Local businesses are not transforming themselves fast enough to benefit from the digitalisation of the global economy, said Economic Planning Unit (EPU) deputy director general Johan Mahmood Merican.
He said the companies are too reliant on cheap, unskilled foreign labour. Instead they should be reskilling and upskilling their existing talent pool by assisting them in learning new skills that are relevant in the digital age.
Malaysian companies are also not taking advantage of the local talent pool. For instance, Malaysia has the third largest number of users offering their talents for hire on Upwork, an international freelancing platform.
“We have a whole bunch of Malaysian talents sitting at home providing work for corporations around the world,” he said.
“Malaysia needs to look beyond the standard nine to five work hours.
“We are at fault for offering one type of work arrangement when our talent pool has evolved beyond that.”
Siemens Asia Pacific power controls and digitalisation senior vice-president Amogh Bhonde said three key issues have to be addressed for Malaysia to have a world class digital economy.
First, there needs to be digital equality. While statistics show that the mobile penetration rate is over 150% and most Malaysians on average own more than one smartphone, it might not be true in the rural areas.
Secondly, we need to address the disruption due to digitalisation. Every time productivity is improved and new ways to do things are introduced, somewhere, someone might be losing his job.
“We should be cautious of the flipside of that as well as it’s a societal issue that is not to be taken lightly,” said Bhonde.
Lastly, he said the role of private sector is crucial. “In the Silicon Valley, the startup community is the key driver of the digital economy and the Government has mostly stayed out of the way,” said Bhonde.
However, he believes that Malaysia is a unique case study as the Government, through its agencies and think tanks, is leading the way in developing the digital ecosystem.