Towards Positioning Malaysia as a Big Data Hub for Asia

Big Data is of global interest to many organizations because of the promises of the technology and the implication to businesses and public sector organizations. As the world moves rapidly towards commercializing the theories and concepts of Big Data, the challenge for all spans issues covering people, processes and technologies.
Malaysia’s Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) is taking the lead in ensuring that the country is ready to lead the region in harnessing the power of Big Data. Data & Storage Asean (DSA) spoke to man in charge of this undertaking at MDeC – Dr Karl Ng, Director of Innovation Capital.
DSA: This is the second year that MDeC has taken on Big Data Week (BDW) Kuala Lumpur. Why does MDeC want to drive this project?
Dr Karl Ng: Big Data Analytics is a new source of growth. With the right government support and drive, it is an area that promises tremendous benefits across both public and private sectors. Big data can spur not just industry growth in terms of new solutions and innovation but also drive through adoption and competitiveness in all different sectors.

The ecosystem is still at its infancy today and that is why MDeC is driving this. As the ecosystem matures, we hope other organizations are able to step up to continue to drive Big Data in the country. 
DSA: In terms of the BDW, how do you compare last year to this year’s celebrations?
Dr Karl Ng: In a word: FOCUS. Last year, BDW was about creating awareness. This year we are seeing other organizations already creating awareness. So for MDeC we are aiming to showcase successful Big Data Analytics (BDA) implementations. We hope that by showcasing practical and successful applications of BDA, it will spur demand for the technology across the various industry segments in Malaysia.
To be fair BDA is still relatively new and not everything was covered last year. So we will look at areas not covered previously and highlight them this year.
DSA: BDW is an open celebration of Big Data. Is there a danger that with MDeC also driving the government framework for Big Data that the government agenda may overshadow the spirit of Big Data Week?
Dr Karl Ng: If you look at our National Big Data Framework it covers both public and private sectors. The framework looks at five different imperatives: (1) how to governize my insight to create awareness and mindset change towards data driven culture; (2) how do we create talent in data engineering; (3) in terms of data governance: where do you get these data sets? We need to drive open data sets in the government; (4) look at technology and innovation: how do we look at different technologies to drive big data; and finally (5) building center of excellence: how do you drive the used cases’ adoption of BDA.
All these are important to drive this as an ecosystem standpoint. Our framework is quite comprehensive to compliment and support all different initiatives. This is the spirit of BDW. At the end of the day, we want to celebrate the spirit of BDA.
DSA: We see that one of the themes for BDW KL 2015 is positioning Malaysia as a major hub for Big Data in the region. What are the risks and difficulties for Malaysia in achieving that goal?
Dr Karl Ng:  We want to be a hub – yes! But obviously we cannot claim competence across all sectors. We aim to be a hub for specific sectors that Malaysia is good at and which is critical to the country. These include Oil and Gas, Telecom, Retail and Agriculture. Also in areas where government has greatest concern: for example society welfare and healthcare. The key challenge we face is how we can build the local ecosystem quickly. Building the enablers is the first step: How do we build enough talent including data science professionals so we can get more research done on BDA and services as well. Talent is important to drive potential foreign direct investments who want to set up BDA centers in Malaysia.
The second area is how we can encourage more open innovation. In this sense open government data sets is important to help drive this.
Lastly is how do we develop more high impact or critical BDA proof of concepts to show the benefits to the government and society.
Big Data looks like a big word and we need to show live real examples of how this can impact normal businesses or citizen’s life.
DSA: Who can benefit from attending BDW events and what kind of people would you like to see taking part?
Dr Karl Ng: The focus for 2015 is showcasing BDA case studies. We want to have potential business organizations that are thinking about BDA and going to embark on this, including SMBs that want to explore BDA. We can then guide these people through case studies, demos and guru tracks so they know what BDA technology can do for them as well as how to implement BDA in their organization. We will also have basic tracks for those who are new to BDA.
We want to see people from business organizations. We also have tracks for the private and public sectors where we are inviting speakers to these areas. We will also have tracks specific for the university students and people who want to know more about what data scientists do. We have invited speakers who are data scientists to share their work and experience.
DSA: Public-Private collaboration is perhaps more important in Big Data than other areas. Does MDeC have a part to play in facilitating this?
Dr Karl Ng: Absolutely! Private-public partnership is one of the key aspects of MDeC BDA initiative. For example in our open innovation center of excellence, we are working with MAMPU – the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit, the government CIO, together with MIMOS, the Government R&D, to come up with public sector POC and center of excellence. We are also working with different local companies who have competency to develop these used cases and proof of concept.
In terms of talent we are working with private and public sectors to train people including developing upskill courses in BDA, either through institutions of higher learnings or through partner events.
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