Technology the best bet for 2020

Exhibits at a booth at the 5th 5G Mobile Technology Exhibition in Putrajaya in April. The faster Malaysia can absorb, implement and propagate technology, the faster it can outgrow the limitations that had long chained its progress. FILE PIC

FOLLOWING the 2020 Budget, one of the most talked-about topics in state development circles is the deep push towards the digitalisation of the nation’s economy.

To be sure, this is not the first time we are doing this. Ever since Cyberjaya was established, we always had this aim of turning our developing nation around with the help of technology.

What made it different this time around, however, is our more comprehensive push towards not just developing the digital structure, but also the whole digital ecosystem at the same time.

From the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan, grooming of local digital content champions, matching grants for company digitisation and smart automation, right down to the allocation of additional funds to Cradle and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation for developing micro-digital entrepre-neurs and technologists, our nation has allocated more than RM22 billion for the development of a Digital 2020.

The numbers are huge, and what underlines this big number is the understanding that any endeavour to switch from manual to automated would switch the game from being labour intensive to capital intensive.

That being the case, the fact that the government is putting a lot of money into this now should allow our businesses to breathe a sigh of relief.

As our economic data of the past can perhaps attest to, whenever the biggest spender in the national economy — the government — decides to focus its resources on a specific industry, you can expect some monumental development to take place within it.

However, for all our thrust and focus on building a Digital Malay-sia, there are concerns with regard to its impact on manual labour, especially on how it would significantly reduce the industrial dependency on them, which could translate into fewer job opportunities.

This argument is not without merit, but it is also often the case that we humans tend to give in to our fears and our familiarity with old ways, whenever we are confronted with new ways of doing things.

Despite the fears about the Digital Age, technology remains the best bet we have if we are not to relinquish our position at the regional — if not global — stage of development.

THE PURSUIT OF CONSISTENCY

The greatest element that technology has is without doubt the fact that it is not human.

Humans are subjective creatures, and this subjectivity is what drives us to conduct ourselves differently, in different situations.

While in the realm of creativity, this could be celebrated as an advantage; in the arena of productivity, this spells uncertainty, which is a recipe for disaster.

In the hands of technology, the first assurance it gives us is consistency.

This assurance is derived from the fact that technology is emotionless.

It does what we programme it to do, and it does so in a single-minded fashion.

The ability of technology to be single minded is a huge game changer, especially when we compare it with any action driven by man.

No one man can be rational at all times, but with technology, it is almost a prerequisite for its creation; its ability to be objective in any operational scenario.

When placed as a policy, technological implementation in the economy would benefit our nation the most through its unchangeable ability.

Technology does not subscribe to any societal, political and religious beliefs, and because of this, even in the turbulent political landscape that the nation is in, we can put our faith in the ability of technology to keep to what we programme it to do, even in the face of fast-changing circumstances.

THE ULTIMATE LIMITATION OF MANUAL LABOUR

Despite all their glory and triumphs, all humans face a similar issue of operationality — their lifespan.

The impact of death has on the sustainability of progress is massive.

All the great civilisations of the past withered as their great leaders died. No matter how great a civilisation is, its progress is halted or limited, in one way or another, by the inability of the successor to fill in the gap left by the predecessor.

What lies at the core of this decline is the ultimate limitation we all have as mortals — our very own lifespan.

With technology, the hope of a sustained progress seems much more realistic. As long as there is energy to keep it alive, a particular technology can outlive its creators.

We have seen this. Take Apple, for example. Even in the absence of one of its core founders, Steve Jobs, the technology lives on.

If that example is not strong enough, you can even turn to the Wright brothers, Henry Ford or even Marie Curie.

Technology has proven to us time and time again that it stands a better chance of outlasting our operational capabilities.

The ability of technology to outlast mankind has a significant impact when it is placed at the core of national development.

Imagine, not only does technology have the ability to reach a higher productivity hour than us, it also has the ability to survive longer than we do.

When we put technology as the driver of our growth, we are effectively setting ourselves on the path of infinite progress.

With the right technology, we would be able to come up with machines that are inherently fearless, objective, devoid of fatigue and always on standby.

The ability of technology to consistently work, to constantly focus on the one thing it is programmed to do, to the point where it is unable to forget the things it is programmed to execute — these are all things that we would have referred to as supernatural, had it been possessed by humans.

But we tend to overlook how possible and achievable all of this is. All that it takes is the development of the right technology.

THE DAWN OF A NEW HOPE

The huge focus outlined by the nation for technology in 2020 gives a lot of hope to the rural, less developed states in Malaysia.

Kedah is just one example. Compared with its contemporaries, the state is still left behind in three out of four factors of production; there is an obvious limitation of land development due to our relatively smaller land mass, restricted capital for growth, and relatively smaller number of capitalists.

Even in the case of labour, Kedah is losing her brightest minds to other, more developed spots like Penang, Johor and the Klang Valley due to her relative inability to provide wages on a par with these places.

But now, with an informed focus on technology, we have the ability to rewrite not only the development history of Kedah, but also of other states that are currently facing a similar situation.

With the right mix of capital and entrepreneurial courage, rural states have a serious chance of turning things around through the development of technologies in their industries.

In this instance, it becomes painfully clear that if we are still competing on labour supremacy, we are in a race that we can never win.

Nations that were before steady suppliers of cheap labour — Indonesia and the Philippines, for example — are slowly regaining their economic momentum. Already they are limiting the flow of their labour to our nation.

Our best hope to catch up in the regional development race is to put our faith in technology, to nurture and encourage the development of the right digital tools and equipment.

The faster Malaysia can absorb, implement and propagate technology, the faster it can outgrow the limitations that had long chained its progress.

The best time for us to do this was years ago. But having lost the opportunity to do it then, the next best is now.

By Dr Mahadi Mohamad

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/12/548145/technology-best-bet-2020

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