Unlocking Malaysia’s Digital Economy

Our launch dialogue in Malaysia on 10 November discussed the the impact and role of digital platforms, and how we can fully harness the potential of the country’s digital ecosystem.

Malaysia’s Digital Economy Blueprint paints a vision of what a digitally-driven future for the country could look like. There is significant potential for the digital economy to grow and catalyse further economic development. As a start, there is good digital access with 67% of the population having mobile internet subscriptions, and highly savvy digital users: 55% of the total population have mobile wallets, and 83% have made an online purchase in the last 12 months.

To unlock and realise the full potential of Malaysia’s digital economy, digital platforms in particular can play a crucial role. They are key to ensuring that MSMEs are empowered in the digital transformation journey, and can tap on e-commerce and digital payments for productivity increases and better growth, as per the 12th Malaysia Plan. Malaysian MSMEs recognise the value and importance of platforms, with 85% of those surveyed agreeing that they need to use platforms to succeed. 

First-generation digital platforms can also play an important role in building the nation’s tech ecosystem by attracting venture capital and nurturing tech/entrepreneurial talent, as their alumni often go on to found second-generation start-ups. This trend is already apparent in Southeast Asia which has seen a flurry of deal activity in recent years, with the region’s investment appeal largely stemming from optimism towards platforms and the potential of the digital economy. To grow more unicorns, Malaysia needs to strategically position its start-ups to get into this funding activity, alongside players from other Southeast Asian countries. 

At this dialogue, we explored the value of digital platforms in Malaysia and its contributions to the economy. The session brought together key players from the public and private sectors to understand the impact and role of digital platforms in Malaysia, and how we can fully harness the potential of the country’s digital ecosystem.

Speakers included:

  • YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy)
  • Mahadhir Aziz, CEO, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation  
  • Noor Azlan Ghazali (Prof. Tan Sri Dr. ), Executive Director, Economic Action Council and Professor of Economics, National University of Malaysia
  • Iskandar Ismail, CEO, Malaysia Competition Commission
  • Azita Azizan, Co-founder, Aerodyne

Key takeaways:

  • As the digital economy plays an increasingly important role in Malaysia,
    it will inevitably give rise to new social, economic and policy issues. In navigating these shifts, government, private sector, civil society and the society must come together to share experiences and expertise, so that Malaysia can find the right solutions, to maximise the potential impact of the digital economy.
  • Decentralising the digital economy regulatory system can catalyse Malaysia’s digitalisation. Resources, expertise and tools to adopt digitalisation have to be accessible across urban and rural areas.
  • The role of government is to balance the outcomes for all stakeholders and create a fair playing field. The government wants to ensure that the market’s behaviour benefits everybody in the ecosystem. To educate the public, it needs the private sector to be more open to collaboration.
  • Conversely, the public sector has to be receptive and collaborative towards the private sector. Businesses hope that the public sector can adopt, promote and support them. While some individuals in agencies are open to ideas, business leaders believe that there is yet to be wide-ranging cooperation. 
  • Platforms for discussions and collaborations between the public and private sector are necessary and critical to achieve a robust digital economy for Malaysia.

Catch up on the dialogue below.

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Dr Ming Tan

Executive Director

Dr Ming Tan is Executive Director for the Tech for Good Institute, a non-profit founded by Grab, to encourage and enrich dialogue on social, economic, and policy trends accelerated by the digital economy.

Ming was previously Managing Director of IPOS International, part of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which supports Singapore’s future growth as a global innovation hub for intellectual property (I.P.) creation, commercialization and management.

Prior to joining the public sector, she was Head of Stewardship of the COMO Group, a Singaporean portfolio of lifestyle companies operating in 14 countries worldwide. As a company director, she lends brand and strategic guidance to SuperNature Pte Ltd, COMO Hotels and Resorts (Asia) Pte Ltd, COMO Club Pte Ltd, and Mogems Pte Ltd.

In the not-for-profit space, Ming is an Advisor to Singapore Totalisator Board and serves on the boards of Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre, St. Joseph’s Institution International and COMO Foundation.

As part of her commitment to holistic education and the arts, she also sits on the Advisory Panel of the Centre for the Arts of the National University of Singapore. Ming was educated in Singapore, the United States, and England. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and her doctorate from Oxford.