Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak says malaysia Digital Hub provides opportunities for business to connect to the digital economy ecosystem by providing designated physical spaces for growing startups to develop their next big ideas. NST picture by AIZUDDIN SAAD

By NST Business

The international investment community was impressed by the initiatives undertaken by the government to place the digital economy on an even stronger footing for the future generation.

With the success of Invest Malaysia 2018 held recently, Malaysia is very fortunate to have prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is a visionary and appreciates the importance of the digital economy as an engine of growth for Malaysia.

The digital economy contributed some 18.2% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) last year and expected to exceed the projected target of 20% earlier than 2020.

"The Malaysian economic transformation is evident in the new economy we are building,” said Najib at the event.

“These efforts have already seen results, and international recognition. These accolades provide confidence that this crucial area of the new economy is on the right track and will continue to deliver stellar results.”

“Among these initiatives is the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Programme designed to attract overseas tech founders who also see ASEAN as an unmissable opportunity.

"They can base themselves here via a 1-year or 5-year stay programme,” said the prime minister.

“In addition, the Malaysia Digital Hub provides opportunities for business to connect to the digital economy ecosystem by providing designated physical spaces for growing startups to develop their next big ideas,” he said.

The prime minister also touched on the Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) – the world’s first outside of China – which aims to capitalise on the exponential growth of the internet economy and cross-broader eCommerce.

Although it only officially started last November, over 2000 SMEs have already registered to take advantage of the remarkable opportunities this platform offers.

These efforts implemented by the Malaysian Government have already seen results, and international recognition which include:

• 2nd in ASEAN in the Digital Evolution Index 2017;

• 5th in Asia in the Huawei Global Connectivity Index 2017;

• 7th in Asia in the ICT Development Index 2017;

• 6th in Asia for the Networked Readiness Index 2016; for the Cloud Readiness Index 2016; and the Asian Digital Transformation Index 2016.

“Our young, tech savvy population was also recognised by a 2016 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, which ranked Malaysia the 9th best place to be a social entrepreneur in the world,” said Najib.

The prime minister also recognised that artificial intelligence (AI) as 'the defining force of the 4th industrial revolution.'

“AI could well be a game-changer in improving the lives of Malaysians,” emphasised Najib at the 29th MSC Malaysia Implementation council meeting held last year.

When contacted, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) CEO Datuk Yasmin Mahmood said: “In today’s hyper-connected world, it is becoming abundantly clear that AI is the defining force of the 4th industrial revolution. AI could well be a game-changer in improving the lives of Malaysians,” she added.

Earlier this week, an important event took place in Kuala Lumpur that would send positive ripples in developing Malaysia’s AI ecosystem.

Further strengthening its collaboration with the Alibaba Group – the relationship between Malaysia and Alibaba was personally handled and spearheaded by Najib himself to realise the DFTZ – MDEC in collaboration with City Hall (DBKL) partnered with Alibaba Cloud to make Kuala Lumpur the first city outside of China to implement its AI powered smart city solution called City Brain.

The City Brain initiative is an investment by Alibaba to help develop the AI ecosystem in Malaysia.

“While the initiative is touted to improve traffic management and emergency services in KL as a first step to the capital becoming a smart city, the bigger picture of this initiative feeds into Malaysia’s ambitions to become an AI powered nation,” Yasmin said.

With the research and development (R&D) on the AI being done in China with Alibaba continually improving Brain Gain, Yasmin sees Malaysia as being the application development centre for AI.

Based on open data, with DBKL initially supplying the data, the Alibaba Cloud platform will form the foundation from which the data will be converted using AI and made available to players in the local ecosystem.

“MDEC sees its role as essentially creating a platform for others to come in and create applications they can monetise. Traffic management and smart city is just the beginning and we are looking forward to other industries like agriculture and education being impacted positively though the application of AI,” said Yasmin.

“Eventually, it would be about public-private partnerships to make it a success.”

“As a digital economy nation, Malaysia should embrace AI revolution and make the most of the data economy. The collaboration with DBKL and Alibaba Cloud is another leap towards digitising Malaysia, where knowledge-sharing and the crossover of best practices transpire. As we set our sights on the future, we are excited about the prospects this partnership will bring to our community, benefiting millions of Malaysians,” said Yasmin.

“The introduction of Malaysia City Brain is just the beginning. MDEC will continue to work on selected high-profile AI initiatives and simultaneously develop the National AI Framework,” she further added.

Deemed as one of the most disruptive technologies, AI is believed to be a paradigm-shifting development that will have significant implications for our society and economy.

Today, AI is already being used in industries such as healthcare, business, marketing and transportation management.

Malaysia City Brain is an example of the use of AI in city operations. The programme offers a comprehensive suite of acquisition, integration, and analysis of big and heterogeneous data generated by a diversity of sources in urban spaces through video and image recognition, data mining and machine learning technology.

With this, city council and urban planners will be able to make better decisions for the community.

“Cloud computing, data technology and AI has become fundamental tools for all companies and organisations to operate effectively. Building on this partnership, we are happy to see Malaysia become the first country outside of China to adopt the City Brain,” said Alibaba Cloud president Simon Hu.

“Through the program, we aim to empower all Malaysian stakeholders in both the public and private sectors, with the tools to enhance efficiency, advance in innovation and to succeed in the digital age,” he added.

“Malaysia remains as one of our key investment market. We are happy to be part of the nation’s AI ecosystem growth. This collaboration signifies our confidence in the country’s vision for the National AI Framework and it solidifies our longstanding partnership with Malaysia,” added Hu.

In this first phase of the implementation, Malaysia City Brain will be used in traffic management to improve mobility in the city.

With its massive cloud computing and data processing capabilities, the City Brain can optimise the flow of vehicles and traffic signals by calculating the time to reach intersections.

It will also be able to generate structured summaries of data, such as traffic volume and speed according to lanes, which can be used to facilitate other tasks including incident detection.

“At DBKL, our main priorities have always been to continuously provide improved services to our communities and businesses,” said Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Mhd. Amin Nordin Abd. Aziz.

“Without a doubt, traffic congestion is one of the major challenges for a high-performing district like Kuala Lumpur. Through the advanced AI technology of the Malaysia City Brain, we will be able to offer real-life information and intelligent solutions to the people of Kuala Lumpur,” added the mayor.

A three-fold outcome is expected from the program, which includes analysis of traffic conditions, optimisation of traffic signals and detection of accidents or traffic incidents. Malaysia City Brain will begin with a base of 382 cameras feeds and input from 281 traffic light junctions, concentrated within central Kuala Lumpur.

With all these digital economy initiatives taking shape and improving the lives of businesses and Malaysians from all walks of life, the country indeed should be grateful to prime minister Najib for his visionary stance on the digital economy – and ensuring that its initiatives continue to benefit the rakyat.


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