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The rise of Sarawaks digital economy

0 month ago, 13-Jan-2019

Part 3 of a 4 part special series to celebrate the second anniversary of Chief MinisterDatuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg

WHEN Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg took helm of Sarawaks affairs, many of us were expecting to see a Chief Minister who would pick up the torch that Pehin Sri Adenan Satem had left so abruptly.

And we have.

In the last two years, we have seen a Sarawak government that is centred on increasing our autonomous rights, that calls for a higher share of petroleum royalty, and focuses on rural development.

But while Adenans vision and purpose have been continued, the Sarawak that we know now is vastly different from what we were used to as the government has now taken a different approach to secure our future.

Soon after taking over as Chief Minister, Abang Johari announced his intentions of spearheading a digital economy initiative that aims to revolutionise Sarawaks economy and industries, and spur socioeconomic growth and advancement.

The announcement of this initiative came with a promise of committing a fund of RM2 billion towards boosting internet connectivity throughout Sarawak by setting up the necessary infrastructure.

Such amount (RM2 billion) is required for us to, among other things, lay down the fibre optic cloud computing and satellite to cover the whole of Sarawak, Abang Johari told a press conference after giving a keynote address to Sarawak civil servants in 2017.

Following the announcement, Abang Johari further cemented his intentions with a new cabinet, with two new ministries, the Ministry of International Trade and E-Commerce led by Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research led by Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong.

Abang Johari explained that the focus on creating a digital economy for Sarawak is necessary due to our overreliance on natural resources, as Chinas economic consolidation has led to a fall in commodity prices.

We, therefore, have no choice. If we want to get out of our dependence on natural resources, we need to get into the digital world, which has been growing by leaps and bounds creating millionaires by the day.

The Sarawak government shall spearhead this digital development but we will leave it to the private sector and young entrepreneurs to do whatever they can do best to make a living and a name for themselves. We shall also not forget the rural villages, which we want connected in order for us to bring them tele-medicine, e- learning and e-commerce, he has said in his first winding-up speech as Chief Minister at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) in May 2017.

Taking the first steps towards this vision was with the International Digital Economy Conference Sarawak (IDECS), which was first held on April 3-4, 2017 and again on May 14-15, 2018.

The first instalment of IDECS made clear the Sarawak governments intentions to push for more digitalisation. During his speech at the conference, Abang Johari announced that the Sarawak government would be taking several steps towards implementing the initiatives. This included the setting up of the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA), Sarawak Digital Economy Corporation (SDEC), Development Bank of
Sarawak (DBOS), and the five-year Sarawak Digital Economy Strategy 2018 to 2022.

In addition, the improvement of ICT infrastructure, the creation of a digital village and data centre, and the promotion of e-learning among the younger generation were also shared during the inaugural IDECS.

The after effects of the conference were soon visible as our local private sector was soon abuzz with several associations of technopreneurs and e-commerce merchants forming in order to help spread the message of the impending changes in the landscape of our economy.

In the second instalment of IDECS last year, the theme was Data to Fuel New Economic Growth and Quality of Life, and focused on four sub-themes data intelligence, start-ups, smart communities, and digital government.

Last years IDECS was on developing the awareness of what digital economy was all about. A year later, we must now ramp-up on our action plans, said State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohamad Morshidi Abdul Ghani.

The theme this year is Data to Fuel New Economic Growth and Quality of Life. This conference will once again be a knowledge-platform to better understand how digitalisation and future technologies will shape and change how we interact, both at the workplace and in our daily lives.

He pointed out that Abang Johari had announced the works to be done and plans to be carried out by the respective agencies and private sector.

We will see more of public-private partnerships in our journey towards a digitalised and developed nation within a five-year strategic plan, said Morshidi.

Sarawak Multimedia Authority

The Sarawak Multimedia Authority Ordinance 2017 was passed on Nov 8, 2017, paving the way for the formation of the Sarawak Multimedia Authority (SMA), which seeks to make Sarawak a cyber-powerhouse.

Chaired by Abang Johari, the SMA is the lead agency for Sarawaks digital economy transformation, overseeing and regulating digital strategies and initiatives.

Sarawak Digital Economy Strategy (2018-2022)

The Sarawak Digital Economy Strategy 2018-2022 is a document which clearly spells out the vision, mission, and 47 strategic actions to be implemented and improved on Sarawaks digital economy journey.

2030 is the year we want Sarawak to be a developed state in Malaysia with high income economy. There must not be any rural and urban divide by then, hence digital connectivity is important, Abang Johari explained.

He said digitalisation is impacting the peoples economic development as well as social life, causing constant disruptions.

It poses a potential threat to those who are reluctant to embrace the new technologies while providing new opportunities to others who are prepared to venture into this new field, he said.

He reiterated that Sarawak has no choice but to strengthen its development strategies to further accelerate economic growth and overcome the challenges of the global economy.

The document covers eight economic sectors Agriculture, Manufacturing Industry 4.0, Tourism, Smart City, Digital Health, e-Commerce, Digital Government, and Social Sectors.

This is supported by seven enablers consisting of Digital Infrastructure, Digital Skills and Talent Development, Research and Development, Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Digital and Data, Cyber Security, and Digital Inclusivity.

Other notable initiatives identified and implemented in 2017 to kick-start Sarawaks digital economy included promoting Data Hosting and Big Data as well as organising Digital Economy Labs.


SDEC is a Sarawak government-owned agency whose role is to implement the development of the communications and multimedia activities in Sarawak.

It will ensure the implementation of the key focus areas of Sarawaks digital economy. Innovation hubs Abang Johari launched the TEGAS Digital Innovation Hub on Aug 28, 2017. The hub serves as a platform to nurture talents, support entrepreneurs, and create innovators for Sarawak.

I hope this is the first step towards a digital economy, he said, adding that the states proposed Digital Village at Samajaya would materialise by 2020.

Abang Johari called on young Sarawakians to be dedicated and passionate about innovation so that they could invent things that would impress the world.

He said they could also play a role to help leapfrog Sarawaks present mechanisation stage, which is 2.0 to 4.0, which is that of artificial intelligence.

The following month saw the launching of the Sarikei Innovation Centre (SIC). Abang Johari explained that SIC will help propel Sarikei towards becoming the food basket of Sarawak which, when combined with the Sadok Agropolitan being undertaken in Betong and Tanjung Manis Halal Hub, would turn Sarawak into a regional food exporter.

He hoped local entrepreneurs would make full use of the SIC to explore modern agriculture such as fertigation method, censor technology, and open market.

Digital Kenyalang

The programme seeks to help 3,000 micro-entrepreneurs across Sarawak market their products in Peninsular Malaysia and the wider Asean region.

The Digital Kenyalang Programme also aims to help uplift the earnings of our B40 segment as the majority of micro-entrepreneurs participating within the programme are from low income households.

Sarawak e-Commerce Forum

To help spur e-commerce growth, the Sarawak e-Commerce Forum was held on Nov 7, 2017 and saw an attendance of 529 participants.

It explored e-commerce opportunities and collaborations within Sarawak, and some of the headwinds preventing players from entering.


On Nov 10, 2017, the Centre of Technical Excellence (CENTEX) inked a memorandum of understanding with HUAWEI Technology (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd to supply talent for digital infrastructure development within Sarawak.

The venture, which had been allocated RM18 million, would make CENTEX the first Southeast Asian Regional Certified Specialist Training Partner, and would see HUAWEI implementing specialist programmes covering fields and topics in wireless, microwave, fibre, data centres, telecom energy hardware installation, and mobile application development.

e-Commerce Transformation Plan 2030 (E-Com Y30)

E-Com Y30 specifically targeted the youth of Sarawak by providing avenues where youths, especially in rural areas, could develop skills and talents in the technology and digital industries, increased rates of youth employment and involvement, and more opportunities and encouragement of entrepreneurship in the said industries.

Venture capital for youth entrepreneurs

Abang Johari announced on Nov 17, 2018 that he would allocate RM5 million to the Ministry of Tourism,
Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports to help young entrepreneurs with venture capital.

Youths who want use the money as venture capital will first be assessed. With this, we hope to help more Sarawakian youths who want to become entrepreneurs as they are the group of people who will help develop Sarawak in the future, he said.

Sarawak Pay

Sarawak Pay is the first Sarawak government e-wallet platform licensed by Bank Negara Malaysia to help complement our digital economy initiatives in terms of e-commerce and digitalising governance.

Launched on Nov 15, 2017, the platform aims to encourage a cashless society and overall productivity in the financial sector.

While Sarawak Pay is owned and guaranteed by the Sarawak government, the SMA has announced it is open to working with other e-wallet players within the region to help encourage the adoption of cashless payments throughout Sarawak.

Sarawak ID

Sarawak ID is a digital identity system introduced to facilitate peoples affairs with the government and assist the shift towards digital government. It serves as a single online identity for Sarawak Government digital services. Sarawakians just need to register once and the same ID will allow them to instantly access multiple available online services without the need to register again or re-login for different services.

Sarawak Gov

Sarawak Gov, an official app of the Sarawak government, delivers users up-to-date information about
Sarawak. Exclusive advantages Sarawak Gov can offer include both new and trending content. Users can
also add the events to their digital calendars.


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