(File pix) Participants at a session of Jom Belajar Koding, an Umno Youth iniative. Pix by Hairul Anuar Rahim

AS someone with an engineering background, I always ponder how to make things function better and how to use technology to make life more efficient and simpler.

So, when we discuss about Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50), we need to examine the evolution of technology from what it is now to what it will be in 2050 and beyond. The evolution of technology is happening at breakneck speed, rendering obsolete those unable to keep up.

We must ask the future generation what is being done to take advantage of the technological trends of today, which will either be mandatory or widespread 33 years from now.

The digital world has changed the way people consume content. We have to accept the fact that today’s technology alters and, to a certain extent, dictates our behaviour and lifestyles.

Among the multiple technological developments we can see is the continued development of “smart cities” — wired-up cities and everything in between in order to manage everything — from traffic movements to crime monitoring, and even the handling of natural disasters. And, Malaysia has kept pace.

The government has launched programmes to cater to this need. Earlier initiatives included the establishment of the Multimedia Super Corridor, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation and subsequently the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre.

Newer projects include the Digital Free Trade Zone (DTFZ), launched by Chinese business magnate Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba.

Ma is also our national adviser on digital economy. Also, within the DTFZ, we have the Kuala Lumpur Internet City. It is a development spearheaded by a Malaysian company with a lofty goal of housing 1,000 Internet-related companies as tenants, with the aim to become the region’s digital hub.

Both of these newer initiatives are visionary, and will equip and empower our country to harness Asia’s digital space.

Today, Malaysia needs to gain momentum in the Internet of Things to push further in crunching big data, sharing it widely and benefiting the whole system, be it in terms of governance, health management and even poverty and crime reduction.

For this to take place, there is a need for us to deal with the biggest problem of all — bureaucracy and red tape. For far too long, ministries, departments and even district-level offices have continuously worked with their own comfortable data without sharing this information.

Breaking this “silo effect” could be the key to settling issues to maximise efficiency and mapping patterns for multiple uses. The time of one ministry being opaque and not sharing data must come to an end, as much as the state and federal governments must learn to work with one another through the compilation of relevant data and information for the benefit of the people on the ground, regardless of politics and who the people choose at the ballot box.

As a simple example, imagine if the Road Transport Department, police and even the local authorities could access information and data from a single source by referencing the NRIC or licence number of Malaysians — allowing the detailed list of past offences, road tax status, validity of licence or other information we wish to add on.

Malaysia should make this a reality today. There is a need to shift paradigms to a leaner, more intelligent future in both business and governance.

As time progresses, more and more jobs will be taken over by software, robotics and machines.

Youths must understand that the private and public sectors will inevitably shift towards a leaner management and less human employment.

Thus, early adopters, technology disruptors, movers and shakers have the advantage as long as they stay ahead of the technological curve, so to speak. Digital media rooms and real-time communications are becoming the new normal.

Inevitably, brick-and-mortar establishments such as retail spaces will be replaced with digital malls, filled with digital tenants promoting and selling their wares in cyberspace.

We will also see more and more jobs being replaced with artificial intelligence, making them “virtual”.

Such examples can be seen with the establishment of virtual concierge, personal shoppers and even assistants that run on dictation and voice recognition.

I applaud Umno Youth’s initiative, Jom Belajar Koding, because the digital language is the language of the future. Thus, we must equip the future generations with this skill, not only to remain relevant but also to be able to take the lead.

After all, the younger generation is the one populating the digital world and we must push them in the race to provide digital content and subsequently complement our digital economy initiatives.

Even in the advertising industry, more and more companies are shifting towards online advertising on social media platforms.

Globally, major corporations are relying on big data and analytics, which are run and interpolated by machines. In fact, digital content might one day be treated like a commodity, made for trade and exchange—this is already happening somewhat in terms of online marketing and personal data being traded by corporations to marketing companies.

I hope, one day, our future digital minister will be able to steer Malaysia towards this non-physical cyberspace realm with deep foresight and to keep Malaysia competitive in the borderless globalised digital world, where data is the new currency, bandwidth is the new travel time, and air and space are the new commodities and playgrounds.

DATUK MOHAMED HAZALI ABU HASSAN is an Umno Youth executive council member

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