@Halal May/Jun 2020 - Page 10

10 Cover Story @Halal | may-june. 2020 BY CAMILIA REZALI When Datuk Dr Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff was offered the chairmanship of Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), it took him a while to decide. It was, after all, also the first time he would be receiving taxpayers funds as his monthly allowance. But it reminded him of the responsibility to lead MDEC was also a trust (amanah) placed upon him from God. For Rais, the job is something right up his street. He has extensive experience in IT and communications, including co-authoring a book on AI, blockchain and fintech. And he is passionate about promoting Industry 4.0. His enthusiasm for the job was evident. Just a day after his appointment on June 15, he issued a statement calling for the concept of Malaysia 5.0 as a new narrative for the country. He felt it would position Malaysia as an innovation economy that could compete in a disruptive technology world and serve as a springboard into the Asean region, acting as a bridge between Asia, Middle East and Africa and interconnect with the 1.8 billion Islamic population worldwide. He also wants to position Malaysia as an early-stage Islamic fintech start-up hub to attract local and foreign start-ups to anchor regional operations in the country. In this wide-ranging interview with @ Halal, Rais touches on several key issues, including MDEC’s role during the current economic challenges, e-commerce, the digital economy, the fintech ecosystem, Islamic finance and skills training. Congratulations on your appointment as chairman. What were your first thoughts when offered this post? Well, to be honest, it took a while for me before I decided to accept the offer. Thinking that for the first time, I will be receiving rakyat’s money as my monthly allowance places a heavy weight on my shoulder. It reminded me this responsibility is an “amanah” from Allah SWT (God) for me to lead the organisation in the best manner. Nonetheless, I am thankful and honoured for this opportunity and trust to lead an organisation which has been driving an initiative that I have been pushing for and have passion for, which is the Industry 4.0. This dedication, thus, has resulted in the publication of a book entitled 4IR: Reinventing the Nation which I co-authored with one Well-equipped for the challenge MDEC’s new chairman envisions Malaysia 5.0 as new narrative for Malaysia to compete in disruptive technology world of the world’s leading blockchain experts, Dinis Guarda. What I have in mind and hope for is for MDEC to move to the next level in playing a leading role in driving our economy and Malaysians in the transition to Malaysia 5.0 as the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live our lives. Whereas our Industry 4.0 still seems to be technology-driven, Malaysia 5.0 will be society-driven where you’ll see a lot of convergence in getting the virtual space via digitalisation going back to and fro towards the physical space. As a result, we will see a societal transformation. It makes society the master of technology rather than becoming a slave of technology. You have vast experience in IT and communications, including co-authoring the book with Dinis Guarda. How is this useful in leading MDEC? As I have expressed before, my passion and dedication to promoting Industry 4.0 shows how driven I am to ensure the progress of Malaysia and Malaysians in the process of embracing digital transformation. I envision Malaysia 5.0 as the new narrative for our country. With that, one of my proposals is to have a designated hub that interconnects 4IR companies in Malaysia to the rest of the world, with strong regulatory and strategic oversight and direction from MDEC, aligned with ongoing and newly-announced stimulus packages such as Prihatin and Penjana. I also hope the existing initiatives pursued by MDEC would be monitored proactively and be of a transparent manner to ensure we via our platforms reach those who are in need. It is the right time to start and progress. If such vision and mission are missing from our National Strategy, Malaysia would be left behind and excluded from digital ecosystems and workforces. Given the current economic challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic, MDEC’s role and function have become more crucial. Your comments, please. Yes, I am very well aware of this fact. Since the pandemic and then the MCO (Movement Control Order), our society has mostly adapted to the new norm by detaching ourselves from the physical infrastructure and relying on digital-based support to avoid frequent physical contact. This current reality has provided more opportunities and responsibilities for MDEC to be more engaged with society. I am quite impressed with what MDEC has done so far in terms of promoting digital initiatives amid the crisis known as #DigitalvsCovid Movement. There are e-learning platforms for students and trained professionals to access from home as educational institutions remain closed, avenues for the entrepreneurs and SMEs to register for digital jobs such as eRezeki, and a platform for businesses to shift online through eUsahawan and Go-eCommerce. It requires constant monitoring by MDEC by conducting impact assessments to ensure these measures are the right ones and are effective. Lastly, frequent updates to ensure the relevance of each initiative to the current situation is also essential. How significant is the contribution of e-commerce to the digital economy? I will say without hesitation that e-commerce is very critical to the growth of the digital economy in Malaysia. In