MALAYSIANS are stronger than we realise. Our nation is rich in many ways, and as we celebrate National Day, which is eight days away, we certainly have plenty to be proud of.
From our many famous Malaysians who have made it internationally, to our melting-pot of heritage and cuisine, as well as our lush tropical geography and attractive tourist destinations, we have every reason to be proud.
Zooming in on our technology industry alone, there’s already plenty to boast about. The ever-evolving technology industry is fast paced. You snooze, you lose.
Malaysia does have some really great people who have contributed and are continuing to contribute to the growth of the nation.
Take the simple and commonly used USB flash drive, a tiny device that we hold on to dearly because we store our precious data in it. Credit goes to Taiwan-based Malaysian Pua Khein Seng who, with his partners, invented the world’s first device of its kind with system-on-chip technology in 2001.
Then there’s Ng Yi-Ren, the founder and executive chairman of United States-based Lytro. Lytro develops plenoptic cameras, which let users adjust the focus of a photograph due to an array of microlenses over the camera’s sensor.
Then there are the very young tech personalities — R. Prevena and V. Sushmeetha, for instance, both 11, and 13-year-old R. Rasyikash. The three invented an energy-saving drinks machine, which was submitted to the British Invention Show (BIS) 2014 in London and won the Double Gold Award.
There’s also social media influencer Nuffnang, which was founded by Timothy Tiah and Cheo Ming Shen in 2006, and today has offices in Asia and London.
The list goes on, and I reckon there are plenty more waiting for their big break.
The question we ask ourselves today is what we can do to retain all these exceptional talent. These are the people crucial to the nation’s growth and competitiveness. They are key to bringing Malaysia up in the eyes of the world. Unfortunately, many of them have opted to seek their fortunes abroad.
There are just too many tempting elements out there. Money is an obvious driver. A fresh graduate with a bachelor’s degree can earn RM30,000 annually as he starts out, but he can earn much more if he plies his trade abroad. There are other factors as well as, for example, the opportunity to nurture and grow their talents.
These extraordinary people seek extraordinary measures that are on a par with their talents. The lack of an effective ecosystem in the country to do so could be a big challenge.
The younger generation today emphasises a lot on freedom in many ways. They want the freedom to express, the freedom to work differently, their voices to be heard and the freedom to have a more effective work-life balance.
Do remember that these folks have been given glimpses of life abroad through the modern technology of entertainment and social media, as well as online platforms.
The government, to its credit, has made efforts to lure talented Malaysians back through the returning expert programme (REP), currently under TalentCorp.
Started in 2001, REP offers attractive living and financial incentives to encourage Malaysians abroad with special expertise in selected priority sectors to return and contribute to the nation’s development. But, it looks like the programme is still not effective enough to woo them back, and needs further fine-tuning.
Many of us are changing the way we think, which is different from the earlier generations. We live our lives in a world filled with amazing and evolving technology.
We are kept updated on what is going on in the world every day through online media and platforms. For some of us, the thought of having a more rewarding career and a better life abroad is just too tempting.
Regardless, I believe that many talented Malaysians will not want to leave their beloved country if there are ample elements of motivation here. We just need to understand them better and strive to make it more conducive for them.
Let’s focus on developing our talent and retaining them. This National Day, let’s renew our pledge to keep the Malaysia Boleh spirit alive and well, and help nurture more heroes in this melting pot of an amazing nation!
Ahmad Kushairi is editor of BOTs, the weekly tech section in Life&Times. Trained in Maths, he has since traded his problem-solving skills with writing about how tech has helped to transform the world for the better