location-based practices made way for a remote, employee-centric model. However, with vaccination rates showing a glimmer of hope back to normalcy, how do we move forward with the future of work?
The answer here is clear. In fact, the Microsoft Global Work Trend Index found that over 66% of leaders say their company is considering redesigning their workplaces to suit a hybrid work model.1
Employees share the same aspirations, with over 73% showing interest in flexible remote work options. Consequently, your team must prepare for the hybrid work future.
Managing these demands is mission-critical as over 40 per cent of the global workforce are considering changing jobs within the next year – nearly double the amount from past years.
This situation places a lot of pressure on how you retain and attract talents. To help you, we believe your company should centre decisions across these three main questions:
There is no definite answer on how your company can answer these questions. It differs significantly from each industry and, most importantly, to each unique employee. A robust and enabling employee experience must cover your employee’s entire life cycle.
In this article, we share three best practices from three distinct companies to give you inspiration on how you can tackle these employee experience questions.
“Beyond the pandemic, the overall changing work landscape, in line with the global outlook, and the push towards being more inclusive, point towards a combination of the different work settings to adapt to the different needs of both the workplace and the workforce”2 – Datuk Nora Manaf, Group Chief Human Capital Officer
Maybank facilitated the transition of 82% of its workers to a work-from-home (WFH) setting within days when the lockdown struck. From this experience, Maybank took notice of the several groups of people in its workforce based on their nature of work.
In response to their staff and work nature, Maybank laid out a comprehensive hybrid approach to suit their employees’ lifestyle and career aspirations. This strategy included three main approaches to work:
Maybank seeks to complement these initiatives with new workplace designs and upskilling initiatives to support blended working arrangements.3
Apart from these employee-centric models, Maybank recognised that virtualisation of work could severely impact collaboration and communication.
It becomes easy for us to lose touch with our employees when we rarely meet them in person. As such, Maybank took proactive steps to counter this.
For example, Maybank initiated the Leaders Teaching Leaders (LTL) program, which held virtual sessions for the group EXCO to engage consistently with his employees. In 2020, over 630 sessions of LTL were participated by the Group EXCO.
Maybank shows us that a large corporation in a highly regulated environment does not limit a company to treating its employees with empathy. It recognised the changing demands from employees, and responded flexibly.
Accenture – Prioritising employees’ learning and development
“Our unwavering commitment to inclusion and diversity unleashes innovation and creates a culture where everyone feels they have equal opportunity” – Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO
The growing need for digital skills can sometimes get too overwhelming for our employees. Coupled with the need to balance work, employees can find it challenging to match technology’s pace.
To help their employees, Accenture introduced the Future Talent Platform – a digital upskilling platform. The aim was to ensure that its workforce had the channels it needed to bridge skill gaps with ease and affordability.
This program is highly customisable and provides recommendations for upskilling based on an employee’s role. The platform hosts over 2,400 courses on the Accenture Academy platform and over 8,000 courses from content partners.
In 2021, Accenture reported an increase in training hours by 46% from fiscal 2020 to over 31 million training hours.4 They managed to average approximately 60 hours of training per person.
In addition, since March 2020, the company trained more than 70,000 employees on highly sought-after skills, such as cloud computing and remote collaboration tools.
These initiatives are vital today, where employees may feel threatened by technology replacing their jobs. Investing in our employees shows that we care about their growth and development. In return, companies can ensure they can retain their talents for the long term.
DBS Bank Ltd, Technology as a catalyst for employee engagement
“Conventional wisdom is that it is difficult for a legacy company to transform at scale. So, in embarking on change, some organisations keep the old and new organisations separate. My view is that to drive transformation at scale, you must attack the core — and make it mainstream. Even though it’s daunting, I am a firm believer that one needs to create change in the company-wide culture.”5 – Piyush Gupta, DBS Bank CEO
Keeping employees engaged with their work can be difficult within a remote setting. Communication lines may weaken, and employees may feel disconnected and alienated. DBS shows how technology, when used effectively, can drive coordination, efficiency, and collaboration.
DBS Bank initiated the “TOGETHER” movement to help its employees navigate through the pandemic as a team.6 The bank wanted to make sure that its employees remained connected and engaged by encouraging open communication throughout the pandemic. The three main initiatives of this movement are as follows:
DBS also uses digital tools to encourage transparent communication across the workforce. Digital tools with empathy are a powerful combination. For instance, DBS initiated the “Ask Piyush” to create a direct communication channel to the CEO himself.
Employees can ask questions, comment, and give suggestions to the CEO directly via this digital tool. This channel helps to break the traditional hierarchies and encourages more open communication across the bank. Consequently, such initiatives helped DBS create a conducive environment for its employees to thrive.
1 Microsoft. (2021, March 22). The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready? Retrieved 28 October 2021, from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work
2 Lee, J. (2021, July 25). Maybank goes flexi. The Star. Retrieved 29 October 2021, from https://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2021/07/26/maybank-goes-flexi
3 Surviving The Impact of Covid-19: WFH is here to stay, looking more hybrid. (2021, January 14). The Edge Markets. Retrieved 25 October 2021, from https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/surviving-impact-covid19-wfh-here-stay-looking-more-hybrid
4 Accenture. (2020, October 21). Accenture’s Annual Reports. https://www.accenture.com/my-en/about/company/annual-report
5 “At DBS, we act less like a bank and more like a tech company.” With DBS Bank CEO Piyush Gupta. (2018, October 12). DBS Innovates. Retrieved 25 October 2021, from https://www.dbs.com/innovation/dbs-innovates/at-dbs-we-act-less-like-a-bank-and-more-like-a-tech-company-with-dbs-bank-ceo-piyush-gupta.html
6 Sustainability Report 2020 Stronger Together | DBS Bank. (2021, March 2). DBS. Retrieved 26 October 2021, from https://www.dbs.com/sustainability/reporting/sustainability-report
June 09, 2022
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In Malaysia, banks are stepping up in their journey into more sustainable financing and operating practices, making efforts to integrate environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) considerations into their governance, business strategy, operations and risks management.
Consulting firm PwC conducted a survey last year to gauge the Malaysian banking sector’s readiness for ESG. Results from the study were released recently and showed that financial institutions in the country have woken up to the ESG imperative, with most sharing concerns about climate change, environmental and social risks.
Of the 14 Malaysian banks polled, 90% indicated having assigned a department to operationalize ESG, showcasing that Malaysian banks are making progress in establishing governance and oversight over ESG risks.
In addition, 21% of respondents said they have already embedded three ESG-related frameworks within their organization, namely the Climate Change and Principle-based Taxonomy (CCPT), the Value-based Intermediation Financing and Investment Impact Assessment Framework (VBIAF), and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
Results from the 2021 PwC survey echo those of a study conducted the same year by Malaysia’s Joint Committee on Climate Change (JC3). Formed in 2019, JC3 is a committee co-chaired by representatives from the Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and the Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) that focuses on building climate resilience within the Malaysia financial sector.
The study, released in April 2022, shares findings from a survey of 24 respondents in the banking, finance and insurance sectors, and found strong commitments from Malaysian financial institutions on sustainability and climate issues.
92% of respondents indicated having a sustainability strategy in place, and 73% of banking respondents said they have made some commitments to ban or phase out financing of coal-related activities.
In the banking sector, Hong Leong Bank has been praised for being among the industry’s leaders in ESG standards, recognized by a 2021 CGS-CIMB Research paper for its efforts in promoting ESG practices across its operations, working with its borrowers to improve standards, incorporating ESG evaluation in its loan approval process, and practicing disclosure of ESG-related information.
Within the telecommunications sector, CGS-CIMB Securities has ranked Telekom Malaysia (TM) highly from an ESG perspective, highlighting the telco’s ability to consistently meet the regulator’s quality of service (QoS), key performance indicators (KPIs), relatively lower regulatory risks compared to other mobile telco players, and continuous effort to implement a robust cybersecurity framework.
TM announced earlier this year that it had implemented the use of renewable energy to power its data centres, becoming the first company in the country to do so. Two of its data centres, namely the Klang Valley Core Data Centre (KVDC) in Cyberjaya and Iskandar Puteri Core Data Centre (IPDC) in Johor Bahru have secured the Green Electricity Tariff (GET) from Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), as well as Green Building Index (GBI) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certifications.
Further showcasing its commitment to sustainability, TM, together with Yayasan Sukarelawan Siswa (YSS) and 18 partners comprising local councils, institutions and universities, recently collaborated to plant 5,017 Gutta Percha trees (instrumental in the early beginnings of the global submarine telegraph network) at 23 locations all over Malaysia.
Members of the public will also have the opportunity to contribute as TM launched its Adopt-A-Tree campaign where customers can adopt a Gutta Percha tree which will be planted within the 23 unifi Green Zones.
In the long term, TM aims to cut down carbon emissions by 30% in 2024, 45% by 2030 and achieve Net-Zero emission by 2050.
The company is also aiming to provide high-access Internet to at least 70% of premises nationwide and has committed to having a minimum of 30% representation of women on its board of directors and in management.
Progress observed among Malaysian firms in integrating ESG considerations comes on the back of an ongoing push by the government to advance sustainability, as well as strengthen security, wellbeing, and inclusivity.
The five-year 12th Malaysia Plan (12MP) development plan, introduced by the government back in September 2021, aims to achieve economic growth and transform Malaysia into “a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable country.”
Goals include achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, increasing the total installed capacity of renewable energy, enhancing green financing and incentives, and promoting the circular economy.
In the financial sector, the industry is guided by the respective blueprints and masterplans released by the regulators to address sustainability and climate issues.
In September 2021, the SC launched the Capital Market Masterplan 3 (CMP3), which serves as a strategic framework for the capital market to continue to support the economy and transition towards greater inclusivity and sustainability.
And earlier this year, BNM released the Financial Sector Blueprint 2022-2026, outlining the central bank’s development priorities for the financial sector over the next five years, anchored on efforts to foster market dynamism, support sustainable development objectives, and facilitate an orderly transition to greener, more climate-resilient economy and financial sector.
The rise in importance of ESG standards comes as consumers are growing more concerned about the environment and demand institutions to behave in ways that align with what they believe is socially responsible.
PwC, which polled 5,005 consumers, 2,510 employees, and 1,257 business leaders in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany and India last year, found that 83% of consumers believe companies should be actively involved in creating ESG best practices. More significantly, 76% of consumers said they would discontinue relationships with organizations that treated employees, communities, or the environment poorly.
In Southeast Asia, this trend is evidenced by the surge in sustainable investing. Between 2016 and 2020, the issuance of sustainable bonds and sukuk, or bond-like instruments used in Islamic finance, grew exponentially at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 198% in ASEAN, reaching US$22.1 billion in 2020, a 2022 report by EY shows. Total ASEAN sustainable bonds and sukuk issued is projected to amount to US$29.8 billion in 2021.
This article was first published by FinTech News Malaysia
May 31, 2022
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With technology advancing at its rapid pace, digital transformation has become a priority for many organisations, regardless of industry. Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to revolutionise existing, as well as non-digital business processes and services to create new ones in order to meet the market’s evolving needs.
Many businesses seek digital transformation for a number of reasons. Among them, having access to more in-depth data may equate to understanding customer insights better and, thus, having the ability to create a strategy that connects with them better. On top of that, there is also room for cost reduction as a result of time savings in operational processes.
Strategic partnerships may also be a strategy to employ when undergoing a digital transformation, as it allows different businesses to leverage and learn from each other in order to better meet any challenges the future may hold.
In March, Tune Protect, Huawei Malaysia, and TM announced an exciting new collaboration to re-platform Tune Protect’s existing General Insurance System (GIS) on Cloud via Huawei Malaysia and TM’s Cloud infrastructure, Cloud Alpha Edge. This significant shift signifies that Tune Protect is the first insurer in Malaysia to host its core insurance system on Cloud.
As part of the Cloud First strategy, the core system includes a collection of SAP HANA and SAP apps that will be comprehensively housed in TM Cloud Alpha Edge with full landing dependability and confidence.
According to Muhammad Ghadaffi Bin Mohd Tairobi, TM One’s Vertical Director of Banking & Finance Sales, “TM One is committed in accelerating the digital transformation journey of our customers by helping them to provide the best digital experience to their end-users. This is particularly true in these times where digital transactions have increased exponentially. Tune Protect’s success in adopting Core System in Cloud Alpha Edge is a benchmark for all companies in the Banking, Finance and Insurance industry to embark on the public cloud journey confidently. Not limited to just cloud adoption, we provide end-to-end digital solutions for innovative product development while providing the best solutions and infrastructure such as cybersecurity and big data analytics enabling omni-channel, data monetisation agenda, leading to cost optimisation.”
Tune Protect, on the other hand, always had Cloud as the centrepiece of the digital transformation. Prasanta Roy, Group Chief Technology Officer of Tune Protectshares that having the SAP insurance core platform on Cloud helps to fast track innovation in their products and services, achieve speed-to-market, and provide differentiation in service to their customers. “Being the first insurer is a mere coincidence, but it has definitely the right step to set up the right foundation for technology transformation,” he adds
Besides being a product of two large scale companies, Cloud Alpha Edge has an array of unique distinctions to its name. To date, it is the only Malaysian-owned Hyperscaler Public Cloud that actively advocates data sovereignty.
To date, Cloud Alpha Edge is the only Malaysian-owned Hyperscaler Public Cloud that actively advocates data sovereignty.
TM One is also the only local player with its own twin-core data centre, cloud infrastructure, with complete data residency and sovereignty. This infrastructure is strengthened through AI, and advanced cybersecurity solutions. This is especially suited for industries that are at high risk for cyber threats such as Public Sector and Healthcare. In fact, Cloud Alpha Edge already has multiple footprints in these industries, as well as Manufacturing.
With the rise of Insurtechs across the globe, it is quite evident that insurers will partner with various players in this space to bring in differentiation. Taking a closer look at data privacy, data residency and PDPA has to be taken into account. Tune Protect’s risk, governance/compliance and technology team worked together on all these aspects carefully while considering various public and private cloud options available within and outside of Malaysia. Cloud Alpha Edge came closest to meeting this need as the cloud data centres are based in Malaysia and customers are assured that their data remain preserved with the highest data sovereignty and confidentiality, as shared by Prasanta.
This also implies that data on the Cloud is stored in Malaysia rather than overseas, addressing the issue of data sovereignty. “They (Huawei Malaysia and TM One) are the right partner for Tune Protect based on all the considerations such as availability zones, SAP partnership with TM, and support availability around SAP from Cloud service provider,” explained Prasanta.
The working together between Tune Protect, Huawei Cloud, and TM One seek to improve a number of things. For one, Tune looks to support improvements in the area of speed-to-market, leveraging the agility and scalability of cloud services whilst also accommodating to the spike and decline of the market. In addition to that, enhanced customer experiences are also something they look forward to through improved IT productivity and a seamless user experience.
“As technology progresses and customers demand more personalisation, it is the right time for us to build the new SAP core system on Cloud to collaborate with other ecosystem partners to deliver a personalised experience for our customers in terms of product and claims,” continues Prasanta.
Not only will this partnership benefit existing and future users of Tune Protect, but the re-platforming also benefits company employees. With the presence of Cloud services like “racking and stacking” which can be completed by the Huawei or TM One team, this would free up the time of their internal technology team.
It’s only realistic for this transition to face its own set of unique challenges, such as converting the legacy on-premises software to Cloud-native. In preparation for any transitional friction the team may face, Tune Protect has lined up a mitigation plan that includes various Cloud certifications, online training, and on-the-job training for the respective team members to ensure a smooth and seamless process.
Prasanta also shared that the Infrastructure and Security teams will be upskilled so they are able to manage hybrid data centres, consisting of both on-premise and Cloud.
Migrating the critical systems to Cloud where on-premise hardware is nearing expiry would be next for Tune Protect, he adds. Consumers can look forward to new services such as health tech and other innovative solutions from Cloud that would enhance customer-centricity and experience as they aspire to grow more digital partnerships in the near future, in alignment with the overall Group’s business trajectory.
Huawei Malaysia believes that this collaboration is a strategic move that encourages data sovereignty in Malaysia, especially as no other public cloud service providers currently offer this, as mentioned by Lim Chee Siong, Vice President of the Cloud Business Unit at Huawei Malaysia. It marks a major breakthrough in FSI digitisation in Malaysia and Huawei Cloud also hopes they are able to help accelerate digital transformation in banks and insurance companies across the country.
May 19, 2022
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The rise of digital banking and accelerated digital transformation have brought about new security concerns. Criminals are turning their attention to gullible online users, creating ever-so sophisticated scamming schemes to defraud them. At the enterprise level, threat actors are opportunistically using the shifting work environment to adopt tactics to infiltrate organisations.
Statistics1 from the Commercial Crime Investigation Department at the Royal Malaysia Police show that cybercrime is skyrocketing as consumers shift to online channels.
Between 2017 and June 20, 2021, Malaysians suffered losses amounting to about RM2.23 billion (US$533 million) from cybercrime frauds.
Of the 67,552 cybercrime cases reported during the period, e-commerce scams topped the chart with 23,011 cases. Meanwhile, complaints on online transactions surged 112% between 2019 and 2020, indicating that cybercriminals are looking to capitalise on the surge in e-commerce activity and rapid consumer adoption of digital financial solutions amid the new normal brought about by the COVID-19.
The pandemic forced consumers to turn to online retailers to buy groceries and e-wallets to pay their bills. A survey conducted2 by Kaspersky and research agency YouGov found that out of the 1,600+ respondents in Asia-Pacific (APAC) polled, 90% indicated having used mobile payment applications at least once in the past 12 months. Around 15% of the total survey respondents said they began using digital payment methods during the pandemic.
At the enterprise-level, cyber threats are exploding as well. The 2022 IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index, released3 last month, revealed that Asia has become the most attacked region globally, with over one in four cyber attacks recorded by the tech firm last year targeting users in the continent.
Asia saw more cyber attacks than any other region in the past year, the report says, with financial services and manufacturing organisations in particular experiencing nearly a combined 60% of attacks in Asia.
Server access attacks, where the attacker gains unauthorised access to a server, was the second-most common attack type observed, making up 11% of all incidents IBM’s X-Force IR team remediated in 2021. The majority of these attacks occurred in Asia, and in many cases the threat actors were successful in deploying malware or employing penetration testing tools on a server, the report indicates.
The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and forced people to change the way they worked, transacted, and banked. This unprecedented speed of digital transformation is putting stress on banks’ IT systems, compromising real-time data analysis, and creating storage and security issues.
A recent survey4 of 305 global bank COOs and CTOs conducted by data-monitoring and management company – ITRS Group, found alarmingly weak operational resilience at financial institutions in the wake of COVID-19.
84% of respondents stated that their IT environment has changed more in the past 12 months than over their company’s lifespan, with digital transformation, work-from-home arrangements, cloud adoption, and more sophisticated security threats cited as the top drivers of change in banks’ IT environment. The figure stands even higher for APAC-based institutions where the velocity of IT change was found to be the greatest.
Globally, 79% of respondents indicated that it has become increasingly difficult for their institution to maintain their SLAs, or service-level agreements, with more than half stating that they suffered at least one business day of unplanned downtime every year.
Additionally, 94% stated that digital transformation has resulted in a significant increase in the volume of data, leading to challenges in analysing data in real-time (65%), storing data (62%), and difficulties in securing data (62%), creating a concerning trend.
As more people rely on digital payments and get accustomed to digital services, awareness of cyber risks and crime is also on the rise.
In fact, security is becoming consumers’ top concern, with 67% of Southeast Asian respondents polled by Kaspersky and YouGov indicating that they hope for the implementation of one-time passwords (OTPs) through SMS for every transaction.
After OTPs, two-factor authentication was named the second most preferred security feature (57%), while 56% of respondents said biometric security features, like facial or fingerprint recognition, should be added for digital banking and e-wallets.
Going even further, a considerable proportion of consumers believe that financial services providers should play a bigger role in protecting their customers from being defrauded. In fact, 40% of respondents indicated that banks and mobile wallet companies should “start preventing frauds/scams automatically based on spending behavior and/or transfer history.”
With increasing international cooperation and the establishment of multiple task forces to trace ransomware gangs, Kaspersky experts believe the number of such attacks will decrease in 2022.
Instead, cybercriminals will turn to more advanced scams and social engineering as they seek to exploit human and system vulnerabilities. These scams will leverage all sorts of tools and channels, ranging from SMS and automated phone calls to messaging apps and social networks, and will be fueled by the availability of advanced technologies such as deepfake and voice synthesis, the experts said, quoted5 by Vietnam News.
In Thailand, nearly 40,000 people were scammed with their bank accounts and credit cards showing inexplicable transactions. In Malaysia, scammers used fake bank websites to steal customers banking details. And in Vietnam, criminals impersonated top e-commerce platforms to trick users into sending money.
Kaspersky experts predict a significant wave of attacks on cryptocurrency businesses, a trend that started in 2019 and which coincides with the beginning of the cryptocurrency market’s bull run.
Figures from blockchain data platform Chainalysis show6 that cryptocurrency-based crime, including scams, ransomware, and stolen funds, hit a new all-time high in 2021, with illicit addresses receiving US$14 billion over the course of the year, up 79% from RM32.91 billion (US$7.8 billion) in 2020.
Kaspersky experts said they have already witnessed advanced persistent threat (APT) groups rising to attack the cryptocurrency business aggressively, and they anticipate that this activity will continue as criminals increasingly exploit flawed security and resort to advanced techniques including manufacturing and retailing rogue devices with backdoors and social engineering campaigns to steal cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies are particularly attractive to criminals, considering the anonymity they provide.
Southeast Asia could be more vulnerable than other countries, considering that consumers in these locations are known for being avid adopters of cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Among 20 countries surveyed by Kaspersky, the Philippines was found to have the highest adopter rate of 32% of Filipinos indicating owning digital assets. This is followed by Thailand (26.2%), ranked second, then Malaysia (23.9%). Vietnam (17.4%) was fifth and Singapore (6.8%) 14th.
The urgency of addressing the relentless surge of cyber threats impacting both the public and business sectors is a fundamental step to enabling a sustainable, safe and successful digital society. As a key player in digital transformation for companies across industries, TM One’s commitment to cybersecurity helps to create a safe and secure online environment for businesses and protect consumers from fraud and identity theft.
TM One has collaborated with CyberSecurity Malaysia, the national cybersecurity specialist agency, to elevate the nation’s cybersecurity network and ecosystem while strengthening Malaysia’s self-reliance in cyberspace.
“At TM One, we understand that new technologies are driving the accelerated digital transformation for many industries, allowing players to respond quickly to changes as well as provide customers with better digital experiences. Having a strong cybersecurity foundation will benefit Malaysian financial institutions not only mitigate cyber risk, but boost performance. Our Managed Security Services are designed to meet the specific needs of financial institutions and take their digital transformation forward to effectively improve operations, address compliance requirements, and enable open ecosystems,” said Muhammad Ghadaffi Mohd Tairobi, Director of Sales for Banking and Financial Services at TM One.
Do you know what are the key sources of cyber risk in Malaysia? Click here to download the infographics.
This article was first published by FinTech News Malaysia
March 12, 2022
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Given the fragility of global conditions and increasing emphasis on using digital innovation to build a safer, and more sustainable future for the betterment of people, we are seeing greater focus on actualising smart communities around the world.
Malaysia’s focus on smart cities and smart communities is also gaining momentum and reflects the wider trend. The global smart cities market size estimated to grow from US$457 billion last year to US$873.7 billion by 2026, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.8%, according to a Markets and Markets1 report,
Taking a few steps back, the unveiling in 1996 of Malaysia’s digital economy vision, started with Cyberjaya, which was seeded as the country’s smart city, within a national vision to become a digital economy hub starting with the MSC Supercorridor (MSC Malaysia) platform2.
As a smart city zone, Cyberjaya3, was tasked to become a test bed to nurture emerging technologies and to become a preferred tech investment location, according to Najib Ibrahim, managing director, Cyberview Sdn Bhd in an interview with Disruptive Asia last year4.
Jumping ahead a few years to last year, we saw two launches to spur Malaysia’s smart city aspirations: the Smart City Handbook: Malaysia5 on 22 June 2021 by Malaysia’s former housing and local government (KPKT) minister YB Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin and the UK’s high commissioner, H.E Charles Hay; closely followed by the soft launch on 29 June 2021 by technological partnership think tank MIGHT6 (Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology) of its Smart City Outlook 2021/22 (MSCO) report7.
Continued major smart city developments include: the Smart Selangor8 initiative, aiming to make it the most liveable state within the region by 2025; Smart City Iskandar Malaysia9, and various digital programmes under DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Hall) under its Kuala Lumpur Smart City Blueprint 2021-202510.
In the same week of MIGHT’s report, the government announce the appointment of Swedish ICT company Ericsson as 5G development partner to build an end-to-end rollout of a SWN (single wholesale network) in Malaysia at a total cost of RM11 billion ($2.65 billion), according to a statement by Digital Nasional Berhad (DNB) – which is the government entity overseeing the rollout of MyDigital11.
Interestingly, Malaysia’s announcement of its national 4IR policy, which was also in the first week of July, posited a smart city framework. As envisaged by Malaysia’s Smart City Framework under the 12th Malaysia Plan 2021-2025, of which MyDigital is a component12, the digitalisation of society and the economy is seen as vital to accelerate Malaysia’s recovery and to enhance the quality and safety life.
However, at the time of writing, the regulator Ministry of Communications and Multimedia (MCMC) and the Finance Ministry tabled a memorandum slated for 11 March 2022 to the Malaysian Cabinet for a decision on the possibility of opting for a dual wholesale network (DWP).
Regardless of the rollout approach, the 5th generation wireless technology is viewed by industry and governments as positing the potential to spur smart city growth and bring more communities into the digital arena.
Recently, the country’s housing and local government minister Dato’ Sri Reezal Merican said:, “At the top of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government’s agenda is to promote the philosophy of ‘Liveable Malaysia’ in line with the 12th Malaysia Plan. ‘Liveable Malaysia’ emphasises on ensuring that the rakyat’s [the people’s] wellbeing is safeguarded and defended within the purview of our ministry. Among the key focus of ‘Liveable Malaysia’ is mainstreaming digitalization in the service delivery of local authorities as well as adopting advanced technology in the development of cities within the Malaysia Smart City Framework.”
His comment came in late February of this year during the United Kingdom’ virtual Smart Cities Mission to Malaysia, which again served as the latest spur to review the smart cities and smart communities aspects of Malaysia’s digital transformation agenda.
Held 22-24 February, the three day mission’s objectives were two-fold: to increase collaborations to encourage smart city development in local government and housing and related fields; and to introduce offerings from about 40 UK smart city solutions providers.
Speakers at the panel discussion on capitalising technology to build a sustainable and smart digital economy13 included Asia Pacific Digital Trade Network regional director Christopher Bush (acting as the moderator, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) vice president Ir Dr Karl Ng, Tech London and Global Tech Advocates founder Russ Shaw CBE, and TM One executive vice president Shazurawati Binti Abd Karim.
In her opening, Shazurawati pointed to AI as constituting a key driver today among emerging technologies, enabling new levels of efficiencies for businesses and organisations of any size as well as its use in daily lives through mobile apps for shopping, transport, banking, customer service through chat bots, cyber security detection and mitigation, and so on.
Citing a recent IDC report – IDC MaturityScape Benchmark: Artificial Intelligence in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) 14 – that revealed 42% of Asia Pacific enterprises were deploying AI albeit in isolated projects, she affirmed that: “AI offers a core capability in digital transformation and maturity levels in the region; and another research study assessing Asean suggests that AI may add one trillion dollars to the region’s GDP by 2030 if we do this right.”
Russ Shaw concurred with her comments the importance of AI and added 5G, blockchain among others. “We need high speed connectivity to enable emerging technologies across enterprise and public sectors including smart cities.”
Indeed, founder chair of Outreach UN ITU Prize ACM for good Global Summit Stephen Ibaraki , writing from his pro bono work15 involving more than 100,000 CEOs, investors, experts and scientists, concludes that: “By 2030 AI will measurably influence and impact more than 8.5 billion people, across all sectors, and human & earth diverse ecosystems on an unprecedented scale.”
“Technological impact on Malaysia with technologies through smart city adoption is rightly balanced with sustainable – green technology – considerations. Malaysia is blessed with a lot of ongoing development from an infrastructure perspective,” commented Shazurawati, citing the use of technologies such as IoT sensors to detect, predict and mitigate local climate challenges such as haze, regular flooding, soil erosion, and traffic management.
Speaking to other societal aspects, she said: “Safety and convenience of the community is a high priority: For example, using AI and smart service solutions, we believe that integrated smart city surveillance such as using CCTV is only really useful with the use of analytics and AI through an integrated operations centre. Beyond public safety, we can use it as tool for cohesive disaster management, which will be enhanced with the coming of 5G. The volume and required speed of 5G will be part of the perfect recipe for smart city developments.”
Shazurawati added that Malaysia’s adoption would need to embrace solutions beyond CCTV such as drones to cover larger surveillance areas such as ports, platforms and refineries.
“During the pandemic, we learned to use drones to deliver medical supplies to remote areas. With regards to 5G, she said that Malaysia’s aim is to roll out 5G coverage to 80% of the population by 2024 in order to deliver impactful opportunities and benefits16 through services for smart city development.”
Malaysia’s smart digital economy testbed cases demonstrating the potential of 5G hark back to 2019/2020 when MCMC – together with various telecoms stakeholders such as Telekom Malaysia (TM) 17, Celcom Axiata, Digi Telecommunications, Edotco Malaysia, Maxis Broadband, U Mobile, Petroliam Nasional, and YTL Communications – held 5G Malaysia Demonstration Projects (5GDP) in six states involving an initial investment of RM143 million.
At the time, Malaysia envisioned 100 use cases embracing nine verticals – agriculture, education, entertainment/media, digital healthcare, manufacturing and processing, oil and gas, smart city, smart transportation and tourism. Some of these use case demonstrated some of the benefits that digital technologies with enhanced communications such as 5G would bring such as enhanced security, safety and economic opportunities to communities on the island of Langkawi, and its potential as a smart island18.
Shazurawati said, “[Since then] TM One has worked with several council municipalities with surveillance, smart traffic, smart lighting, smart building projects are part of the matrix to enhance the quality of life, to use technology to raise happiness levels of a city – to develop happy cities.”
This approach bodes well with sentiments from and other industry leaders. Closing the digital divide and benefitting humankind were two of the themes in a recent interview19 with UN agency ITU (Telecommunication Standardisation Bureau) 20 director Chaesub Lee. “There is a lot of talk about AI in emerging technical areas, but we want to find a practical approach,” Lee said. “We bring someone having problems they need to solve, and we bring someone who wishes to provide the solution, and then we have them meet to facilitate how to utilize AI and ML to help humankind.”
Similarly, Jouko Ahvenainen, pioneer in digital finance and data analytics, opined21 that smart city models often overlook one key component – the people in them that though ‘one main objective of smart cities is to collect data to improve and develop services’, the value of such developments to people and their privacy appears to have a lower priority’.
TM One’s stance is to offer building blocks to the private and public sectors – such as smart premises, smart agriculture, smart manufacturing, and so on22 – to develop smart happy cities, said Shazurawati.
MDEC’s Dr Karl echoed these trends by detailing some of the projects MDEC has been encouraging. The availability of data, balanced with security & privacy concerns, remains one of the challenges. The need for policy and government direction coupled with skills and right awareness are other factors to use technology to enhance productivity and generate wealth.
Co-creation, partnerships are vital to move forward, Shazurawati said. She added that global spending on smart city solutions could reach USD 2.5 trillion dollars by 2026.
“To better unleash innovation, connectivity is fundamental and we cannot live without this. To deliver services, we need to build these on a strong digital foundation – formed by cloud, data centres, cybersecurity and smart services,” she said.
Shazurawati agreed with Dr Karl that data and the correct exchange of data is a powerful enabler of executing more citizen services, and applications.
“We need to be open to explore new business models with a human centred, integrated approach geared towards raising happiness levels. A strong, sustainable digital foundation with collaboration and new ways of working is the way forward,” she said.
“Citizens deserve a one stop service with single-sign through a digital ID on for services as part of an effective smart city model, Shazurawati added. “Public and private partnership platforms will certainly accelerate development.”
Russ Shaw echoed these statements and added that investment from both public and private capital is a critical element for smart economy and smart city development. “The importance of growth capital from both sectors is needed to enable the innovation and implementations discussed in the panel. How to encourage businesses of all sizes and Cale to measure their environmental impact. This is the importance of data as Shazurawati and Dr Karl have been speaking eloquently about.”
Smart cities operate through the collection of data to improve and develop services. Establishing smart cities relies on smart data – or in other words – cohesive connections between advanced technologies, a flow of data combined with relevant culture change, and administration processes will help to heighten Malaysia’s sustainable smart city development: a trajectory fit to meet the demands of the 4th Industrial Revolution era.
Speaking back in 2017, Hazmi Yusof, managing director, Malaysia and senior vice president at Frost & Sullivan said: “Communication service providers and network service partners play a key role in forming the technological backbone to roll-out smart cities. Singtel in Singapore and Telstra in Australia have laid out US$500 million and US$100 million, respectively, to enable smart city technology platforms and infrastructure. Telekom Malaysia in Malaysia plans to build a data centre and provide cloud computing and smart services in a technology park,” said Hazmi back in 2017.
He also said, “Connectivity will be a key enabler while designing an omni-channel experience platform across all touch points including online and mobile. Data from sensors will enable new technologies to integrate softer aspects, such as customer perception and citizen awareness.”
In the pre-pandemic era, Frost & Sullivan pointed to 10 cities in Asia Pacific that were posited to become smart cities by 202523.
Technology and governance will among key enablers for participants in the smart city ecosystem in Asia-Pacific, he said. “Several government agendas in this region are driving the building of smarter cities in Singapore, Japan, China, and South Korea. Investments are expected to grow from US$55.6 billion in 2013 to US$260 billion in 2020,” he said. “Eight emerging cities also have standalone smart city projects, which when scaled-up, can achieve the smart city status by 2030 and beyond.”
The analyst firm’s definition is that: ‘Smart cities are cities built on “smart” and “intelligent” solutions and technology that focuses on managing and improving its citizen lives in a responsible and sustainable manner.’
Together with critical importance of balancing the pace of urbanisation with the need to manage planetary sustainability, a smart journey will separate the winners from the laggards.”
As part of its smart cities and inclusive growth programme, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2020, released a paper, which24, acknowledges the timeliness of utilising the benefits of smart cities as “particularly critical to help cities and countries manage and rebound from this unprecedented global crisis.”
Moving forward, Najib, in his recent Disruptive Asia interview25, asserted that, “Cyberview is one key thread in Malaysia’s smart city story”, adding that the ‘new masterplan has been designed to provide dynamic synergies between companies from various industries and entire value chains, addressing one of the gaps faced by businesses today: working in silos. Its four distinctive zones will optimise productivity and amplify growth with the three tech clusters to enhance liveability, ultimately transforming Cyberjaya into the centre for global tech powerhouses and promising startups.’
During 2021, Covid-19 related challenges were added prompts to Malaysia’s public authorities to embark on a track to refresh smart city initiatives using digital smart services to upscale service levels, citizen well-being, and especially important at this time – to forge the space for sustainable economic growth and recovery.
TM One, in accord with other industry players, sees the smart city concept pivot from the ‘nice to have’ to the ‘must implement today’ for Malaysia.
Furthermore, an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) paper in 2020, released as part of the organisation’s programme on smart cities and inclusive growth26, reinforces the timeliness of smart city development as “particularly critical to help cities and countries manage and rebound from this unprecedented global crisis.”
A consistent sentiment in most industry and public conversations is that the meaningful development of smart communities and cities to deliver real benefits to people and societies depends on highly collaborative public-private partnerships, supplemented by academia.
The year 2021’s Covid-19 related challenges also helped to encourage Malaysia’s public authorities to refresh and accelerate smart city initiatives to maintain as well as upscale service levels, citizen well-being, and especially important at this time – to forge the space for sustainable economic growth and recovery.
The original version of this article was first published on Disruptive Asia. (https://disruptive.asia/pushing-malaysias-smart-city-development-2022/)
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