Malaysia kicked off the new year bursting with energy and determination. Indeed, 2020 was supposed to be a milestone year for Malaysians - with everyone hoping to make great strides forward – and propelling our digital nation further along the trajectory to becoming a more developed nation on the world's stage.
However, as we all now know, the entire world was caught off-guard by the unprecedented health crisis brought on by the novel coronavirus virus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the Covid-19 disease. In addition to the ensuing panic, the world economy has come to a virtual halt as the spread of Covid-19 has single-handedly disrupted the world.
In what seems like the blink of an eye, this disease has upturned our lives and our businesses. Aimed at slowing down the spread of the pandemic, Malaysia's Movement Control Order (MCO) has now been in effect since 18 March 2020. At the time I penned these thoughts, we are moving in the right direction, with encouraging results hard-won by the sacrifices by both the community as well as local businesses.
You and I have seen businesses across multiple sectors come to a standstill, delivering a significant blow to our economy.
However, I believe that within every crisis, there is an opportunity. Many businesses have had to drastically change their models in order to stay competitive.
Technology has emerged as a powerful lifeline, which has proved to be an invaluable to users - both for running many kinds of business as well as to keep us connected within the home. China is using robots to disinfect hospitals and drones are being used to deliver medical supplies; while in South Korea, authorities are tracking potential carriers using cell phone and satellite technology
The year 2020 is proving to be a milestone year after all. Many of us are now seeing these days as a turning point: a make or break time. Industry leaders are finding themselves in a transformational landscape, and are rolling out solutions that will not only help mitigate the impact from Covid-19 - but also allow Malaysians to bounce back from the MCO safely and responsibly.
Every day, analysts and commenters are trying to measure the impact of Covid-19 on global economies. According to Bank Negara, our economy is expected to contract by 2% this year.
Echoing this sombre outlook for Malaysia, The World Bank has revised its initial 4.5% growth forecast for 2020 down to 0.1%. On the employment front, the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research estimates that about 2.4 million may lose their jobs.
However, proactive steps are already being taken to mitigate these expectations from the Covid-19 crisis. These include the RM250 billion stimulus package introduced by the government on March 27, which will be used to protect the welfare of Malaysians as well as support local businesses.
Currently, our key priority is to curb and control the spread of the disease: flattening the curve remains paramount. This will help pave the way for us all to get our lives and our economy back on track.
We have to balance controlling the spread of Covid-19 with implementing those steps that will help our businesses weather the storm. In common with most countries, Malaysia needs to focus on containment, and to phase in various degrees of relaxations in the lockdown to promulgate a return to work, beginning with gradually extending the list of essential industry sectors.
As industry leaders, we realise that the pace of the return to a new normality - with continued social distancing, working from home, and so forth - will depend on a hist of factors. The use of technology has already been proven to enable many business operations and social connectivity to remain in place - as proved during our MCO. However, the increased wise deployment of technologies will also speed our path in the post-pandemic world.
Indeed, industry players like you and me - and many, many others - have worked hard to maintain a functioning ecosystem of connectivity, which has enabled some degree of business and lifestyle activities!
The government recently announced that businesses could operate from 4 May 2020 - while still adhering to the SOPs and guidelines set by Ministry of Health (MoH) and other authoritative agencies. However, the stigma from the global pandemic remains within many in different degrees.
Also, remote working, digitalised processes, and many other uses of technology has delivered the real possibility of a different lifestyle, and alternative - perhaps more effective - ways of working. Unsurprisingly, Malaysians have been quick to adapt to this new normal!
Nevertheless, its a question of balance: for example, our frontliners, backliners, and many others who hold critical functions will still need to be present physically for work. And it is part of our duty as Malaysians and business leaders to play our part in safeguarding them in their work
Looking at the wider scenario, I believed that the use of technology would see a rapid uptick during the MCO. Many digital solutions have been innovated, and are energising an ecosystem that was already in a transitional stage of transformation. We are seeing business behaviours being reshaped, consumer activities shifting to online platforms, and socialising across conferencing tools.
Of course, many roles and organisations will still need return-to-work strategies. Many team members and functions will require procedures and tools that encompass web-based self-assessment forms, body temperature screening, and contact tracing, and much more. Examples of solutions include those that will help screen potentially infected individuals while allowing healthy employees, contract workers and visitors to access offices or premises via a unique QR code for greater control and contact tracing. Combined system-generated QR codes and QR code readers will also ensure smooth flow at workplace entry points, thus avoiding crowding, preventing surface reinfection and ensuring social distancing.
Physical screening also plays a key role in halting the spread of the coronavirus - though the use of thermal scanners, cameras and sensors, which can be utilised to screen symptomatic employees, both at entry points and within the workplace. Businesses and building owners can also opt to leverage off data analytics to statistically monitor information gathered by e-forms, scanners, sensors and cameras to limit employee gatherings and detect potential infections while ensuring swift and effective contact tracing.
As more data is generated, artificial intelligence (AI) will help us to build predictive measures. And of course, the Cloud adoption rate in Malaysia will also continue to see a major boost. The global cloud computing market is expected to reach USD623.3 billion by 2023 (Source : Report LinkedIn). By 2021, cloud data centres will process 94% of workloads making turnaround time faster, according to Cisco. With the dizzying speeds at which new technologies are being introduced and adopted, the dilemma of balancing privacy concerns against enhanced efficiencies will remain top of the agenda.
Here, technology in the form of cutting-edge cybersecurity measures need to be in place: this points to the urgency of having an end-to-end strategy as a business priority.
In my discussions with my peers and partners in the industry, talk of 'the new normal' is becoming an every day topic. Businesses and human resource management are finding themselves well out of their comfort zones!
To plan and implement an effective return-to-work strategy, businesses must ensure that all employees' well-being and safety are integral aspects of their forward-motion: We need to take care of our people so that they can take care of the business.
By using high-performance connectivity, complemented by the most effective digital infrastructure, we at TM ONE are playing our part in providing the most effective platform to help drive Malaysia's post-MCO strategy forward. Equipped with a number of comprehensive digital solutions, we are determined to help our nation combat Covid-19, and to also help the workforce get back to work safely - and wisely.
To ensure that the needs of all are taken into consideration, we are offering multiple flexible solutions for businesses to leverage, according to their specific needs. These involves building their own return-to-work technology solutions that are aligned to their budget and their needs - coupled of course with expertise from top solution consultants.
Moving forward, these newly-introduced technological solutions will help businesses rapidly adapt and grow in a post-Covid-19 world - and also enable continued operations in these challenging times. Most importantly, TM ONE's approach opens up the avenue for growth in a post-MCO landscape, and also helps to build their resilience to future upheavals.
As part of an integrated telco, and an enabler of the Digital Nation for all Malaysians - consumers and businesses alike - TM ONE, the enterprise and public sector arm of Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM), is well-positioned to enable the ecosystem for digital society, digital business and digital government.
This also transcends into operating within a new digital framework as a direct result of the impact of Covid-19. We are fully committed to combat this pandemic, to help industry, and the nation move forward – stronger than ever before or stronger as one!