New ministry set to push digital agenda more assertively, say economists

12 Dec 2023 04:15pm
Picture for illustrative purposes - 123rf
Picture for illustrative purposes - 123rf
KUALA LUMPUR - The new Digital Ministry announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim following a major Cabinet reshuffle today will help push the digital agenda more assertively, not just in economic terms but also in social and governance terms, said economists.

Malaysia University of Science and Technology economist Geoffrey Williams said digitalisation is happening at a very fast pace and government policy must also keep pace to maximise the economic and social impact and ensure maximum digital access and involvement.

"The digital economy is just under 25 per cent of the national economy according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) with 1.2 million people employed in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.

"But this is the tip of the iceberg because digital economy activity and e-commerce is extending to all aspects of the economy and almost 80 per cent of transactions are e-payments,” he told Bernama today.

Williams said this in response to the appointment of Damansara member of parliament Gobind Singh Deo as the new Digital Minister today.

"Our estimates for the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) show that the Sharing Economy platforms where most gig economy and digital economy take place will employ four million people by 2030,” he added.

Concerning ways to boost the country’s digital economy, he said there is a need for the government to have a new strategy and a new philosophy with input from independent advisors.

When making the cabinet reshuffle announcement earlier today, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said the decision to split the Communications and Digital Ministry in today's Cabinet reshuffle is to address the communication and digital transformation properly.

Anwar said there had been many criticisms levied against the government, and communication via social media had been a challenge.
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"The communications to impart and disseminate information have not been that effective or satisfactory, so there must be a focus,” he replied to a question on the reasons to separate the digital and communication portfolios under the reshuffle.

Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd chief economist Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid is of the view that the evolving nature of the digital economy warrants a specific role or ministry to oversee and craft the necessary policies in the country’s digital transformation journey.

"We have seen that gig employment is gaining momentum due to the proliferation of technology and we want to ensure the transition will not be disruptive and provide the right ecosystem for the digital economy to be aligned with the mainstream economy.

"This may include the type of investment, the talent pool and the necessary infrastructure such as payment system, etc, to support the transition,” he said.

Ahmed Razman, the director of MBA programmes and associate professor at Putra Business School, said the country’s digital economy can be boosted through government investment in digital infrastructure, human capital development and attracting high tech investments from abroad, and at the same time champion domestic digital players.

On Aug 2, it was reported that Malaysia had taken significant steps in moving the country towards becoming a digitally enabled and technologically advanced high-income nation with clear goals, substantial investments, and partnerships.

At that time, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil, in his keynote speech at the Malaysia Public Sector Day held on Aug 1, hosted by GovInsider in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) laid out how Malaysia's digital economy is set to hit its goal of contributing more than 25.5% of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025 - BERNAMA