2017 Leadership interview: Is 'Smart Innovation' taking centre stage in Malaysia's Digital Economy?

In an exclusive 'rapidfire' interview, 'smart city' enabler Cyberview's Dato' Faris Yahaya said all sectors need to double down on strengthening Malaysia's tech ecosystem to mitigate the headwinds of the global economy.

By AvantiKumar
Jan. 5, 2017

smart_cities (IDG)

Image (IDG)  - Smart Cities


In an exclusive Computerworld Malaysia 'rapidfire' interview, conducted by Computerworld as part of an extensive 2017 industry roundup feature ('What's really in store for Malaysia's IT industry in 2017?'), smart city and technology hub enabler Cyberview's Chief Executive Officer Dato' Faris Yahaya (pic below) said that "all sectors needed to double down on strengthening Malaysia's tech ecosystem to mitigate the headwinds of the global economy."

His preliminary comments were that "collaborative innovation is taking centre-stage in Malaysia's rising digital economy - that no-one player can or should do this alone.  Risk taking (in innovation) can only be bolstered by the reassurance of a safety net of supportive ecosystem partners."

"Players in the tech industry (including government agencies, SMEs, MNCs, etc.) must double-down on strengthening Malaysia's tech ecosystem (particularly policies and initiatives influencing infrastructure and talent development) to mitigate the challenge of persistent headwinds in the global economy," said Faris.

"In addition, one important driver of growth in the digital economy will be primarily domestic in nature," he said, adding that Malaysia "is host to a lot of unrealised talents waiting to be unlocked and unleashed."

Faris Yahaya - Cyberview MD - done

What's your take on the 'highs and the lows' in your particular sector in Malaysia?

As a technology hub enabler, Cyberview spearheads the continued development of Cyberjaya into a global tech hub, built on the pillars of Smart City and Living Lab, with technology focus areas serving as the foundation. This is has been and is being achieved by collaboration with many ecosystem partners.
Broad as our charter is, we are strongly influenced by the mutable nature of technology itself. This is a challenge that we will continue to face. Take for instance, the tech-driven sharing economy exemplified by apps like Airbnb, Uber and Malaysia's own Grab and Lorry.com, which have peaked in the space of a few years. What was once disruptive and revolutionary is now considered commonplace.
In fact, the rapid evolution of technology is also mirrored in how Cyberjaya itself has transformed over the years; starting out in the mid-90s as an ICT and multimedia city, the nature of the tech ecosystem is such that we are compelled to stay abreast with, if not ahead of these developments in order to ensure continued relevance for the city.
Since 2013, we have driven initiatives guided by our Smart City and Living Lab development pillars. These initiatives are designed not only to increase Cyberjaya's operational efficiency, improve the quality of life for the people of Cyberjaya and contribute to growing the local economy, but also equip the city with a holistic ecosystem where innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs can test, validate and ultimately commercialise tech-driven ideas in a real-life city setting.
What are your expectations for the coming year?
In spite of any challenges, we do remain bullish on the prospect of seeing Cyberjaya grow into a city where innovation thrives, especially given the leadership of the Government and the decisive strides that it has made towards realising this goal.

These measures include the positioning of Cyberjaya as a 'living lab' for the Internet of Things and the announcements made by the Prime Minister in his Budget 2017 speech; underscoring the importance of the digital economy for the country's continued growth and prosperity. The consolidation of focus on developing the digital economy aligns squarely with all the work that we've been driving here in Cyberjaya for the past 20 years. We - that is the stakeholders of Cyberjaya and 88,000 citizens - out of which more than 40 percent are knowledge workers, which represent the nation's largest concentration of tech talent, are primed to drive and thrive in this economy.
What new tech advances have started gaining ground in Malaysia?

The true power of technology has always been the access it provides to everyone it touches - from opening up new frontiers of opportunities to giving old ways of doing things a new lease on life. This is precisely what financial technology (fintech) has done for the financial services industry and the primary driver behind our fourth Cyberview Living Lab Accelerator Programme focusing on fintech innovations.
This latest instalment of our Living Lab Accelerator Programme seeks to create new fintech start-ups from enterprises which are already at the tipping point of commercialising their innovations. As a platform that has provided many innovators and entrepreneurs with the opportunities to take their business to the next level of success, it was important for us to continue working with partners demonstrating an intimate understanding and with a proven track record of success in their field.
What makes this development even more exciting is the fact that it builds on the groundwork that we've already laid out in Cyberjaya in transforming it into a Living Lab for the Internet of Things. Most recently, Cyberview entered into a Memorandum of Collaboration with Atilze Digital (a subsidiary of Yen Global), strategically positioning Cyberjaya as the first smart city in Southeast Asia connected to a city-wide long range (LoRa) network.

 The network adds onto the wide range of connectivity options already available in Cyberjaya. In addition to being the first township where network operators can rapidly offer high-speed internet and 4G long-term evolution (LTE) connectivity, courtesy of the 22 high-speed mobility solution sites deployed by Axiata Group's telecommunication infrastructure service arm, edotco Malaysia, residents and visitors also have broadband access with speeds of up to 1Gbps. And on top of all these, Cyberview is already collaborating with Telekom Malaysia to implement the Wireless Cyberjaya project; improving connection speeds with coverage of 127 access points throughout Cyberjaya.
Cyberjaya has further strengthened its offerings as a smart city with the recent formalisation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Cyberview, Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), and Mastercard. The MoU outlines a fleet of initiatives that will be collaboratively rolled out as Cyberjaya looks towards going cashless in line with the government's push to reduce cash transactions.

What are your 'Smart City' challenges and opportunities in 2017?

If we take the view that Cyberview has been in collaboration with its many ecosystem partners in putting together one of Malaysia's many engines of economic growth (in this case being Cyberjaya), our greatest challenge then lies in making sure that the many benefits and advantages provided are easily accessible to the people who need them the most.
From a broader perspective, our work here complements existing initiatives which Malaysia has made much headway:
- Encouraging quality education for all, and supporting the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies that will be essential to innovative thinking.
- Supporting the needed infrastructure for economic growth - here being HSBB and narrowing the digital divide.
- Leveraging the scale and synergies found in geographic and innovation clusters such as that which is available here in Cyberjaya.
These initiatives are also mirrored in our activities here:
- Under the Cyberview Living Lab Initiative, we aim to transform Cyberjaya into a sandbox for Malaysian inventors, entrepreneurs and startups under four programmes: Living Lab Talent, Living Lab Accelerator, Living Lab Pilot and Living Lab Enterprise.
- Under the Cyberjaya Smart City Framework, Smart City solutions are being developed to enhance the liveability of Cyberjaya across 4 categories: Environment, Infrastructure, Economy and Social.
What's important to note here is the fact that collaboration and openness will remain a key driver for Malaysia's success and this is also true for enterprises and businesses searching for their big break as well.

As a city playing host to 800 tech companies - 506 of them with MSC status and 47 of them from multi-national organisations - Cyberjaya is a prime example of the power of collaborative innovation. Here, businesses are supported by an environment of non-competitive sharing and openness; with smaller enterprises clustered around larger companies and each leveraging on the other's strengths and uniqueness.
To add to this ecosystem of collaborative sharing, we have also undertaken the setup of collaborative spaces located here in Cyberjaya, very similar in their nature and intent to the Malaysia Digital Hubs announced by the Prime Minister earlier. Take for instance CoInnov8, an initiative and incentive programme that supports innovators from the ground up. In addition to providing the right platforms through the various offerings within the ecosystem to grow a fintech or IoT solution, startups based in CoInnov8 are also given access to the City Innovation Council. The council is a collaborative body comprising Cyberview and its partners that provides endorsement, assistance and guidance to start-ups and SMEs seeking to test out prototypes and concepts that are of value to the city.
With Vision 2020 (developed nation status) looming, what urgently needs to be done this year?

As I mentioned earlier, our most urgent need lies in the realisation of latent talent available in Malaysia. This we have strived to achieve through the setting up of a collaborative, innovation ecosystem where innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs can drive their ideas from plans into commercialised realities.
All the work that's been done so far has laid a strong foundation upon which the digital economy can be built. Cyberjaya is one of many destinations in Malaysia offering a complete and growing ecosystem comprising both hard infrastructure as well as soft assets. We are fortunate to benefit from our legacy of being the centre of tech innovation with many success stories to show for it, and many more to follow in the years to come.
As a global tech hub, Cyberjaya is where entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, industry and partners take innovative technology ideas from concepts and startups and grow them into businesses capable of competing in the global scene. While technologies and their various applications will continue to evolve in relation to national needs and overall market demands, Cyberview's approach to providing a holistic environment in collaboration with all our stakeholders ensures that Cyberjaya remains capable of catering to the growing needs of the technology community and allows innovation to thrive.

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