Building Malaysia’s digital future

Norhizam Abdul Kadir, MDEC

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is the government-owned agency launched in 1996 to pioneer the transformation of Malaysia’s digital economy.  The agency is currently pursuing a strategy that unlocks significant economic, environmental, and social value.

In this interview with MDEC’s Norhizam Abdul Kadir, vice president of the Infotech Division, freelance writer Bob Emmerson examines the progress and how this innovative agency stands as a catalyst in the development of the country’s digital innovation ecosystem.

IoT Now: What is MDEC’s overall mandate and what specific initiatives are you taking?

MDEC: The agency was incorporated in 1996 and mandated to provide strategic advice to the Malaysian Government on legislation, policies and standards for ICT as well as to oversee the development of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) initiative, which was designed to nurture the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the IT industry.  In addition, the agency is responsible for attracting global ICT companies to invest in and develop cutting edge digital and creative solutions in Malaysia.

Zooming straight into the Internet of Things (IoT), we started with three main initiatives. One, to build a comprehensive pool of IoT solution providers in Malaysia. We want to raise critical mass and competitiveness of IoT companies to drive demand in the market. Two, to generate demand by identifying key end-users and facilitate the use of IoT through public-private partnerships involving government, businesses and citizens. Lastly, to build and sustain the IoT ecosystem and an enabling environment by securing global partnerships for best practices, encouraging start-ups, and nurturing a digital workforce.

IoT Now: What are your key vertical markets and the primary catalysts?

MDEC: The verticals we selected were based on the size of the market, IoT-readiness of our local players, and the impact to society. They include the following:

  • Smart Manufacturing: elevating the competitive edge of Malaysian manufacturers.
  • Public Safety: expansion coming via private participation and collaboration.
  • Smart Transportation: transforming this sector through connectivity and intelligence.
  • Smart Agriculture: booting the sustainability and livelihood of farmers.

We are also heavily looking into the Healthcare industry and of course, other verticals such as retail, energy, and logistics in line with demand and tangible benefits. IoT, along with Big Data Analytics, E-Commerce, Data Centres and the Cloud have been identified as catalysts that will kick-start and sustain an ecosystem of digital innovation and keep us in the forefront of technology.

IoT Now:  What have been the highlights so far?

MDEC: We’ve had a number of successful use cases. They include a smart parking project for Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall, which is one of the largest in Malaysia. A smart apartment project for one of Malaysia’s leading property developers; a heavy vehicle monitoring system for Kuala Lumpur City Hall; a smart chilli irrigation system for a farming area in the state of Negeri Sembilan; an asset monitoring system for retail outlets in Australia; and a visual inspection solution that has been marketed to a number of international manufacturing customers worldwide.

In addition, MDEC has a healthy IoT project pipeline that currently includes development in the areas of quality control and assurance, traffic management system, smart waste management and smart streetlights among others.

IoT Now: How is MDEC nurturing its IoT companies? What programmes do you have for generating exposure in international markets?

MDEC: Our agenda includes several programmes designed to support local champions in growing their business and expand globally.  For example, we took some companies on business missions at regional events in Singapore like Interpol World, IoT Asia, ITEX and others. We have immersion programmes for other successful efforts within the ASEAN region, China and Japan. We are also planning to help companies participate at key events in Europe. This is facilitated through business missions, workshop series, as well as opportunities to showcase products and solutions.


In addition, MDEC has the Global Acceleration & Innovation Network (GAIN) initiative that examines four key imperatives including market access, leadership development, technology disruption and scale-up capital. I’d like to point out that while we are helping the growth of local MSC companies, we already have ASEAN and global players, but of course we always want more.

We also have MDEC Americas, which is located in Palo Alto, the heart of Silicon Valley. It has been operational since August 2015, driving the global expansion of our ICT industry and catalysing the interconnection of Silicon Valley and MSC Malaysia’s ecosystems. The office acts as a gateway for high-growth companies to enter the American and global markets and facilitates foreign direct investments from US-based ICT multinational corporations.

IoT Now: Can you summarise your objectives and indicate the key stakeholders who are driving the transition to a high-income knowledge-based digital economy?

MDEC: The ever increasing need, demand and supply for Internet-related products and services is driving that transition. The opportunities forecasted by our National IoT Strategic Roadmap indicate revenues of RM9.5 Billion in 2020 (US$2.3bn) and RM42.5 Billion in 2025 (US$10.2bn).

The roadmap was launched by the Ministry of Science, Innovation & Technology with key stakeholders, including government agencies like MIMOS, our national R&D ICT centre; MIDA, the Investment Development Authority; MIGHT, Malaysia Industry Government Group for High Technology, and a few others, which are driving the proliferation and adoption of IoT in Malaysia.

The roadmap highlighted the need to boost innovation as well as nurture and grow IoT talent and business. The technology that enables IoT is out there and as organisations develop their partnerships and level of integration with each other we are set to see continued growth in our country. Malaysia can be the Regional Development Hub for IoT.

articlesideIoT Now: Let’s end with a topical development.  How will the LoRa Alliance help strengthen your IoT ecosystem?

MDEC: The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation has recently joined the LoRa Alliance.  We see LoRa as a groundbreaking technology that can bring tangible benefits, particularly in industry, transportation and agriculture, making it ideal for deployment in Malaysia.

MDEC’s contributions to the LoRa Alliance include:

  • Awareness: Aligned to developing IoT as a new source of ICT growth. We will help the alliance to create nationwide awareness.
  • Adoption: Work with key stakeholders to create robust IoT implementations based on this technology.
  • Assistance: Support the entry of the LoRa Alliance and its members into the Malaysian environment and provide incentives for ICT companies to operate out of Malaysia as a new direct entrant to the Malaysian and South-East Asia marketplace.
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