“Kalau tidak dipecahkan ruyung, manakan dapat sagunya.” – Malay Proverb
The last 9 weeks at home have been a challenge for my team and me.
Shifting our work base from the office to the home, as well as adjusting ways to work around supporting the COVID-19-catalyzed digital economy was challenging. So, shaping the agenda to move digital industries forward which has always been a priority, has now become an urgency.
At a staff level, steering the team through the early transitions at work, even just before the worldwide movement restrictions began, it was evident that all the theory of Business Continuity Plans is on paper and is not always practical.
Perhaps that was the first point in time, my team and I were all shocked into understanding the cards we were dealt, and that the solution needed was a mindset of adaptability and agility. So we had to shift our thinking swiftly, from planning to actually acting.
It was a mini introduction to a topic that is now top-of mind – resilience.
FRAMING THE PROBLEM
When the pandemic broke out, instantly the demand for digital soared among communities, individuals and businesses. This meant that all stakeholders of the digital ecosystem were propelled into a significantly new landscape and the urgency for us as a developmental agency to respond, surged exponentially.
As we continue to reach out to various stakeholders and the country at large to fulfill the huge goal we have before us, we are noticing important shifts; For the workforce, students, educators, communities and for the rakyat, the knack, the desire and the urgency for digital has over the last few months, just skyrocketed. So all the efforts that would have taken 5 years to get people on board, needs to happen right now.
The need to keep our ear to the ground and observe the nature and extent of that change in the digital ecosystem in real time, has been of utmost importance to our stakeholders. The challenges faced by stakeholders keep us on our toes as we lead the digital economy forward.
Economists deliberate the shape of recovery with various projections of the pattern that may take. At the ground level, the MDEC team and I continue framing the problem and we do see that business dynamics are being severely affected. Industry wise, aviation, manufacturing and real estate, just to name a few, continue to suffer. As is well discussed by now, for today’s entrepreneur, outcomes are sub-optimal if digital elements are not a part of their equation.
Meanwhile, SMEs employ 70% of the Malaysian workforce. A total of 1.46 million employees are expected to lose jobs under the worst-case scenario. Workers affected are experiencing a sudden need to make unprecedented changes and adjustments in roles, if not having to experience pay cuts or layoffs.
RESOLVING TO FORGE AHEAD
“Comfort kills ambition. Get uncomfortable and get used to it in pursuit of your goals and dreams.” – Robert Kiyosaki
From an MDEC perspective, Covid-19 has propelled us to solve problems at scale. So, what is top of mind now for me is ‘how do I translate what we used to do for thousands of people, for hundreds of thousands of people instead?’
One of the positive observations made is that very quickly, certain people and businesses are starting to move from ‘why must I’ to seeing an opportunity by digitally enabling their business. Across various levels of digitalisation, we see businesses, communities or investors, starting to recognize that collaboration is increasingly important as we need to see efforts at scale!
However, on the flip side, the human element poses a glaring need for attention; Creating jobs and income for people is urgent and the solutions lie in reskilling and upskilling those who have lost jobs. Some may perceive this as an uncomfortable adjustment, though the discomfort of change seen through a different lens, is likely to spur career development, growth and other positive outcomes.
Therefore, the leadership of MDEC has been working together, resolving to achieve this through various means including engaging the government, bridging funding gaps, as well as supporting entrepreneurs and workers to pivot in their approach to opportunities via training and education.
RESILIENCE TO RESTART
“Man has never made anything as resilient as the human spirit.” – Bernard Williams
There is opportunity if you think there is.
Whatever we go through as an individual, as a business or a country, one can always choose to look through either lens – one of challenge or opportunity.
There are two steps to future proofing one’s career the way I see it. Both, in tandem, set the tone for resilience. One is the adjusting one’s mindset and the other is being adaptable. With that spirit in mind, as the workforce finds its footing in the new normal, workers will have to adjust to exploring new horizons job-wise and sometimes, preceding that they will need to survey the right upskilling or reskilling choices.
The advantage of the times is that, the digital economy continues to spur jobs and opportunities, as shared above. I feel this is the time to be resilient, step up and take them!
The impact of this extraordinary upheaval will only be seen after the crisis. As the government convenes at the highest levels of leadership, MDEC works closely with KKMM and MOSTI on digital, as a national agenda. Meanwhile, we at MDEC continue to keep our eye on our mission. We hope every individual, community and business does the same, leveraging digital opportunities that MDEC, the Malaysian government and digital ecosystem continue to provide.