Posts Tagged ‘malaysia’

Malaysia reforms via the Internet & bridging the digital divide

MidinAs a Malaysian growing up & living in Kuala Lumpur, East Malaysia was always just further away and a place where you didn’t quite visit. It always seemed mystical to me. I met children of timber tycoons in Melbourne making me curious of the land. Finally, it was a book I read which talked about midin in Borneo that made me want to visit Sarawak in 2006.

Sarawak is a beautiful place (as is Sabah which I saw a little later). It was however nothing like KL, despite being a rich state. For a city slicker, this was rather eye-opening.

Today I saw the video Inside Malaysia’s Shadow State. If you are a Malaysian, I urge you to spend 20 minutes watching the video, then taking action (signing the petition, tweeting & posting it to your Facebook friends). Then share this.

First up, a big kudos to Global Witness. This kind of investigative undercover journalism shows that they have big goals. 

Next, while the old man, Dr. Mahathir is mostly spewing garbage these days, we have to thank him for one thing: the promise of no Internet censorship that he made in 1996 when he launched the MSC Malaysia initiative. It only took three years before Malaysiakini started, thus having a pretty good run on press freedom. By 2008, this stuff got more mainstream with the launch of the free Malaysian Insider.

Social media is big these days. People talk to more people & have touch points with more people.

One thing that is clear about the video that stood out to me is how the poor are exploited. They lack information. They lack access to knowing their rights. They are fed with propaganda and are expected to be happy. They are affected by the digital divide, that needs to be bridged.

Overall, I’m quite excited about people getting connected to the Internet. Malaysia nearly has 29 million people, however statistics suggest:

  • 1.7 million DSL connections exist as of June 2012 (source) [or maybe its 2 million from this source]
  • 16.9 million Internet users (source) as of early 2010 (though I believe this statistic includes Internet users via mobile broadband, cell phones & possibly dial-up)
  • 17.5 million Internet users as of 2011 (source)
  • 30.4 million cell phones (yes, people have more than one)
  • 7.4 million 3G subscribers (likely to increase with smartphone rebates)

From what I can tell, that’s a huge population that needs to get connected. Connections are just pipes that allow free-flow of information.

The next thing to focus on: getting information out to citizens. Keeping them informed. Allowing them to make informed decisions.

Overall, Malaysia is going to change. It is an interesting system to watch as the Internet becomes more pervasive and the digital divide is bridged. The system is headed for a reboot.

smartphone rebates in malaysia

I wrote a lengthy email (on 7 January 2013) about smartphone rebates for a journalist, but I think it didn’t fit with their planned story, so I’m pasting it here instead. The story, of course, never ran. Today I see that Maxis is already recycling spectrum that they own for LTE. Maybe these rebates make sense (from a recycling spectrum perspective), but I still think overall it’s meant to be abused. I’m pasting the email here in its entirety.

1. Who do you think will use the smartphone rebates?

Well, it is stipulated that people between 21-30, whom earn less than RM3,000 per month. The cap is set at RM300 million. This benefits 1.5 million youths aged between 21-30. This also benefits mobile phone resellers at a crucial time

I am more concerned that our youths are earning so little to begin with, but that is cause for another story.

From what I gather, more than 22,000 people have already taken on the rebate, meaning the payout has already been RM4.4 million *gasp*

I do not like any form of subsidy to begin with (including petrol subsidies), so I do not think we should continue to feed the subsidy mentality.

I do not like the idea of flip flops either. You do not first say the RM200 rebate is for 3G phones costing less than RM500. Then make an ad with an iPhone in it. Then back track completely and say its for any phone because of political pressure from youth wings of political parties (read: for a good story)

There can be a benefit – more people with 3G enabled phones. Maybe this gives MCMC the benefit of getting rid of the 2G networks and recycling the spectrum. Puncak Niaga (read The edge from a few weeks back) wants to get access to some of this spectrum, because their 40MHz of LTE spectrum isn’t enough for proper roll outs. This has been done before in other countries, see:

This can also be a benefit for app developers. What apps can you develop to target 1.5 million people, aged 21-30, who are low income earners (below RM36,000)? Will we see more banks targeting this segment with apps? Mobile payments? Mobile loyalty? Etc.

All this aside, I keep on wondering. If you need a RM200 subsidy to buy your iPhone priced at RM2,199, you probably don’t deserve/need it. You’re just happy getting a free cheque from the government, so that you might remember them during voting time.

If you are truly using a 2G device and think you want to upgrade to some cheap 3G device, maybe it will benefit you.

But how does 3G benefit you without mobile data that you most likely cannot afford? Even U Mobile will set you back RM30/month for data from what I remember, and that hits you at RM360/yr. The RM200 rebate doesn’t benefit you that much right? :-) But maybe its about 6 months of free data, which you can always remember till election time :-)

I see the only benefit of this as recycling spectrum. But its sad that we don’t charge in bidding process for spectrum – we just give it away… sigh

2. Who will benefit BN or PR and why?

+ RM200 packet to people earning less than RM3,000. Who doesn’t like free money?
+ Who doesn’t like a new phone?

+ shoddy implementation by BN. Disguised bribe. Highlight it
+ people can now stop reading Utusan and start reading The Malaysian Insider/Malaysiakini. This is a great bonus

3. Was it a good step for BN and why?

I don’t think providing more subsidies is sensible. It goes against the principles of PEMANDU Chief idris jala as well. How do you wean people off subsidies if you keep on providing them more of it?

Here’s again how PR can benefit – its like the left foot doesn’t coordinate with the right foot, thus making a terrible tango (dance).

MOL at the center of online & offline payments

There’s a chance that Malaysian payments will get shook up. From an online perspective, you’ve got the former nbepay becoming MOLPay. From an offline perspective, you’ve got a joint venture between softspace and MOL to form MOLCube (e27 cover it too). The center of all of this is MOL.

For me, I’ve been waiting for a softspace device for quite a few months. I was excited since April 2012. I was told a device would be coming my way from 18 June 2012, and never heard back; the presumption is that people are using this device according to their website. But it is not available for the “general population”.

I have never met Ganesh Kumar Bangah, the man behind MOL, but being a young CEO, I figure he’s got the chops & energy to pave the way. Besides, he’s backed by Berjaya tycoon Vincent Tan.

Ugliness begone, let there be better online & offline payments and this will pave the way for e-commerce as well as physical versions of e-commerce (pop-up stores, bazaars, heck, imagine your pasar malam vendor going online).

A lot of this will involve lobbying Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM). I don’t believe any payment gateway intentionally wants to provide terrible user experience, I believe its usually to feed regulatory requirements.

Looking forward to payments in 2013. It can only be better than today.

The state of e-commerce payments in Malaysia: still terrible

Today I tried to checkout RM450 using iPay88. They only accept Visa or MasterCard credit cards, so I pulled my wallet out.

I thought I would use the Citibank card today. I got sent to an error page. So I clicked the back button to head back and thankfully this worked.

Error Finding Page

I dug further and found a Direct Access card. I have to choose an issuing bank and now had to think a little harder to figure out that this card belongs to CIMB. I was sent a code via USSD verification which was valid for a mere 3 minutes. I had to run to my phone which was charging upstairs and run back down to make the transaction.

Later I see an SMS from Citibank giving me my OneTime PIN that is valid for 4 minutes. I never even got the chance to use it.

Now, lets say I was the average consumer.

  1. What would I have done with the error page?
  2. How would I have reacted to seeing one design then seeing the iPay88 page? Seems close to an attack. Stripe doesn’t have this problem.
  3. How quickly would I have retried the same credit card before I gave up on the online purchase?

Anecdotal evidence from several online stores that I’ve been involved in suggests Malaysians are a patient bunch. They try up to three times for a credit card transaction before abandoning the cart. Some will email because its clear they really want the item. Most truly just give up.

E-commerce is slated to be big. But fixing payments should be crucial.

Tax incentives for angel investors in Malaysia

Today there were some incentives for angel investors announced in Malaysia as part of Budget 2013.

Who qualifies as an angel investor? Your annual income must exceed RM180,000 per annum and you must be a tax resident to qualify for the deduction.

What do you get? Total investment as an angel will be allowed as a deduction against all income.

When is this valid? From Jan 1 2013 to Dec 31 2017, and you need to apply via the Ministry of Finance.

Some details: as an angel, you must hold at least 30% of the shares in the company you’re investing in for 2 years, and you must pay up for the shares in cash. The company needs to have at least 51% Malaysian ownership.

What do I think?

Quite simply, the qualification income is something I see some people complain about, but this is similar to what America calls an accredited investor. I have no issue with the RM180,000/annum income. Feel free to hit up all those people you know with Visa Infinite, World MasterCard, Premier banking, etc. ;-)

Application via the Ministry of Finance (MoF) seems a little dodgy. The potential of red tape here is high. This is definitely a turn-off.

Does this benefit startups? Angel investors shouldn’t be making a 30% investment in a company. It is ridiculous. Consider giving away 20% of the company in an angel round, sure, but with just one angel walking away with 30% of the shares for 2 years?!?

Angels in Malaysia typically make RM20-50k investments (for up to 20% on the high side from what I’ve gathered). Very rarely do they hit the RM100k mark. Most accelerators are taking up an average of 6-8% for about RM15-18k investment already for 3 founders.

Startup founders are also not going to want to give away 30% of the company for a small sum of money. Many believe they are worth more. I guess you have to thank the media hype cycle for this.

Alas, it is a good start for Malaysia to be looking out for such things. Possibility to help boost the startup ecosystem.

Update: I thought about this a little more and realised that I applied a very myopic view to this piece. Reason is simple: I focus on tech startups & the angels that go with them. In this day and age, software (be it mobile or web-based) doesn’t take much in terms of cash to prove yourself. In other industries like manufacturing, biotechnology, film making, etc. you might look at much higher investments for 30% or more, but it isn’t something I know much about.

Offensive Facebook status update on Islam lands Malaysian man in hot soup

In today’s online beat, you’ll see reports of a 25 year old man who’s been picked up by the police for questioning on a Facebook post of his. The Star covers it. As does The Malaysian Insider.

Some facts that we know from the above two reports:

  1. Man made the posting in July 2012.
  2. Yesterday (Tuesday, 25 September) at 10pm, some 20 people visited his house and damaged it.
  3. 11.03pm on 25 September a police report was made.
  4. On Wednesday 26 September (today) at 11am the student had been picked up & a laptop confiscated.
  5. He was arrested under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act and Section 298A of the Penal Code for causing disharmony, disunity, enmity, hatred or ill-will on grounds of religion.
  6. Man claims he had been hacked and his laptop had been stolen before.

How do we go from a Facebook posting to people finding his house? I decided to do a little sleuthing while sitting in the airport lounge.

The first post mentioning his name (Gopinath Jayaratnam) that Twitter search can find was made at 4.58pm on 25 September 2012. Its clear from his Facebook profile he lives in Klang. The first post providing information about where he lives came from Ariff Amran at 7.44pm on 25 September 2012. It also includes his identity card (IC) number. It didn’t take long before the masses were united under a hashtag: the KL traffic update hashtags #kltu & #klrb. First posting that was retweeted came at 9.35pm (this includes an image of the original Facebook posting which has since been removed – now all that exists is an apologetic message), followed by 9.57pm with his IC & home address.

At 10.09am today (26 September), a user has uploaded a photo of Gopinath’s damaged house. Its clear it was taken the night before. Another gem is at 8.58am today morning, they decided to talk about his car as well.

I find all these acts unwarranted and unjustified.

I don’t know what will happen in this scenario as its too early to tell. I am not going to comment on the law with the exception that I was under the impression that the Sedition Act was to be repealed. A lawyer in KL, Foong Cheng Leong was quick to jump on the fact that even though Gopinath claims he had been hacked, the new evidence act amendments, section 114A applies.

The Twitter stream has nothing but nasty comments towards Gopinath. There are Facebook posts that have 20,000 likes talking about him. At 25, I’m sure he has a bright future ahead of him. After all, I can think of many politicians that violate Section 298A of the Penal Code.

My advice to users of the web: be careful of your passwords. Be careful about being broken into. Be careful about having your personal devices stolen. Also be wary about your personal information that you have available on the Web. And never assume that Facebook status update is private.