Leaving No One Behind on the Path to Malaysia’s Digital Transformation

The recent tabling of the 2022 Budget from Malaysia’s government has raised mixed feelings within the technology community. It is a step in the right direction for the nation’s digital transformation but it still asks the question, is it enough? 

Following the announcement made by the Finance Minister, IBM recently held a media session to discuss the importance of public-private partnerships during this period of recovery and the necessity to unlock the potential of Malaysia’s digital economy. In terms of the overall budget, IBM sounded quite optimistic about the government’s emphasis on digitalisation across the country, with Catherine Lian, Managing Director of IBM Malaysia, stating, “What we welcome is the government’s continued approach and emphasis.”

During the session, Catherine focused on two significant points detailing the need for Malaysia to be cloud-ready for its digital transformation and concerns regarding the skills gap that will affect the country’s trajectory if not resolved. IBM has voiced its plans to continue collaborating with the nation to help drive the government’s modernisation plan. 

Cloud adoption rates have dropped despite the increasing digitalisation of organisations across the country and the greater emphasis that the government has placed on transformation. Catherine shared that in 2021, 15% of executives in Malaysia reported using a single private or public cloud compared to 60% in 2019. When asked regarding the matter, IBM’s Managing Director revealed that COVID-19 has majorly impeded the ability for cloud providers to meet face-to-face with their clients to discuss the details of the technology, much less the implementation. As the country enters the endemic phase and the economy opens once more, the rates are stabilising. 

Catherine stated, “The adoption rate decline has no relevancy to the importance of adopting the technology. It is just a deferral for when the situation gets better.” This is true as a 2021 IBM CEO study revealed that 60% of CEOs in Malaysia believe that cloud technology will provide the agility that organisations today will need. IBM believes in the power of the hybrid cloud to launch Malaysia forwards as it allows for flexibility and manageability for organisations all around. 

The Government’s Digital First Programme, which encourages cloud adoption in the public sector, has been highly welcomed by IBM. To this date, they have collaborated with governmental bodies like The City Council of Penang Island (MBPP) and the Royal Malaysian Customs Department (RMCD).

Another interesting point to note within the CEO study is that 39% of the nation’s CEOs have recognised the importance of AI to deliver benefits for the future. AI has great potential in benefitting organisations nationwide and improving the livelihoods of all the ‘rakyat’. 

Talking about digital transformations and technologies is all well and dandy but should the skill gap not be addressed, the conditions of the Malaysian people will not be improved. It is no secret that Malaysia is currently battling a lack of digital talents. The ongoing shifts within the environment have rendered certain positions obsolete while opening new opportunities. IBM shared its enthusiasm regarding the target of the 2022 budget to train 220,000 people through upskilling and reskilling programs by allocating RM 1.1 billion. 

As part of their contributions to the nation, IBM has partnered with the Ministry of Education and MDEC to prepare a future-ready workforce with a program to address the skills gap and break the cycle of inequality in education called P-TECH (The Pathways in Technology). Through this program, students will earn recognised university-level credentials setting them on the path of a STEM career.

IBM is also collaborating with Politeknik Balik Pulau, establishing the IBM SkillsBuild@PBU Learning Institute to help create learning pathways for students at the institution while addressing the need for industry-relevant high-value talent. 

The problem with the current skills gap stated Catherine “is talent is everywhere; training opportunities are not.” To overcome this, IBM also has a SkillsBuild platform for students at all stages of life. IBM has also pledged to provide 30 million people with skills by 2030 to ensure the digital era leaves no one behind.

Overall, the session was eye-opening in that it provided insight into both Malaysia’s current digital trajectory and IBM’s efforts to assist the nation.

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