Techno Know-how


Economic News

22 Jul 2010
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With speculation rife about the new upcoming national plan, hopes are high for an injection of new life and cash into government projects around the country.

The nation's hi-tech sector also has great expectations from the Ninth National Plan (9MP), with the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) hoping for incentives to encourage human capital development.

"Technopreneurs need technical, communication and business skills and the 9MP should address strategies and [make] specific allocation to achieve these objectives," announced MDC CEO Badlisham Ghazali at a recent award ceremony for the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Business Plan Competition. "Part of our strategy for future growth of the MSC is to develop technology-based entrepreneurs or 'technopreneurs'."

Badlisham went on to explain that the last decade of MDC's activity have seen the MSC project develop the nation's goals with its drive for the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.

Indeed, in the mid-1990s, the second industrial master plan (2IMP) laid out strategic directions for the nation's industrial sector to move in, aimed at addressing weaknesses such as the lack of linkages internationally and within the sector, and the low number of Malaysian firms.

As part of the same plan, multinationals were required to set up plants which did not just manufacture, but also undertook research and development before they could enjoy certain incentives. The plan also outlined key areas of the sector which were missing, but which were necessary for the creation of vital links to other sectors and a higher value plain.

One of the main thrusts came from the need to increase linkages to IT and multimedia, with the government incorporating consideration of these into its plans for the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC).

"Before the MSC, the Malaysian ICT sector was vendor driven," Badlisham told OBG. "For example, there was little or no software development, but today we have a multi-billion ringgit ICT industry."

The Super Corridor exists as a physical space which runs from the iconic Petronas Twin-Towers in downtown Kuala Lumpur out to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Along this long strip of land is Cyberjaya, a centre for hi-tech development and home to MDC.

The project has now reached its second phase. This means the concept of the MSC is being rolled-out to other centres. As part of this, the northern city of Penang has been classified as Malaysia's first "cybercity".

"This is very good for us," explains Wan Zailena Noordin, the CEO of InvestPenang, the investment promotional body in the state of Penang. "It means that companies setting up here can apply for MSC status and then benefit from the incentives that offers. It will change the profile of who is doing business here as well; we hope to see more Malaysians emerging as technopreneurs."

Indeed, technologically driven entrepreneurs are a key part of the MSC strategy - they are who the government have identified as one of the key components of Malaysia's future economic development.

The MSC project has focused on three key areas: growing the MSC as a hub for multinationals to come and set-up; expanding the scope and breadth of the MSC; and increasing the usage and adoption of innovative and domestic ICT products and services within Malaysia to ensure that Malaysian ICT products go global.

There have already been some successes, not the least of which is a Malaysian firm called NasionCom which has created the world's first voice over internet protocol (VoIP) cellular phone. The handset uses a regular GPRS network SIM card until a button is pressed moving the phone onto a mobile virtual network (MVN) which means the user can make discounted calls.

The technology has been introduced in Malaysia where it is gaining subscribers and NasionCom has already made partnerships abroad, particularly in China where it hopes to grow rapidly.

Going abroad is also vital if Malaysian firms are to succeed and keep GDP growth at current levels. With a small domestic market, growth will eventually come from these Malaysian firms when foreign direct investment has faded into the past. With a sound approach to building and retaining their skills, these home-grown technopreneurs will hopefully one day be remitting their profits from Malaysian investments overseas.

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