Delegates listening to the keynote address by Lau Seng Yee during the Malaysia Higher Education Forum 2017 recently.

THEMED ‘Redesigning Education for Industry 4.0’, the recent Malaysia Higher Education Forum (MyHEF) 2017 recognised that the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) would necessitate an introspection of the country’s higher education system.

Organised by the Ministry of Higher Education, the forum explored the impact of technological advancements, automation and innovative disruptions brought by the 4IR to local and global job markets while delving into the needs of future graduates, community and industry.

In light of the continuous global competition, it is imperative for Malaysia’s higher education system to be able to produce holistic, entrepreneurial, innovative and balanced graduates.

Thus, harnessing the potential of the 4IR and creating opportunities for Malaysians within the same direction will go a long way towards achieving this visions.

Characterised by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as ‘a fusion of technologies that is blurring the line between the physical, digital, and biological spheres’, the 4IR will change the manner in which society and industries operate, in ways the world has never seen or imagined before.

Jobs that exist today will no longer exist in the future. It will be replaced by new jobs currently unheard of and social interactions will happen at a level never thought possible.

Tencent Holdings Limited Group Marketing and Global Branding chairman Lau Seng Yee.

Addressing delegates at the MyHEF 2017 forum was former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia graduate Lau Seng Yee, who is now Tencent Holdings Limited Group Marketing and Global Branding chairman.

He sits on the Harvard’s Asia Pacific Advisory Board as well.

In 2015, he was named by the Cannes Lions as ‘Global Media Person of the Year’. Lau’s 20 years of media and Internet experience has given him the influence in a range of fields including the new economies, Internet trends and digital media.

As a ‘technology evangelist’, he is often called upon to share his observations and insights on the Internet’s value to national economies, people’s livelihoods, innovation, corporate social responsibility and leadership development — areas that provide stability in the throes of constant change.

His keynote address touched on ‘The Dawning Age of Digital Civilisation’.

Lau expressed his concerns whether the local universities are able to produce entrepreneurs with numerous talents in the near future.

“When will Malaysia produce the next Steve Jobs?” he asked.

For that to happen, he said that the country needs to address its education sector to one which has an open system strategy approach — future facing education ecosystem.

There are four components in the ecosystem — enabler of tech generations, incubators of tech generations, inspiration of tech generations, and guardian of tech generations.

“It is important that we know the current ecosystem is in the right place and more importantly, occupies the proper place in the heart of all stakeholders concern.

“But we would need more of Tan Sri Tony Fernandes around the world to come into the picture.

“The foundation could only begin with strong commitment involving various stakeholders in the entire education system.

“The stakeholders should understand clearly the nature of the ecosystem which can only be sustained when all players are concerned. They must also contribute to nurture the ecosystem. I believe that the responsibility of value creation has to be shared equally by all participants,” said Lau.

He added that the private sector must champion the role of enablers of tech generations, whereby companies can compete against one another for the best talent by offering higher salary.

“Do you know why our country is losing out in talent in global competitiveness’ advantage? It is because people with talent get paid higher in the global market,” he added.

Lau said the private companies also should commit themselves by allocating certain percentage into research and development (R&D) funding at higher education institutions.

“They have budgets that are already parked somewhere and this will enable them to invest in R&D. They should have more faith in our local researchers from the public universities rather than appointing consultants to undertake their projects.

“The objective is not just about giving a project to a university, but the significance lies in the fact that when private sectors and universities work together, students and faculty members can actually be exposed to real life issues.

“If the private sector is committed from top to bottom to bring such opportunities, it is not impossible that one day we hear future success stories to be shared around the world,” said Lau.

He said it can be delivered by encouraging universities to take bold steps in education reform by providing financial support and reward reformation in education.

“There is always an opportunity for the private company to explore in the education ecosystem. They should find ways to help the universities to produce better job candidates in the future,” he added.

Lau said Tencent is in the lookout to invest in meaningful ways.

“Tencent Education Foundation will be presenting the Nobel Prize for Education Excellence to deserving universities around the world that has shown innovation in education.”

Lau was also of the opinion that the academic fraternity should play a bigger role in the ecosystem.

“The country should be developing the scientist technocrat and invest more in public universities, and academic institutions. I’m sure, we could take on a larger role in repositioning ourselves as the incubator for new technologies.

“Perhaps the universities would actually be bolder in demonstrating their capabilities in building city-based innovation hubs.

“I think public universities must start to be more committed by placing more emphasis in ensuring the employability of graduates,” he said.

Before joining Tencent, Lau was the vice executive officer for several China-based multinational companies.

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