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To what extent can Malaysia become the next Global Digital hub? | Event Report

On the 8th of December 2016, Ambition hosted its very first event dedicated to the Digital sector, which focused on the viability of Malaysia becoming a Global Digital Hub. We assembled a specialist panel of industry speaks to facilitate the evening.

These included:

•    Alain Boey, previously the Senior Vice President and Head of Digital Banking at Bank Simpanan Nasional (BSN)
•    Azizi Khan, currently Senior Vice President and Head of IS – Share Services for AmBank Group
•    Dave Lee, formerly head of architecture at Hong Leong Bank
•    Johannes Erlach, Head of Account Management for Falcon Agency, currently one of the leading digital agencies

Our Managing Director, Sam Baxendale, opened the event with an overview of the Malaysian market, highlighting factors such as cost point, access to talent and government-backed initiatives as strengths that Malaysia could offer as a hub. Insights on the level of mobile penetration and social media connectivity in Malaysia had the room buzzing as Sam highlighted the potential it held for the e-commerce sector. Other factors such as Malaysia’s viability as a regional hub were also key to the overview.

Alain Boey had some interesting points regarding the risks associated with brain drain, and also referred to the potential impact caused by the influx of low-paid foreign Software Developers into Malaysia. This was put into perspective as the movement of talent is not exclusive to Malaysians, but in fact seen globally, as Johannes Erlach pointed out. He shared his own perspective, having ventured to Asia due to the exciting prospects of growth in the region instead of remaining in Europe.

Azizi Khan was also quick to offer his thoughts from a different perspective. His points were that although people are leaving Malaysia, there is a significant number of returning Malaysians (REPs), who are attracted back based on Malaysia’s ascendancy as a world class technology hub. As a returning Malaysian himself, he also noted that some Malaysians who stay put may not realise their potential as international exposure does confer a number of career benefits.  He was also very positive about the role of national initiatives, such as MDEC in driving digital growth, which is in fact on par or even ahead of many developed nations. 

Wee Chong, the Vice Present of MDEC GBS who was present at the event, took the opportunity to address the support provided by a range of national initiatives to Digital Transformation. These include the Asean Data Analytics eXchange (ADAX) hub in Bangsar South, which will deliver value to across all sectors at a regional level, creating a collaborative environment between the private and public sector.


The participation from attendees ranged from comments that highlighted the advantages of international exposure of returning Malaysians to the nation, benefits of foreign talent to the local ecosystem, and the role of international corporations who are already in Malaysia. One particularly interesting question poised to Johannes Erlach was whether he felt it was a mistake to move to Malaysia as a European! Erlach seemed to have no regrets about his move over here and he was keen to point out it was not just our Malaysian curry laksa that influenced his move, but the rising potential in our country’s Digital growth! 

Overall, we were absolutely honoured to have such a distinguished panel and guest audience. The level of participation and passion that resonated through the room certainly reflects the fact that Malaysia is indeed a strong contender as a future International Digital Hub. There will clearly be challenges along the way, many of which centre on the topic of talent and retention. We at Ambition look forward to supporting business with navigating these challenges as we progress towards the 2020 milestone for Malaysia Digital.

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