According to Telekom Malaysia's enterprise and public sector solutions arm TM One,1 Malaysia's economic resurgence in the post-pandemic world will greatly benefit by adopting a human-centred approach to digital transformation, especially amid a tsunami of rapidly advancing technologies.
In an in-depth Disruptive.Asia 2022 outlook interview with Shazurawati Abd Karim, who as Executive Vice President is at the helm of TM One, said that the company's people first approach has invigorated much of TM One's aims to sensitively contribute to the growth of Digital Malaysia.
Last year, the nation's digital aspirations saw fresh impetus from MyDIGITAL 2 and expectations from a government-driven 5G rollout are high. According to the Chinese calendar, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger, and various industry leaders have already sounded the roar towards rapid recovery.
Shazurawati agrees that in common with the global experience, Malaysia's recovery efforts in 2021 were hampered by challenges related largely to new strains of COVID-19. Although the year, which was widely envisioned by many pundits as the year of recovery, did not transpire as hoped, TM One still managed to achieve several significant breakthroughs, and is well positioned to deliver on several digital nation building fronts, she said. "On reflection, we planned 2021 as the year of recovery; unfortunately, in common with the rest of the world, we found that COVID-19 continued to peak, which meant that the MCOs (movement control orders) and other challenges slowed down forward movement."
TM One's focus on catalysing Malaysia's business and government sectors has seen the joining together of important pieces of the jigsaw, she said.
"By the end of the 2021, we made many positive advances: We are happy to have continued to support our customers, the public and the government. From a business perspective, our performance of driving cloud adoption in 2021 has been phenomenal from a year-on-year growth perspective," she said, and detailed some of these milestones, which are summarised below.
"One defining moment is when we enhanced the capabilities of α Edge (Cloud Alpha) 3 with AI last year - thus becoming an Intelligent Industry Cloud Platform, with full stack hyperscaler capabilities hosted at TM One's Tier-III Data Centre in Malaysia. This is Malaysia's only hyperscaler cloud with end to end services, which meet local, residency and sovereignty data requirements as well as AI-capabilities that comply with the highest industry standards ."
This prepared the ground for another defining moment when TM was appointed by the government as the only local Cloud Service Provider (CSP)4 to play a pivotal role within the MyDIGITAL initiative to support Government agencies' digital transformation journey. 5
Announced in early 2020, MyDIGITAL is the country's 10-year bid to vitalise its digital economy trajectory, the objectives of which include boosting digital economy contributions to 22.6% of national gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 as well as opening up 500,000 new job opportunities.
On the commercial front, Shazurawati said that the end-to-end cloud solution has bolstered businesses operations by offering an array of much-needed benefits future-fit organisations: artificial intelligence capabilities to support all types of business innovation; machine learning (ML) functionalities to deliver actionable insights at greater speeds; edge computing to process data close to collection points; resource monitoring tools for identity and access management; advanced security tools and cybersecurity support to enable continuous real-time visibility and predictive protection.
"As well as providing peace of mind to organisations when hosting critical applications and classified data, industry verticals across the board were in a better position to boost their productivity and performance especially during these challenging times," she continued.
"Some other defining moments for us in 2021 was the continued broadening of our services beyond Malaysia, when a leading global provider of smart devices, HONOR adopted TM One Cloud solutions to serve its customers across three continents 6 - Asia, Africa and Latin America."
Some other cited examples included the Ministry of Education's use of α Edge to host its platform, enabling the simultaneous processing of large number of queries (such as exam results) – 15.4 mil queries, with 8.3 mil queries during peak hour.
Shazurawati also recalled other instances such as some collaborations with top Malaysian banks that used secured digital solutions and infrastructure to enrich their digital financial services and upscale digital banking adoption.
In addition, the provisioning of end to end managed network and security services across the industry verticals remain steadfast.
Shazurawati also pointed to TM’s role of forging strong relationships with global telco and content partners to strengthen Malaysia’s position on the global front as a preferred digital destination and business hub.
“We are very proud of another defining moment for our cloud services in 2021 - we made a big leap forward in cybersecurity and also with partnerships with some of the global telcos such as Telefonica, 7 for example."
TM One accrued a long record of distinction, including the latest array of records such as:
"So 2021 was indeed a year of fortifying our building blocks of connectivity, cloud services, smart services and on bringing these benefits to more people," she said, before turning to deeper strategic drivers.
IDC ASEAN Senior Research Manager for ASEAN recently noted that organisations in the region are striving to both innovate and generate revenue from digital products and services and to also be part of the ever-growing and evolving industry ecosystems. “We will see more and more ASEAN enterprises of the future forging partnerships and collaboration with ecosystem players to derive value from shared data, applications, and operations initiatives. This will only lead to the birth of innovative products, services as well as better engagement and experience for customers.”
IDC's top two ASEAN predictions for 2022 9 are underpinned by the rise of all things digital:
Indeed, the speed of transformation around the world is constrained by talent and skills' gaps, resistance to change and of course connectivity infrastructure concerns. The challenge of managing and unlocking value from the ongoing explosion of data in a digitalised economy also requires a greater commitment to inclusivity of people.
In the recent signing of a memorandum of agreement by OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Secretary General Mathias Cormann and ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi , 10 the objectives include promoting and accelerating digitalisation with an emphasis on driving infrastructures that include peoples, regions and businesses.
Shazurawati further explained that TM One is working closely with the regulator MCMC (Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) and other government entities to help open up digital training for people across the nation to take up digital economy opportunities.
“Formerly known as Internet Community Centres, we have supported MCMC transformed these into Digital Community Centres. In addition to internet broadband connections, people can now go to learn about becoming ‘digital enterprises’ - and we help them connect to logistics providers, obtaining grants, and to use collaboration, marketing and digital tools necessary to participate in the digital economy. These are part of TM’s role to improve the country’s digital connectivity through enhanced broadband coverage and quality to homes and businesses."
TM One has continued to reiterate its role is to provide end-to-end robust and secure digital solutions to harness the power of IR 4.0, AI, Big Data and IoT, to enable national digital adoption, Shazurawati further explained.
“These initiatives are aligned to the government programmes such as Jalinan Digital Negara (JENDELA11) – which focuses providing wider coverage and better quality of broadband experience for the people, whilst preparing the country for 5G technology," said Shazurawati.
"To tackle the pandemic, we have been providing the internet coverage and PPEs [personal protective equipment] for frontliners at PPVs (vaccination centres), supporting CPRC/CRC (Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre) implementation,12 and the Covid-19 Volunteer Program - ‘Greater Klang Valley Task Force’ initiative."
With an emphasis on efficient data handling, TM One is committed to working closely with all the key essential services relating to the Ministry of Health, among other programmes. "We came in very strong and very quickly to digitally support the Task Force with their essential tasks for the citizens and are working closely with the Ministry."
And what of the near future? There is a trend of stabilisation - one of IDC’s 2022 predictions spotlights ‘scaling with knowledge’ and foresees that 25% of large enterprises will see 20% improvement in information usage by 2026 due to investments in intelligent knowledge networks to turn structured/unstructured data into findable and actionable knowledge.
Another of its predictions predicates that an evidence-based culture is ‘paramount for digital-first enterprises: By 2026, 20% of organisations will use forms of behavioural economics and AI/ML-driven insights to nudge employees' actions leading to a 60% increase in desired outcomes.
Other IDC expectations stress that digital infrastructure is at the core of future enterprises: By 2025, a 6X explosion in high dependency workloads leads to 65% of ASEAN top 500 companies using consistent architectural governance frameworks to ensure compliance reporting and audit of their infrastructure.
Technology is a key tool to build sustainable growth, she said. This echoes is being enabled through the direct and indirect effects of the application of digital technologies and techniques on organisational and economic conditions on the one hand and new products and services on the other.
Meanwhile, speaking of the business value of IT, IDC concurs that by 2024, digital-first enterprises will enable empathetic customer experiences and resilient operating models by shifting 50% of all tech and services spending to 'as-a-service' and outcomes-centric models.
"We are fully aware when that Digital Services' market consumption is almost three times more than the basic levels of communication and connectivity consumption," she noted, adding that the company is probing further value propositions, capabilities and capacities to benefit verticals' evolution into transformation and automation.
Shazurawati also affirmed that smart services will be catalysed by the nation’s 5G rollout, which will help improve the economics of scales of Malaysia, and taps ongoing mobility trends in Malaysia and across the region.
Just one impact from COVID-19 during the last two years is the amplification of mobile- or remote-driven digitalisation of the global economy, with Asia, as noted earlier emerging as a high potential growth area.
“Essentially, we are already working as if In the endemic phase to a great extent and are back in the office 60% and have adopted a hybrid working model," commented Shazurawati. "For this year, our ambition includes growing mobile. We are excited about putting more focus on mobile enterprise."
Building on what she recently commented in detail about 5G opening a new era for the industry in December 2021,13 she adds that the concept of smart cities presents a practical path and model for actualising the real benefits to people and the economy of 5G. "Smart communities will become key growth engines and beneficiaries of 5G. Global spending on smart city solutions is expected to reach US$2.5 trillion by the year 2026. Smart cities essentially involve using sensors based on IoT, which will generate large amounts of data. 5G will provide higher speeds and more capacity to handle data coming in from multiple devices such as sensors, cameras, cell phones and other sources."
When looking ahead, one of the most striking findings to bear in mind was posited by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Company's recent e-Conomy SEA 2021 Report,14 which declared that 40 million new internet users had come online in 2021, and ramped up the internet penetration in Southeast Asia (SEA) to an impressive 75%.
Within this dynamic, Malaysia's internet economy has rebounded strongly. Bain's analysis found that the country's 2021 gross merchandise value (GMV) reached a 47% year-on-year surge and is expected to hit a total value of $21 billion. With a strong 68% eCommerce growth, Malaysia’s overall internet sector saw a rebound of double-digit year-on-year growth and is expected to reach $35 billion in 2025.
Connectivity infrastructure and smart services are quietly enabling this digital economy growth, which includes digital financial services, along with food, transport and logistics and so forth. Shazurawati went on to detail TM One's work across multiple verticals - touching on manufacturing, education, and healthcare examples.
"Smart Manufacturing is gaining traction," she remarked. "And we have seen a heightening of activity in education with the private education sector ramping up cloud adoption to drive hybrid learning - another buzzword from the pandemic phase. Hybrid learning has embarked on an exciting journey, which is in tandem with increased digitalisation of healthcare."
Shazurawati said many collaborative initiatives are under discussion in several verticals. "We are seeing more resolve when it comes to enabling data sharing; and this is in response to the public's expectations for more seamless, better service levels - for instance, individual patient care across a group of hospitals."
"Local councils are also adopting smart services as a pathway to address the challenges of improving productivity and services in highly competitive times, enhancing safety and security, reducing accidents at work, the need to automate certain operations and so deploy staff to higher value work, etc."
Shazurawati said there are many use cases of digital adoption by local authorities and government with many more to come.
"The bottom line is that the more we can serve, the happier the people will become, and generate even better service levels, which contributes to a better bottom line at the same time. Within public sector, we see a desire and ambition to do advance this."
Speaking of TM One, she said the company culture has ramped the momentum of nurturing a high performance future workforce through upskilling and re-skilling programmes and growing current subject matter experts.
"TM One and the Group is digitising business processes and introducing tools and apps to deliver more robust and efficient execution," she said, adding that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is becoming foundational in managing relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the surrounding communities.
On a broader level, she holds that: “Malaysians are absolutely resilient, and have a youthful mindset, which helps us embrace changes quite well. For example, we saw how in the recent flood crises, how tough people were, and how when faced by challenges, people came together to help: so this bodes well for the future."
“Everybody has learned much of what works and what we all will need to work in the near future. We are moving in the right direction and there is a desire and growing commitment across all sectors to move forward and be better."
“This is encouraging for us especially as we just at the beginning of the new year, and we are in the midst of many collaborative initiatives, and co-creation discussions," she adds.
"Much of the motivation among leadership conversations in Malaysia is naturally driven on solving challenges: How can we do this better? For example, precise agriculture (in farming), I saw recently we are cultivating a fish (not native to Malaysia) that produces caviar. Modern farming with technologically controlled environments demonstrate that location is no longer an issue," she said. "In addition, I truly believe that for us to really move for forward and deliver sustainable, impactful outcomes depends on cooperation and collaboration, and unlocking the talents within us all."
Malaysia has an enormous opportunity to recover lost ground during the pandemic years, and to accelerate its development as a digital nation.
"Our focus is to put forth a people-first approach to digital transformation via human-centred technology – serving the digital needs of the people and focusing on the usability benefits," she said, adding that this translates into developing digital solutions that make customers’ lives and jobs better and driving more digitalised ways of working within TM One.
"We will continue to invest in our people, infrastructure and technology to be ready for the next wave of innovation, in order to deliver delightful customer experience."
Shazurawati concluded that digitalisation will continue to accelerate in the post-pandemic era. "Many projects were put on hold last year because of uncertainty about how to advance these. Businesses are now more convinced and have the appetite and information to move forward. I am happy with the momentum thus far and believe we will continue to move forward as a whole this year."
"In this year of the Tiger, we are set to roar ahead on all fronts! We will continue to adapt agilely. and sharpen our digital and service capabilities to strengthen our value as partners and moving forwards beyond recovery and accelerated growth."
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