Malaysia Tech Month 2021: Towards Promoting Malaysia as the Digital Heart of ASEAN

Malaysia Tech Month 2021 (MTM’21) is a month-long free virtual digital tech conference organised by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) in celebration of its 25th anniversary. Surina Shukri, the Chief Executive Officer of MDEC, kickstarted the event with a welcoming speech sharing MDEC’s vision of creating “an economy that provides equitable digital opportunities for people, businesses, and investors” known as Malaysia 5.0.

In line with the Malaysia Economy blueprint (MyDIGITAL) and the National 4IR Policy, which aims to develop Malaysia into a high-tech nation by 2030, the conference is carefully curated with a stellar line-up of distinguished international and local speakers. MTM’21 consists of digital and technology keynotes, workshops, discussion panels and business-matching sessions to “nurture an environment that’s conducive to catalyse our Malaysian digital ecosystem”, stated Surina.

YB Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, Malaysia’s Minister of Communications and Multimedia, gave the keynote address to officially launch the initiative stating, “the time has never been better for digital technologies as we navigate unprecedented and new socio-economic norms and radical disruptions to business and life as usual”. The minister emphasised MCM’s efforts and initiatives are carried out with “the quality of life of the rakyat” in mind. MTM’21 aims to invest in the digital economy and accelerate Malaysia’s journey in becoming the “digital heart” of ASEAN.

The conference started strong with a live interactive session with major players within Malaysia’s start-up ecosystem. The panel consisted of Eric Cheng, Co-Founder & Group Chief Executive Officer, Carsome and Kamarul A. Muhamed, Founder & Group Chief Executive Officer, Aerodyne Group, Malaysia.

The session discussed the process of growing tech companies in Malaysia, focusing on the achievements of Carsome and Aerodyne in Malaysia and the Southeast Asian region. Both founders shared their business journeys beginning as bootstrapped businesses evolving into large successful companies.

Special appearances were made by Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia Group and Patrick Grove, Co-Founder & Group Chief Executive Officer of Catcha Group. The four engaged in a discussion regarding Malaysia's current landscape and the struggles most companies face trying to survive.

To keep growing companies from leaving Malaysia, Kamarul suggests “what we need to do is first of all support our companies.” comparing the efforts made in Korea and China to give preference to local companies to support their growth. Going on to say that “if we don’t have the technology, bring in foreign companies to partner with the locals so there can be some technology transfer”. He also touched on easing processes to obtain funding, stating “some of the funding mechanisms here are preposterous”.

Patrick Grove pointed out how Bursa Malaysia should follow the measures taken by the Jakarta Stock Exchange to open the door to tech companies to be listed in Indonesia to facilitate economic growth. Backed up by Tony Fernandes, they discussed the inconsistent policies that make things more complicated for companies to operate out of Malaysia and make moving their HQs to other countries more appealing.

The events then proceeded with a session with Prof. Dr. Michio Kaku, World-Renowned Futurist, Bestselling Author & Populariser of Science from the USA. Emphasising that two things must balance to analyse the future, “we have to analyse human behaviour; our wants, desires and body language and we have to look at the digitisation of society”. The session touching on capitalism and science focused on the spirit of embracing information, knowledge, and humanity.

More exciting sessions will be held throughout the rest of the month from the 29th of July until the 30th of August, touching on Islamic fintech, agricultural technology, AI, IoT, drones, digital commerce and much more. The four-week conference is broken up into themed weeks focusing on digital investment, digital ecosystem, digital skills, and digital disruptors. In the words of Surina Shukri, “what’s more important for us is that Malaysia Tech Month 2021 democratises the sharing of content, knowledge and ideas for people from all walks of life,” encouraging all Malaysians to grab this opportunity to participate in MTM’21.

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