Malaysia reopens for business with ambitious rakyat-centric digital-first budget

 |   K. Raman, Managing Director, Microsoft Malaysia

Budget 2021 Logo

K. Raman, MD, Microsoft MY

By K. Raman, Managing Director, Microsoft Malaysia

As Malaysia reopens for business, the ‘Stand United, We Shall Prevail’ themed budget is both timely and bold as it will accelerate the nation’s economic recovery and build resiliency.

The budget anchored on ensuring rakyat’s prosperity and wellbeing, business continuity and economic resilience, underpins Malaysia’s determination to overcome the immediate challenges while addressing the long-term aspiration of our nation to be competitive, prosperous and sustainable with an inclusive future.

At Microsoft, we are committed to partnering our nation to build resilience and drive competitiveness. The comprehensive measures unveiled by the government in this budget which prioritise digitalisation in business and education as well as our nation’s talent – are critical steps forward for our nation’s economy.

Elevating Malaysia’s digital transformation aspirations

Digital technology has played a vital role in ensuring business continuity at an unprecedented moment in history, especially when the Movement Control Order (MCO) was first introduced earlier this year. The need to innovate has become so rapid, that in 2 short months, we saw 2 years’ worth of digital transformation around the world.

Digital transformation is no longer an option, but an absolute necessity for businesses to thrive and for the economy to rebound. Based on Microsoft’s Culture of Innovation study with IDC Asia Pacific, 77% of organisations in Malaysia wants to accelerate the digitalisation of their businesses as a response to COVID-19, by launching new digital products, digital payments, e-commerce and automation. Meanwhile, 43% of local businesses have indicated that they would further invest in their technology capabilities, cognizant of the fact that a tech-savvy workforce is essential to support businesses’ growth.

In this regard, we are encouraged that digitalisation will remain a major catalytic driver for the nation’s economy, with various initiatives to address the common challenges faced by businesses today. The government’s investment of RM1 billion under the Industrial Digitalisation Transformation Scheme is a much-needed impetus for organisations to adopt new technologies in order to remain competitive in the new normal. Additionally, the introduction of the SME Digitalisation Grant Scheme will have a transformative effect in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to further innovate with digital technology.

We believe MSMEs including startups, the backbone of our nation’s economy, must accelerate their digital transformation for business resiliency and we are happy to see these rigorous plans being made by the Government into supporting them. We are committed to playing our part to bolster the nation’s efforts in empowering every organisation to achieve more. Recently, we’ve joined hands with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and Cradle Fund through Microsoft’s “Highway to a 100 Unicorns” initiative to strengthen our local startup ecosystem, whilst actively collaborating with industry players to jointly upscale local MSMEs.

Empowering the rakyat through skilling

With increased digitalisation, there also comes an increased demand for workers equipped with the right digital skills. In the same study by Microsoft with IDC Asia Pacific, 1 out of 5 organisations in Malaysia has indicated that skilling support from the government, particularly programmes to advance the digital and technology skills in the workforce, will be essential to better equip local businesses for the future.

On this note, the government’s emphasis on upskilling and reskilling is a welcome move. These include the allocation of RM1 billion to provide professional courses for fresh graduates and training for jobseekers, which comprises an allocation of RM100 million for MDEC to help the existing workforce transition into roles in technological fields.

In support of the government’s priority to nurture local talents, Microsoft will continue to offer Malaysians with free learning resources from LinkedIn, Microsoft and Github under our Global Skilling Initiative. Using data, we’ve identified career paths that are in-demand in today’s economy and are well positioned to grow in the future. Much of our skills work is targeted at providing people with the technology and digital skills required for these growing disciplines. To date, more than 36,000 Malaysians have accessed our learning resources.

Moving forward, we want to strengthen our collaboration with the government and industries to ensure more rakyat can benefit from our skilling initiatives. By equipping our talents with the in-demand skills they need to thrive in the roles of tomorrow, this would help accelerate Malaysia’s transition to a high-income economy with the creation of high-quality jobs in fast-growing industries.

Nurturing students’ success for tomorrow

Having my primary, secondary and tertiary education right here in Malaysia, education is something that I hold very close to my heart. As such, I am heartened that the government has once more allocated education the largest share in the budget, with a total allocation of RM50.4 billion.

More specifically, the investment being made into upgrading internet connectivity in schools is a crucial one. On the back of the launch of DELIMa (Digital Educational Learning Initiative Malaysia) with the Ministry of Education in June this year, these initiatives are timely measures in bridging the digital divide to help young Malaysians thrive in remote learning environments.

We are also pleased that RM150 million has been allocated for the Ministry of Higher Education’s professional certification programmes (KPT-PACE), allowing fresh graduates to pursue a professional certification course at public or private universities. Coupled with the investments made into technical and vocational education and training (TVET), we are hopeful that the future of education in Malaysia will help ensure no one is left behind – with enhanced access to the right platform and tools they need to succeed in tomorrow’s digital future.

Inclusive, digitalised, and resilient Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur skyline
While the journey ahead of us remains challenging, we are optimistic of Malaysia’s ability to weather through uncertainties and seize the socio-economic opportunities ahead. Time after time, Malaysia has repeatedly demonstrated its resilience.

We believe Malaysia’s success must continue to be driven by people’s capabilities and digital technology and as key enablers. The Budget 2021 with its rakyat-centric digital-first approach signals a strong direction on the future our nation is building towards – one that will be even more inclusive, digitalised, and resilient.

We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Government, industries and communities to accelerate Malaysia’s economic recovery and build resilience together, in fulfilling our mission to empower every person and every organisation on this planet to achieve more.

We stand with Malaysia.