ICT Sector displays splendid performance in 2016
28 December 2016 | Source: Bernama
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- The information and communications technology (ICT) sector displayed a splendid performance in 2016 with advancements in digital inclusivity, e-commerce and Big Data Analytics (BDA).

Of significance, the year also saw the appointment of Ali Baba Group founder, Jack Ma, as the country's digital economy adviser to the government by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in November 2016.

Ma, a self-made billionaire and a great innovator, will advise and assist in exploring, developing and charting the future direction of the country's digital economy.

What more, 2017 has been announced as 'The Year of Internet Economy' with Najib underlining five strategic catalysts -- physical microcosms, risk capital funding, connectivity, talent and regulatory framework -- to enhance the Internet economy.

Malaysia Digital Economy Corp Sdn Bhd (MDEC) Chief Operating Officer, Datuk Ng Wan Peng, said the e-commerce segment was expected to contribute 5.8 per cent to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) this year, 0.6 per cent short of the target set for 2020.

"This indicates the success of the various initiatives implemented to help grow the digital economy.

"Through the digital inclusivity efforts, which include the e-Rezeki and e-Usahawan programmes, the digital economy contributed 17.8 per cent to the nation's GDP in 2015 and have benefited over 100,000 Malaysians," she told Bernama.

"The target set for 2020 is 18.2 per cent contribution to the GDP," she said.

Ng said that as of August 2016, Malaysia became home to 22 multinational BDA companies from six countries, a testament to the nation's steady progress as a leading BDA solutions hub in South-East Asia.

Following the increased awareness and adoption of BDA among the local industry players this year, the 2020 target demand for data scientists and data professionals has been revised to 2,000 and 16,000 respectively from 1,500 and 15,000 respectively.

In fact, the data centre sector recorded a 10 per cent growth as more providers moved away from the traditional business solutions to a more holistic and digitally-led solutions.

As the lead agency responsible for driving Malaysia's digital economy, Ng said, MSC Malaysia (formerly the Multimedia Super Corridor) recorded high investment growth from MSC-status companies since its inception in 1996.

As of Nov 30, 2016, investments received stood at RM7.94 billion of which 44 per cent were foreign direct investments.

Interestingly, the first Digital Free-Trade Zone (DFZ) in the world that will be launched jointly with Ma in March next year will merge physical and virtual zones, with additional online and digital services to facilitate international e-commerce and invigorate Internet-based innovation.

"DFZ will help secure global e-trade activities in Malaysia and simultaneously boost local small and medium enterprises towards a global stage.

"It also aims to encourage the establishment of start-ups, which are the backbone of our economy," said Ng.

The implementation of DFZ was unveiled in the 2017 Budget by Najib, who is also Finance Minister.

She said MDEC would also collaborate with the private sector to look forward to see the establishment of a new category of certified locations, called the Malaysia Digital Hubs, for the start-up community in 2017.

This would allow start-up community to enjoy the benefits of the MSC Bill of Guarantees, including tax incentives, she said.

"For 2017, we hope to seize opportunities that will accelerate the growth of Internet economy.

"Additionally, the appointment of Ma as our digital economy adviser will help in achieving our goals and strengthen Malaysia's proposition as the ideal Internet economy in the Association of South-East Asian Nations," said Ng.

Meanwhile, the National ICT Association of Malaysia expected the GDP growth for this year to be lower at 4.2 per cent and that in 2017 four per cent.

Its Chairman, Chin Chee Seong, said this was due to the volatility of the currency exchange, the unexpected outcomes of Brexit (British exit from the European Union) vote and the US presidential election, as well as the uncertain future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

He said ICT retailers and distributors were the most affected by the situation when the ringgit weakened as most hardware items were imported.

"Although there was demand for hardware items, especially in the corporate sector, growth was almost flat as more people are moving towards online shopping, thus seeing a stronger growth in software items," he said.

Beside that, cautious consumer sentiment over spending has also an impact on the retailers and the distribution channels.

"However, it may not be as bad as in 2015 where there were about 30 per cent drop in sales due to the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) in April at the rate of six per cent.

"But GST is now accepted. Consumers and retailers as well as distributors are getting used to the tax regime," he said, adding that growth for e-commerce was expected to reach eight per cent this year.

Meanwhile, on the security of cyber space, the year also sees the need to further address cyber threats.

CyberSecurity Malaysia Chief Executive Officer, Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab, said with the advent of digital technology and high connectivity of the internet, the imminent danger of cyber threats was not only affecting the country but also the global community.

Among the top list of threats includes cyber espionage, hacktivism, malware infection, cyber crimes and misuse of social media.

"The current trend of virus is named 'Ransomware' and most of the variants that have been reported are 'Cryptolocker' and 'Cerber", which were generally reported by local companies and individuals to us," he said.

From January to November, 90 per cent of threats were reported through Cyber999 with 7,698 cases and were resolved by CyberSecurity.

Last year, the total number of cases received and resolved were 9,420.

"We have also seen how classified networks and industrial control sytems were being compromised and how such attacks have affected businesses and government abilities to function.

"Cyber crimes, for example, are targeting economic sectors that continue to grow, as long as criminals can have financial gains from the computer systems," he said.

Amirudin said the cyber security landscape would be challenging next year due to advancement in ICT as well as the emerging trend of Internet of Things.

Therefore, based on the rapid changes of cyber threat, he said, there was an immediate need for Malaysia to have a revolutionary and more effective cyber security programme.

Among the continuous initiatives held throughout this year were Cyber Security Awareness For Everyone Programme, Malaysia Trustmark scheme which checks the legality and processes of organisations involving in e-commerce and CyberSecurity Malaysia Digital Forensics laboratory which support law enforcement agencies in cyber crimes investigation.

"Our cooperative efforts are also reflected via the public-private partnerships as it is an important requirement for ensuring all parties in Malaysia are able to operate within and benefit from the advantages of a secured and trusted cyber environment," Amirudin said.

CyberSecurity Malaysia is the national cyber security specialist agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

Bernama

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