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Disrupting the disrupters in Malaysia: part 2 of an exclusive with MDEC CEO Dato' Yasmin

AvantiKumar | May 4, 2017
The story behind the newly-launched Digital Hub for startups and why it's a master cog in Malaysia's digital economy ambitions.

Dato' Yasmin - in front of MDEC, Cyberjaya

Photo - MDEC CEO Dato' Yasmin Mahmood


  As covered in a recent Computerworld Malaysia news feature, national ICT agency Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, MDEC, launched the Digital Hub. Described as a master cog in Malaysia's digital economy ambitions, the focus here is on driving disruption by arming up and coming local and overseas disrupters.

When asked to dive a little deeper into the story behind the Digital Hub, MDEC's chief executive Dato' Yasmin Mahmood said the focus continues the strategy - described in part one of this exclusive feature - of adopting a proactive approach to transformation.

The key is to build up a strong pillar for entrepreneurship as part of the drive towards the Digital Economy: the aim here is to support talent and innovation so that entrepreneurs can find their path to sustainable global growth, said Yasmin. 

She said the "speed in which the growth of local entrepreneurship has been supported by the government is amazing, and MDEC is proud to be supporting such an important segment of the Digital Economy

"It's very exciting for us," Yasmin said. "In technology - in particular for the digital economy, the level of immigration that is coming up is fast and furious; which means that the people who are going to be pushing the limits and pushing envelope on this would be the entrepreneurs. These are the people with the ideas, with the passion to go out there and solve problems," she said, emphasising that MDEC had pivoted the whole of its strategy towards focusing on these startup ecosystems.

[The first part of this feature (3 May 2017) looks at strategies to arm Malaysia's business and civilian sectors to address the 'disrupt or be disrupted' challenge that digital transformation brings.]

 Startup ecosystem

 "It all started very fast," Yasmin said. "It started in October. On a yearly basis, we have our council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dato' Seri Mohd. Najib Abdul Razak, and we put forward this new policy to have the MSC Cyber Centre."

"Previously, it had been more geared towards the multinational corporations (MNCs), the big companies, and what they have to invest in such as utilities - and so on. But in the startup ecosystem, those don't really mean a thing; what they want is just Internet infrastructure, the rest of it is about the community, the ecosystem," she said.

Yasmin said that the policy was such a logical step forward that the prime minister himself threw strong support immediately. "He approved it very fast.  And it was approved - the Digital Hub - together with the Malaysian Tech Entrepreneur Programme. Who says government cannot work fast... It was done in October - and we launched it a fortnight ago."

 This commitment towards growing entrepreneurship would have happened much more slowly had it not been for support from key figures such as Tan Sri Dr. Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, she added.

"Entrepreneurship, as you know - building the country's economic foundation based on entrepreneurship - is a very important government aim, and MDEC is very happy to have Tan Sri's support," Yasmin said. "He champions entrepreneurship in general - and tech entrepreneurship, in particular - with a great passion. I sit on the board of MaGIC with him, and I work with him - he really champions and truly believes in entrepreneurship."

 The key: attracting both local and foreign talent

 In Computerworld Malaysia's report last week, we explained that the Malaysia Digital Hub will support tech and digital co-working spaces, their startups and communities with support from the government and a bigger opportunity to connect to ASEAN and global digital ecosystems.

Yasmin then said Malaysia wanted to also become a hub for tech startups, which was why the Malaysia Tech Entrepreneur Programme (MTEP) - a government initiative - has been added to attract "gifted and ambitious individuals from all around the world, and help them to kickstart their startups in Malaysia."

She added that under the MTEP, both "new and established entrepreneurs from all over the world are encouraged to apply if they wish to set-up their startup in Malaysia. The application process will take up to 21 days."

Yasmin said that the Malaysia Digital Hub will work by offering startups the opportunity for global expansion, ready access to high-speed broadband and fibre optic connectivity, funding and facilitation opportunities, workforce-ready ecosystem, technologically focused and a holistic convenience and lifestyle experience. 


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