The COVID – 19 pandemic is not only impacting people’s health but the nation’s economy as well. If there is one thing to be learned from this crisis, it is the necessity to be proficient in harnessing the new technologies outlined under the National Fourth Industrial Revolution Policy (4IR). Launched recently on July 1, the policy’s mission is to drive balanced, responsible, and sustainable growth by leveraging on the use of technology and innovation. The policy provides key guiding principles and strategic directions to ministries and agencies in the formulation of policies and action plans to optimise the allocation of resources and coordinate implementation in matters pertaining to emerging technologies that will benefit the people and the private and public sectors.
Explaining the policy in greater detail to Bernama, the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in the Prime Minister’s Department said the implementation of the National 4IR Policy is critical at this juncture as the country heads towards the recovery phase following the pandemic. In fact, other countries have already taken the necessary proactive measures to set 4IR in motion. Malaysia, said EPU, can no longer forge ahead without proper skills because the current job market will change in accordance with the changes in technology. Additionally, the nation has to be prepared for the new job spheres that will be created in time to come.
“The adoption of emerging technologies will put Malaysia on the right track to becoming a high-income nation, as well as enable rapid progress in our level of productivity, innovation, and competitiveness. Principally, the government will look at the concept of adopting 4IR technologies in a holistic way, covering all three aspects of people’s lives, namely life, employment, and lifestyle. The basis of the National 4IR Policy is manifesting a better and sustainable quality of life for the people in this digital technology era,” EPU explained.
According to EPU, the policy aims to improve the Malaysian Well – being Index (MyWI) to 136.5 points in 2030, from 124.4 points in 2018.
“This is why the National 4IR Policy adopts a humanity-centred approach. The policy will also enable the government to continue with its efforts to bridge the digital divide among the people – between cities and rural areas; and the younger and older generations, for example,” it said.
Support other policies
EPU also said that the National 4IR Policy will essentially facilitate socio – economic transformation through the ethical use of 4IR technologies. The policy will also steer the directions of other policies and support the implementation of other national agendas such as the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 and the five – year Malaysia Plan. The National 4IR Policy allows the creation of an ecosystem conducive to driving digitalisation through the integration of technologies in various fields and by facilitating the introduction of new business models, said EPU. EPU, meanwhile, has also drafted the Malaysian Digital Economic Blueprint to complement the National 4IR Policy.
“The two documents are interrelated under MyDIGITAL, a national agenda to ensure efforts outlined in both documents can be integrated and implemented successfully to benefit the people, businesses, and the government,” it said. The agency explained that the digitalisation of the nation will lead to changes in the digital economic landscape, notably an increase in digital literacy, the creation of new jobs, and higher income, more orderly and easier management of banking and financial matters, better access to virtual education for children, and mobilisation of medical facilities for remote areas.
“For instance, to run a business these days, one need not rent a shop but can operate digitally and open an online store on Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp, and promote their products or services online. The entire supply chain can go fully digital,” it added.
Address problems related to economy, pandemic
The National 4IR Policy focuses on 10 core sectors and six support sectors based on the contribution of the sectors concerned to the Gross Domestic Product, as well as the role played by these sectors in influencing the growth of other sectors, among them the micro, small and medium enterprises (PMKS). The core sectors are wholesale and retail trading; transport and logistics; tourism; education; agriculture; healthcare; finance and insurance; professional, scientific and technical services; manufacturing; and utilities. The six support sectors, meanwhile, are construction; property; mining and quarrying; information and communication services; arts, entertainment and recreation services; and administrative and support services. On PMKS, the agency said the National 4IR Policy has outlined a holistic plan to help boost the sector’s growth, including assisting PMKS operators to harness technology.
“The government will assist PMKS to be prepared (to adopt technology) by extending financial aid in the form of incentives and funds, as well as advisory services and information support assistance,” said EPU.
To date, a total of RM20 billion has been allocated in terms of financial and non – financial assistance through the various economic stimulus packages such as Prihatin, Penjana, and Pemerkasa to help businesses, especially PMKS, to digitalise their operations. Much focus is also being given to the health sector under the National 4IR Policy in view of the ongoing battle against the COVID – 19 pandemic. The government aims to reduce mismatches between supply chains and delivery services in the healthcare industry through the application of 4IR technologies.
“Among others, we will develop a framework for the rapid adoption of healthcare – linked 4IR technologies, as well as develop national standards and guidelines for the healthcare – related robotics and drone programme.”
Empower digital economy
Meanwhile, Universiti Putra Malaysia School of Business and Economics lecturer Associate, Prof Dr Anuar Shah Bali Mahomed, viewed the National 4IR Policy as a continuation of efforts by the government to empower the use of technology and 4IR. Pointing out that these efforts should be supported by all parties to speed up the national digitalisation process, he said currently about 80% of Malaysians have access to the Internet while 62% of businesses are harnessing the potential of the Internet. These figures, he said, are expected to rise, more so because movement restrictions are still in place.
He said among the early steps taken by the government was inviting technology giant Microsoft to invest RM4 billion on its first regional data centre in Malaysia which will generate more than 19,000 new job opportunities, including 4,000 in the field of information technology. On improvements to the 4IR policy, Anuar Shah Bali said one of the things the government can do is to provide an online platform for the participation of bumiputera entrepreneurs whose incomes were affected by the movement control.
“To speed up the transition of PMKS to online mode, the government can negotiate with Malaysian e – commerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee to provide more space in their platforms to the entrepreneurs concerned. While it’s true that many of the existing vendors on these platforms comprise PMKS, it is also important for the government to give them more exposure and training on online trading to enable them to be better prepared,” he said.
The government can also assist PMKS operators who have physical stores to promote their products on online platforms as well as collaborate with Lazada and Shopee or other platforms to attract the attention of consumers, he added.