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MSMEs need to ensure digital readiness, adaptability to overcome rapid technological advancement

EconomyMSMEs need to ensure digital readiness, adaptability to overcome rapid technological advancement

Defining the feature of the Covid-19 pandemic as digital transformation has adjusted the economic, social, and structural domains – driving the rise of digital technologies which have supported the government and businesses in adopting agile and adaptive responses.

Nearly all ASEAN countries have initiated digital tools to disseminate information, monitor healthcare, and sustain education continuance. 

These were underscored by the Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob in his keynote address highlighted on the advancing ASEAN’s Digital Economy at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) 2021 virtually yesterday.

He shared that digital economic growth worldwide has been estimated to reach USD455 billion by the year 2023.

“While we can agree the digital integration has enabled ASEAN to harness each collective competitiveness in the global economy and foster domestic growth – divergences in technological readiness and connectivity remain elusive,” he said.

He then underlined that the ASEAN’s digital ecosystem needs to reshape in a way to ensure inclusive, sustainable, and resilient growth.

Three critical elements of suggested resolutions shared by Dato’s Sri Sabri are building inclusive digital infrastructure, which is imperative for every ASEAN country to foster a truly accessible and affordable digital infrastructure in line with the fourth industrial revolution.

The transformation, he added, aims to change the nation into a digitally enabled technology-driven high-income economy while enhancing digital infrastructure for seamless and extensive connectivity.

“This aspiration is currently being actualised by the National Digital Network or Jendela Action Plan with an allocation of approximately USD6.7 billion. It aimed to improve broadband quality and coverage while paving the way to 5G technology,” he said.

This initiative will enable Malaysia to enhance the nation’s preparedness and catalyse a conducive ecosystem for an innovative economy.

The second element, promoting inclusive digital literacy by developing future-ready digital talents as one of the outline strategies – continuous measures in up-skilling and re-skilling digital literacy to ensure the relevancy of the workforce at all times.

He then explained that Malaysia is consistently expanding industrial training, including technical and vocational education, research and development, as well as commercialisation and innovation. These efforts are to develop more digitally-ready talent among Malaysians.

He commented, “Through this whole of society approach, we believed that more people will be able to equip and upgrade themselves with the necessary skills for inclusive growth,”

Highlighting ASEAN, the Malaysian Prime Minister believed a persistent gap in digital skills across the ASEAN region could eventually be brought closer for better cooperation and prosperity.

The third element is on boosting digital-ready micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME. Malaysia has intensified policy intervention of which is specifically targeted to expand the breadth and depths of digitalisation adoption.

“This approach is imperative for Malaysia as our MSMEs accounted for over 90 per cent of businesses in ASEAN economies. Successful adoption of digital technologies is crucial for our consistent revitalisation and sustainable economic recovery”.

He then emphasised the ASEAN MSMEs need to boost digital readiness across the regions. Clearly, MSMEs lacking access to technologies will face greater risks of being left behind in the post-pandemic era.

At the Panel Discussion on the Digital ASEAN, the Managing Director of the Brunei Gas Carriers (BGC), Pengiran Shamhary bin PDP Haji Mustapha commented the technological advancements had always played a key role in ensuring business sustainability.

Today’s technological advancement is steadily changing – more in the digital space and will continue to evolve at a rapid rate where businesses need to adapt accordingly. 

He shared the BGC experienced business disruptors early this year, the energy transition, shifting in the LNG market, and technological advancement, including digitalisation and cybersecurity threats.

The Covid-19, he sees as a business disruptor, yet it also acts as an accelerator of change – helping to accelerate a digital shift. It enforced the adoption of new technologies where individuals, governments, and businesses prepare themselves in adapting to the change.

Pengiran Shamhary then pointed out four areas on how businesses adapt to the change, first by strategically investing in infrastructure and education for the required skillset and future-ready skills, second by understanding how technology and the digital economy reshaping their comparative advantage and business sustainability.

Thirdly, the government needs to protect the citizens from potential disruptions and populations from being disenfranchised or marginalised. Policymakers need to learn how to manage disruptive changes and new technological developments evolving rapidly where a governance framework must be in place.

With the measures pointed out, he hopes the challenges faced can be addressed, such as inequality, asymmetry of access and information, inclusiveness, and human capital loss.

The discussion was moderated by CNA News Anchor Steve Lai and participated bu other invited panels, including Vice-Chair, Global Investment Banking, CIBC and former Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry of Canada Navdeep Bains; Vice President Southeast Asia and Emerging Markets, Facebook Benjamin Joe; President and Managing Director of SAP Southeast Asia Verena Siow; and President, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) Professor Hidetoshi Nishimura.

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