@Halal | may-june. 2020
BY CAMILIA REZALI
When Datuk Dr Rais
Hussin Mohamed Ariff
was offered the chairmanship
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
in Malaysia. In