Malaysia vows to drive ICT goals

Country's government body, MDeC, pledges to help improve quality of local tech companies, but acknowledges "stiff" competition from neighboring countries.
Written by Edwin Yapp, Contributor

Malaysia's Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) has pledged to further develop the country's ICT ambitions this year, focusing on improving the quality of its entrepreneurs and status as an outsourcing destination.

The custodian of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Malaysia said it wants to continue to further enhance its ongoing programs, create more young entrepreneurs and improve the capabilities of MSC Malaysia-status companies in 2008.

First mooted in 1996 and formerly called Multimedia Super Corridor, the MSC Malaysia is a government ICT initiative aimed at accelerating the country's position as a knowledge-based economy.

MDeC CEO Badlisham Ghazali said the government body is committed to its charter to help Malaysians improve their quality of life and to empower businesses to achieve more.

"We will [continue] to develop sectors in the creative multimedia industry, create more young entrepreneurs through our technopreneur development [programs] and prepare our MSC Malaysia-companies to be ready to compete globally," Badlisham told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

He said the MDeC will continue to capitalize on Malaysia's position as the third-most attractive outsourcing destination, behind India and China. He noted that while Malaysia may not be the cheapest outsourcing location, it offers quality human capital for the ICT industry.

One sector, he added, in which the MSC Malaysia made remarkable progress last year was the development of creative multimedia and digital content.

The industry segment, encompassing animation, mobility, online and offline games, will be further enhanced and more grants will be given to reach more potential candidates through MSC Malaysia this year, Badlisham said.

"I'm sure the MSC Malaysia Creative Multimedia and Content Initiative (MCMC-I) with its pitching competitions, global distributor engagement programs and business matching will continue to expose our talents and companies globally," he said. "We hope the MCMC-I will exceed our expectation of 15 percent growth from 400 million ringgit (US$125.5 million) sales achieved last year."

Challenges abound, competition tough
Despite the progress MSC Malaysia made in the past year, Badlisham acknowledged that there are still too few local companies going global. He said local ICT companies must realize that "to go global, they have to be really good".

"The competition is very stiff. Companies from Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore are showing more and more potential. Local companies must be knowledgeable in world trends and continue to improve their capabilities," he explained.

The quality of services provided by MSC Malaysia companies, while better than previous years, still has room for improvement, he said.

The MDeC is, therefore, stepping up efforts to encourage more companies to obtain globally-recognized certifications, Badlisham said. The government body is also offering various development programs, particularly management programs, to enhance the quality of its local CEOs, he said.

According to Tony Pua, economic advisor to Malaysia's opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), there is an urgent need to improve the quality of IT education provided by Malaysian universities and colleges. This can be achieved by boosting entry requirements, employing better qualified lecturers and setting higher passing standards, Pua said in an e-mail interview.

"Malaysia needs to transform the administrative and civil service mindset that the ICT industry can be geographically confined within areas, such as MSC Cybercities or designated industrial parks, [and] focus on the ubiquitous nature of ICT which transcends physical boundaries," he said.

The country also needs to open up the current "opaque government process in IT requisitions", to one that supports the best and strongest IT companies instead of non-performing companies, Pua said.

"If this trend is not reversed, projects will be delivered at a higher cost but less effectively. Also, better qualified IT companies will be disadvantaged in the process of transforming themselves into world-class companies," he said.

Raphael Phang, IDC's Asia-Pacific research director for government, said while Malaysia has formulated a strategic ICT vision, it needs to bring policies into reality.

"Malaysia, like all other economies, needs to face similar issues of execution plans with clear, objective ROI (returns on investment) and KPI (key performance indicator) benchmarks and measurements," Phang told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

"Other issues such as insufficient or untrained manpower that are unable to exploit available technologies, can [also] hamper the success of any implementation," he said.

The IDC analyst added that the Malaysian government would do well to work with foreign or private sector expertise in areas where it lacks sufficient resources to support an efficient implementation.

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.

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