As industries accelerated their tech adoption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations were focused more on using emerging technology for business continuity at first. Plans for using technology to improve business efficiency and productivity were slowed down due to changes in the workplace.
Initially, most organizations began sourcing more remote working technologies, including improving the productivity of their remote workers as well as securing them. In the Asia Pacific, most organizations were not fully prepared to deal with long-term remote working, leading to some companies facing heavy losses.
In Malaysia, the negative economic impact of the pandemic is still felt as a high number of positive cases has led to extended lockdowns and a reduction in operations in non-essential industries. Despite the pandemic slowing down digital transformation, businesses are now realizing the potential achievable with emerging technologies to achieve IR4.0.
According to Catherine Lian, Managing Director of IBM Malaysia, businesses have become more trusting of what technology can do, and why they are pushing ahead with digital transformation. Businesses are rethinking competitive advantage for the COVID-19 recovery to include investment in technologies such as cloud, AI, IoT, and blockchain.
Today, the mix of key technology adoption together with tech-enabled capabilities continues to be important in propelling businesses. The IBV “Digital Acceleration Study” indicates that cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and mobile are the essential technologies that will provide the greatest performance impact for organizations across industries.
“Cloud and AI have become a more important performance differentiator in 11 out of 18 industries analyzed since the pandemic. Meanwhile, emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, and robotic process automation are associated with higher performance in industries such as consumer products and electronics,” said Catherine.
Catherine highlighted that part of Malaysia’s path to a successful digital transformation depends on coordinated efforts and effective collaboration as well as a common vision for digital integration.
“IBM is delighted that the MyDigital initiative will give more room for the public and private partnership to create new business models and business resiliency whereby technology enhances the Malaysian business operation to be more efficient, productive and resulting in cost-savings and new revenue streams. Only by working together can we navigate the best route through the river of change ahead.”
Modern use cases with emerging technologies
One example would be IBM’s collaboration with SMART Modular Technologies (SMART), a global leader of specialty memory and storage solutions manufacturer based in Penang. SMART will deploy IBM Maximo Visual Inspection integrated with AI-powered collaborative robots (COBOTS) to develop innovative manufacturing solutions.
SMART’s memory components are embedded in systems that face some of the most demanding physical conditions from military and aviation to outer space applications where extreme quality is a truly critical performance benchmark. SMART’s inspectors examine memory chips under a microscope for defects such as cracked solder joints, damaged components, or any other kinds of defects in a traditional manufacturing process environment.
Apart from that, in 2020, the City Council of Penang Island (MBPP) announced the continuation of its collaboration with IBM Malaysia in accelerating Penang smart city initiatives and enhancing State Government service delivery to the public and business sectors. IBM provides advisory, technical expertise, and consultation around four key technologies, namely Cloud Computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, and Internet of Things (IoT); that are related to MBPP’s smart city implementations.
At the same time, Catherine pointed out the combination of 5G, edge computing and the hybrid cloud represents emerging technology in a new computing model capable of transforming and accelerating digitalization and automation in businesses across multiple industries in Malaysia. This includes helping people and machines to work closer together, improving flexibility in production, creating safer working environments, and enhance customer experience.
“5G will enable the cutting-edge manufacturing concepts to be implemented and enables highly reliable, secure, and high-speed data transmission with short response times, making manufacturing more flexible, mobile, and productive. Therefore, 5G forms an essential prerequisite for the factory of the future,” said Catherine.
Developing a skilled workforce
As with any developing nation, access to a skilled workforce is still a problem for most. Increasing emerging technology adoption in ASEAN countries means Malaysia will also face a bigger shortage of digital talent.
Today, in almost every organization, be it large enterprises or small and medium businesses, the shortage of skilled employees, especially in IT has been seen as a contributing factor to why some organizations are still not fully implementing new technologies.
For Catherine, there is no quick and easy solution to closing the digital skills gap, especially with the growth of emerging technology. She said one way of reducing the shortage is by collaborating with higher learning institutes.
For that, IBM continues to invest and expand its belief in people by collaborating with the public and private sector to bridge the digital talent gap in Malaysia through our programs and platforms.
“IBM partnered with Ministry of Education and MDEC to address the digital skills shortage and to prepare a future-ready workforce through P-TECH program. P-TECH (The Pathways in Technology) program is designed to break the cycle of inequity in education and to address skills gaps in the labor force by linking education and workforce development.”
Through the P-TECH model, high schools, tertiary-level universities, and industry partners collaborate to enable students to earn recognized university-level credentials that provide a direct path to competitive, in-demand STEM careers in all industries.
“At IBM, we believe that learners at all stages of the employment continuum need access to the skills that will allow them to compete in an ever-evolving economy. Our goal is to help everyone, no matter their circumstances, prepare themselves for the workforce of tomorrow,” concluded Catherine.