Place rakyat at the heart of the digital economy master plan

The rakyat must be at the heart of any national master plan. "Malaysia 5.0" is a policy framework to ensure Malaysia's national-level initiatives serve to address society's problems...

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Published by New Straits Times & i3 Investor, image from New Straits Times.

A core policy framework where the rakyat is put first must be at the heart of any master plan to ensure that the trajectory of Malaysia’s advancement addresses society’s problems and issues. “Malaysia 5.0” is a policy framework that can be integrated into the Digital Economy Masterplan (DEM), a national-level initiative to expand digital transformation for all sectors.

Inspired by Japan’s Society 5.0, DEM is targeted to be launched in October, mostly involving the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and the Communications and Multimedia Ministry.

The unveiling of the master plan on Aug 13 coincides with the Malaysia 5.0 concept that was coined by and has been championed by MDEC chairman Datuk Dr Rais Hussin since May.

It was reported that a study on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is set to be finalised and merged with the digital economy. This may indicate that the master plan would be integrated and would align with other related national initiatives, such as the National Policy on Industry 4.0 (Industry4WRD), which was introduced by the International Trade and Industry Ministry last year, and the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox spearheaded by the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry and launched on Aug 19.

The envisioned inter-ministry collaboration and the resulting effort in coordinating the many agencies involved in the promotion of the growth of the digital sector is also in sync with the “Unity Alliance” concept under Malaysia 5.0.

This concept envisions a unified coalition of not only government stakeholders, but also industry players working together to build a supportive ecosystem through the development of infrastructure, talents, technologies and policies.

With Malaysia 5.0 serving as the glue that binds the “Unity Alliance”, the techno-economic coalition under the Digital Economy Masterplan would be guided to serve society in its migration to the digital age.

It is worth recognising that Malaysia needs to establish itself in the desirable elements of “Society 4.0” first before pursuing “Malaysia 5.0”.

However, key pillars of Society 4.0 need to be rooted in Malaysia 5.0 principles now to allow a course correction on its trajectory in becoming a “high-income”, “high-tech” nation.

According to an article by the chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), Hiroaki Nakanishi, the common themes of Society 4.0 include efficiencies/economies of scale; mass standardisations/uniformity of things and society leading to suppression of individuality; concentration of knowledge, information, resources, and power, causing disparity in opportunities; vulnerability due to personal and public security; and, mass consumption of resources with large environmental impacts.

He summarises Society 5.0 as “anyone can create value anytime, anywhere, with security and in harmony with nature”.

This is the people-centric model that Malaysia 5.0 intends to emulate and integrate into initiatives and policies.

Lockdowns and movement restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have accelerated the migration of society from the physical world to the digital space.

Malaysia’s ensuing recovery from the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, which has caused Malaysia’s gross domestic product to contract by 17.1 per cent in the second quarter of the year, is dependent on the proper use and acceleration of 4IR technology adoption, integration and development.

Digital transformation, which is the key enabler of the digital economy, is an inevitable phenomenon as the world shifts to the 4IR and migrates to the digital era.

Ahmad Ameen Mohd Kamal is Head of Science and Technology at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.

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