How to strengthen the software testing industry...and advance Digital Malaysia

MSTB President Mastura Abu Samah said Malaysia’s 'aggressive push into the digital economy relies heavily on software-driven systems and applications.'

By AvantiKumar
July 4, 2017


Programme code (GraphicStock)

Credit: GraphicStock

 

  Malaysia's dynamic push into the digital economy depends significantly on software-driven systems and applications, said The Malaysian Software Testing Board (MSTB) during the announcement of a new certification milestone.

In April of this year, MSTB president Mastura Abu Samah (pic below) said, "Malaysia's aggressive push into the digital economy relies heavily on software-driven systems and applications. These form the lifeline of related economic activities, and so these systems and applications must be at internationally-accepted levels of quality and integrity."

Mastura - MSTB (refreshed 2017)

Just before MSTB's intention to help build Malaysia as a major regional software testing hub was first announced in 2009, Mastura pointed out the need to raise the level of talent as well as quantity of professionals.

When MSTB was established in 2008, Mastura Abu Samah said that most software testing practitioners at that time tended "to carry out testing as if it is 1978, not 2008. Common practices lag best practices by 30 years: these practices need to be raised to the next level of best practices as set by the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB)."

Since then several milestones have bolstered the body's intention of Malaysia capturing 5 percent of a global US$50 billion software testing market by 2020, and a part of the Digital Economy drive by the government and driven largely by national ICT agency Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). [See a recent interview with MDEC CEO Dato' Yasmin Mahmood - Deep Dive into Malaysia's Digital Economy with CEO Dato' Yasmin Mahmood Part 1 and Part 2.]

Why is forming a testing hub Important? Mastura said that a concerted hub focus will allow Malaysia to capture some of the global software testing market expected to reach US$50 billion in three years' time (2020).

This ambition was amplified in 2015 by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) when its director-general Datuk Seri Dr Rahamat Bivi Yusoff said Malaysia has been increasing efforts to attract more sophisticated software testing jobs to be outsourced here, "we need more software testing companies coming to the fore," and that "the government aspires to capture 5 per cent of the global software testing services revenue with an expected 30,000 certified testers by 2020."

 Quality assurance is key

In a globalised market environment, Malaysia's software industry needs to continue to build a strong assurance mechanism. In November 2015, a Quality Centre of Excellence (Q-CoE) for software quality was a natural progression after focusing on building up the soft structure necessary to enable growth of Malaysia's software testing industry, she said.

MSTB, established as a Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG) under the Malaysian Law, is driving new milestones as just recently two Malaysian-made software products "became the firsts to obtain certification under the Quality Software (QS) Product Certification scheme," said Mastura.

The ISO-based software certification scheme adds further credibility to Malaysian-made software, she added. In addition to the quality endorsement, the QS scheme will also allow certified products to have foreign market access through various Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs), which are undergoing government-to-government negotiations.
 
Speaking of the latest announcement, Mastura said that the two software products are Nutriemart, a dietary planning/monitoring application for health professionals and health-conscious individuals; and Collaborative Portal Platform (CPP), a platform that allows organisations to have an effective and secure environment for multi-tracked communications and collaborations between internal and external individuals or groups over private or open networks.

Home-grown

Both products have been developed by home-grown software engineering company Custommedia.
 
The Nutriemart software was developed at a cost of RM1 million while the cumulative development cost for CPP is estimated to be about RM4 million, a formal announcement revealed.

With the QS certification, the two products have gained immediate international-level recognition of quality, said Mastura.
 
"QS certification provides documented assurance on the quality of the software. In turn, this ought to give customers greater confidence on the software and enhance the competitive advantage of software in the open market," she explained.
 
Professor Dato' Dr Aziz Deraman, the chair of QS Decision Committee, commented: "Having good quality products enable the owners to have better returns through reduction in costs of maintenance of the products as well as to manage and rectify after-sale customer issues arising from poor quality."
 
The QS Certification scheme has been developed by MSTB as one of the key initiatives under the Malaysia Software Testing Hub (MSTH) programme. In addition to indigenous expertise, MSTB also relies on foreign expertise and transfer of technology through collaboration with the Korea Testing Laboratory, which has been operating similar certification scheme in Korea since 2001.
 
The QS Certification Scheme generally covers all types of software products including Commercially-off-the-Shelf (COTS) and custom products, as well as embedded and hardware appliance software. The Scheme is not limited to Made-in-Malaysia software and software-driven products only; it also caters for foreign-developed software products.
 
Quality evaluation for the QS Certification Scheme is carried out by Q-Laboratory's Systems Test Lab, which is accredited to MS/ISO 17025 standard (software testing lab). 

Mastura said the evaluation (testing) exercise results in an independent report, which covers functionality, reliability, usability, efficiency, maintainability and portability.

The report is then presented to the QS Decision Committee, comprising representatives from the industry, which decides if the product under evaluation indeed fulfils the criteria for the certification, she added.
 
"Without the quality and integrity of the systems and applications, the nation would face high risks of systems failures, which may lead to serious economic losses," said Mastura. "The QS scheme provides independent quality assessment on the software products and this can contribute towards achieving this goal by mitigating such risks."
 
"Looking at the bigger picture, the QS scheme could also boost the growth of Malaysia's software industry especially when linked to certain development policies," she said, pointing to Korea's experience.
 
Korea first introduced its Good Software (GS) certification scheme in 2001 and it has proven to be an effective form of 'intervention' to seed rapid improvement in the quality of Korean-made software, Mastura explained.

Coupled with supporting policies set and practiced by the government, the GS scheme has been cited to be a contributor that helped grow the country's software industry. Based on reported figures for 2011, Korea's domestic market for software was estimated to be worth US$ 5.9 billion while its software export was estimated to be worth US$ 18 billion. In 2001 the country's software expenditures were reported to be worth USD 1.47 billion while the export was only USD$290 million.

MSTB is a member of the International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) and an exclusive partner of the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) in Malaysia. As a member of the ISTQB, MSTB provides the leadership and administers ISTQB accreditation process and certification in Malaysia. Similarly, the Board exclusively administers IREB certification scheme in Malaysia.

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