DIG­I­TAL FU­TURE

Dig­i­tal malls, vir­tual jobs and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence are the new nor­mal in a digi­tised world

New Straits Times - - News - The writer is an Umno Youth ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil mem­ber

AS some­one with an en­gi­neer­ing back­ground, I al­ways pon­der how to make things func­tion bet­ter and how to use tech­nol­ogy to make life more ef­fi­cient and sim­pler.

So, when we dis­cuss about Trans­for­masi Na­sional 2050 (TN50), we need to ex­am­ine the evo­lu­tion of tech­nol­ogy from what it is now to what it will be in 2050 and be­yond. The evo­lu­tion of tech­nol­ogy is hap­pen­ing at break­neck speed, ren­der­ing ob­so­lete those un­able to keep up.

We must ask the fu­ture generation what is be­ing done to take ad­van­tage of the tech­no­log­i­cal trends of to­day, which will ei­ther be manda­tory or wide­spread 33 years from now.

The dig­i­tal world has changed the way peo­ple con­sume con­tent. We have to ac­cept the fact that to­day’s tech­nol­ogy al­ters and, to a cer­tain ex­tent, dic­tates our be­hav­iour and life­styles.

Among the mul­ti­ple tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments we can see is the con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment of “smart cities” — wired-up cities and ev­ery­thing in be­tween in or­der to man­age ev­ery­thing — from traf­fic move­ments to crime mon­i­tor­ing, and even the han­dling of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. And, Malaysia has kept pace.

The gov­ern­ment has launched pro­grammes to cater to this need. Ear­lier initiatives in­cluded the es­tab­lish­ment of the Mul­ti­me­dia Su­per Cor­ri­dor, Malaysia Dig­i­tal Econ­omy Cor­po­ra­tion and sub­se­quently the Malaysian Global In­no­va­tion and Cre­ativ­ity Cen­tre.

Newer projects in­clude the Dig­i­tal Free Trade Zone (DTFZ), launched by Chi­nese busi­ness mag­nate Jack Ma, founder and ex­ec­u­tive chair­man of Alibaba. Ma is also our na­tional ad­viser on dig­i­tal econ­omy. Also, within the DTFZ, we have the Kuala Lumpur In­ter­net City. It is a de­vel­op­ment spear­headed by a Malaysian com­pany with a lofty goal of hous­ing 1,000 In­ter­net-re­lated com­pa­nies as ten­ants, with the aim to be­come the re­gion’s dig­i­tal hub.

Both of these newer initiatives are vi­sion­ary, and will equip and em­power our coun­try to har­ness Asia’s dig­i­tal space.

To­day, Malaysia needs to gain mo­men­tum in the In­ter­net of Things to push fur­ther in crunch­ing big data, shar­ing it widely and ben­e­fit­ing the whole sys­tem, be it in terms of gov­er­nance, health man­age­ment and even poverty and crime re­duc­tion.

For this to take place, there is a need for us to deal with the big­gest prob­lem of all — bu­reau­cracy and red tape. For far too long, min­istries, de­part­ments and even district-level of­fices have con­tin­u­ously worked with their own com­fort­able data with­out shar­ing this in­for­ma­tion.

Break­ing this “silo ef­fect” could be the key to set­tling is­sues to max­imise ef­fi­ciency and map­ping pat­terns for mul­ti­ple uses. The time of one min­istry be­ing opaque and not shar­ing data must come to an end, as much as the state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments must learn to work with one another through the com­pi­la­tion of rel­e­vant data and in­for­ma­tion for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple on the ground, re­gard­less of politics and who the peo­ple choose at the bal­lot box.

As a simple ex­am­ple, imag­ine if the Road Trans­port Depart­ment, po­lice and even the local author­i­ties could ac­cess in­for­ma­tion

MON­DAY, MAY 15, 2017 and data from a sin­gle source by ref­er­enc­ing the NRIC or li­cence num­ber of Malaysians — al­low­ing the de­tailed list of past of­fences, road tax sta­tus, va­lid­ity of li­cence or other in­for­ma­tion we wish to add on.

Malaysia should make this a re­al­ity to­day. There is a need to shift par­a­digms to a leaner, more in­tel­li­gent fu­ture in both busi­ness and gov­er­nance.

As time pro­gresses, more and more jobs will be taken over by soft­ware, ro­bot­ics and ma­chines.

Youths must un­der­stand that the pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors will in­evitably shift to­wards a leaner man­age­ment and less hu­man em­ploy­ment.

Thus, early adopters, tech­nol­ogy dis­rup­tors, movers and shak­ers have the ad­van­tage as long as they stay ahead of the tech­no­log­i­cal curve, so to speak. Dig­i­tal me­dia rooms and real-time com­mu­ni­ca­tions are be­com­ing the new nor­mal.

In­evitably, brick-and-mor­tar estab­lish­ments such as re­tail spa­ces will be re­placed with dig­i­tal malls, filled with dig­i­tal ten­ants pro­mot­ing and sell­ing their wares in cy­berspace.

We will also see more and more jobs be­ing re­placed with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, making them “vir­tual”. Such ex­am­ples can be seen with the es­tab­lish­ment of vir­tual concierge, per­sonal shop­pers and even as­sis­tants that run on dic­ta­tion and voice recog­ni­tion.

I ap­plaud Umno Youth’s ini­tia­tive, Jom Be­la­jar Kod­ing, be­cause the dig­i­tal lan­guage is the lan­guage of the fu­ture. Thus, we must equip the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions with this skill, not only to re­main rel­e­vant but also to be able to take the lead.

After all, the younger generation is the one pop­u­lat­ing the dig­i­tal world and we must push them in the race to pro­vide dig­i­tal con­tent and sub­se­quently com­ple­ment our dig­i­tal econ­omy initiatives.

Even in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try, more and more com­pa­nies are shift­ing to­wards on­line ad­ver­tis­ing on so­cial me­dia plat­forms. Glob­ally, ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions are re­ly­ing on big data and an­a­lyt­ics, which are run and in­ter­po­lated by ma­chines. In fact, dig­i­tal con­tent might one day be treated like a com­mod­ity, made for trade and ex­change — this is al­ready hap­pen­ing some­what in terms of on­line mar­ket­ing and per­sonal data be­ing traded by cor­po­ra­tions to mar­ket­ing com­pa­nies.

I hope, one day, our fu­ture dig­i­tal min­is­ter will be able to steer Malaysia to­wards this non-phys­i­cal cy­berspace realm with deep fore­sight and to keep Malaysia com­pet­i­tive in the bor­der­less glob­alised dig­i­tal world, where data is the new cur­rency, band­width is the new travel time, and air and space are the new com­modi­ties and play­grounds.

Par­tic­i­pants at a ses­sion of Jom Be­la­jar Kod­ing, an Umno Youth ini­tia­tive.

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