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TJ FEER: Rethinking Malaysia's Tech Dreams
By Kapal Berita
5/11/2000 7:40 pm Sun
Ada dua rencana dari FEER di kepilkan di sini:
1) Editorial : Rethinking Malaysia's Tech Dreams
2) The Brain Drain Now Hurts Asia's emigrating talent
Kedua-dua rencana ini membayangkan sesuatu kekurangan - iaitu
kepakaran dan kehilangan fokus pembangunan dalam mengejar sesuatu
Malaysia begitu terkapai-kapai mencari arah. Ia meminggirkan beberapa faktor asas kepakaran dan permintaan. Kini MSC kelihatan seperti satu pembangunan infrastruktur yang lengang. Ia tidak memahami fokus sebenar untuk menjayakan MSC - iaitu kepakaran, peluang dan masa yang tepat.
From The Far Eastern Economic Review
Editorial : Rethinking Malaysia's Tech Dreams
Perhaps the Multimedia Supercorridor should focus inward on the home
THE 2001 BUDGET that Malaysian Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin
announced last week sought to give a boost to the country's
information-technology plans, represented mainly by the Multimedia
Supercorridor (see related article on page 60). But as Malaysia
develops a blueprint for what it calls the "knowledge economy" it may
want to reconsider what it wants from the MSC.
If the MSC is meant to recreate Silicon Valley, forget it. The
accidental confluence of talent, opportunity and timing that made
Silicon Valley what it has become is impossible to clone. But maybe
the intention is to make the MSC a hub for "software solutions" that
will be exported, a model based on Malaysia's earlier success with
electronics manufacturing. But here the competition from India is
stiff: It is already much bigger, yet still cheaper. Rather than look
outward--either in conquering the world with a home-grown software
brand or as an IT-solutions exporter--the country instead may want to
Malaysia has a large manufacturing sector, expected to account for
32.6% of GDP this year and 34.1% next year. Yet future growth will be
squeezed by an acute labour shortage. No other Asian developing nation
has as many migrant workers, reckoned at 2 million or about 10% of the
population--and not all of them fruit pickers. So unlike India and the
Philippines, which must look to sell their services abroad, Malaysia
has a ready-made domestic market for such new efficiencies as can come
from IT. This is not only B2B supply-chain automation, but also
IT-driven process technology that even agricultural
commodities-processing can benefit from. It makes better sense for the
country's IT industry to focus on helping domestic industries move up
the value-added ladder.
To do this, you don't need the physical presence of more companies
like Microsoft or Sun Microsystems. Instead, the MSC, with its
commendable infrastructure, would be better configured as a centre for
smaller IT companies to focus on adapting available technology for the
specific needs of locally based companies. Rather than hope to write
software for export, or being a technology originator, think instead
about building companies that best use the best software already in
existence. In fact, this is already beginning to be a model for Hong
Kong technology companies--even if the territory's government still
harbours its own Silicon Valley dreams.
Obviously, none of this implies that Malaysia doesn't need to change
in the way Mr. Daim hopes it will with his budget measures. PC
penetration remains relatively low; plans to allow workers to tap
their state-run retirement fund for PC purchases is one remedy. (But
in addition to this, an accelerated schedule for public access to
higher bandwidth would have been even better.) Yet there is also an
issue of ends and means. The 500-million-ringgit ($130 million)
venture-capital fund Mr. Daim proposes represents a sizeable means
toward reaching a goal. But this money will be better spent if the end
The real challenge for Malaysia--and others in Asia--isn't to produce
world-ranked IT companies. It is for its IT companies to help make
domestic companies as efficient as the best in the world. And that may
be the real purpose of the MSC.
The Brain Drain Now Hurts Asia's emigrating talent
WE MET RAMACHANDRAN in 1981. Rama, as he preferred to be called,
trained as a metallurgical engineer at home in India, and had come to
the United States as a research student working for a doctorate. When
we met him, he was about to finish his Ph.D. dissertation and was
trying to parlay that into a job that would keep him in America.
As Rama shows, Asia's brain drain is nothing new. But there is a
crucial difference between then and now. Rama's generation of
expatriates left Asia because there were either no jobs for them or
their skills were vastly beyond the immediate needs of their home
economy. It was only in Britain or the U.S. that they could fulfil
their professional potential. Just as importantly, their homelands
achieved a net gain from the human tide. Western-sized pay packets
yielded remittances that supported the home economy. But today, for
every engineer that boards a plane in Bombay headed West, India's
economy loses out that little bit more. The same scenario is played
out in China, the Philippines and elsewhere (see related article on
page 38). The brain drain now truly hurts Asia.
The success of globalization and information technology, in turn an
industry most amenable to globalization, has put Asia keenly in
competition with the West. That competition as much is for manpower.
By 2008, India will need a total of 2.2 million IT workers; South
Korea needs an additional 50,000 two years from now. The list goes on.
But amid this drought, America is attempting to siphon off 195,000
skilled workers a year in the next three years from the rest of the
world. This week, a British cabinet minister is in India to do PR for
Britain's IT industry.
Two decades back, the training Asia's colleges gave to those who
eventually left at least paid back in remittances and a contribution
to GNP. Today, emigration means a net loss to the national economy.
Yet even as skills are the main driver of the modern economy, there is
little serious policy deliberation on how to keep today's Ramas home.
It is time, belatedly, to do so.