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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 impian.

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.

  1. Pakar:
    Kita kekurangan bilangan pakar, dan terpaksa mengimpot pelbagai orang luar dan syarikat luar yang gergasi ke sini.

  2. Peluang:
    Untuk menguasai K-Ekonomi, kerajaan sewajarnya mewujudkan permintaan dan kecekapan IT dalaman atau tempatan terlebih dahulu, barulah boleh berangan-angan untuk mengekspot keluar. Oleh itu MSC perlu di "reconfigure". (ubah kerangka)

  3. Masa:
    Saingan tenaga pakar IT teramat sengit dan nampaknya pakar ini menuju destinasi yang dapat memuaskan cita-cita mereka sendiri.

From The Far Eastern Economic Review
Issue cover-dated 9th November 2000

Editorial : Rethinking Malaysia's Tech Dreams

Perhaps the Multimedia Supercorridor should focus inward on the home economy

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 look inward.

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 were redefined.

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.