Posts Tagged ‘RebootMalaysia’

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.

The relation between tolerance & prosperity

Excerpt from a post by Fred Wilson titled Tolerance and Prosperity (highlights are mine):

William Penn was a Quaker and when King Charles II gave him a large piece of his land holdings in America, Penn created the colony of Pennsylvania and grounded it in the notions of tolerance and religious freedom. Instead of limiting Pennsylvania to Quakers, they welcomed all comers. And the result was that Philadelphia became the fastest growing city in America with a vibrant economy and lifestyle.

The neighboring colonies, which were initially centered around a single religion, reacted to Pennsylvania’s and Philadelphia’s economic success by opening up their cultural norms and becoming more tolerant as well.

Paul told us this story as a lesson in why cultural norms, even more than laws, are a determinant of prosperity and economic development. And tolerance is one of the more important cultural norms in this regard.

When I read this, I immediately drew a parallel to the situation that Malaysia and Malaysians face in general. Malaysians as a whole lack freedom of expression (try talking about religion, the royal family, etc.), freedom of religion (Muslim-at-birth-Muslim-for-life), and tolerance to diverse communities (no deviant cultures like LGBT and that has great effects on computing & opensource for example). I can look for more flaws but that isn’t the idea of this post.

People go where they feel welcome. People go where they are tolerated. People shy away from places that say “you can’t cook curry next door because it makes my apartment smell” (ok, that’s Singapore, not Malaysia). Of course you outweigh the pros and cons of a location.

But for Malaysia to become prosperous we need to become tolerant. We always claim we’re truly Asia with our “different cultures”, but that relationship is built on thin ice. We need to be united as Malaysians before we start welcoming outsiders/Malaysians-living-overseas and together become prosperous.

On why Singapore

Nathan Tinkler (young Aussie, rags to riches story) has decided to call Singapore home. Why?

Aside from the country’s low taxes, clean government and pro-business environment, wealthy foreigners are also drawn by Singapore’s low crime rate, highly developed infrastructure, and its lack of local tabloid media excesses.

Following my themes a little, no? Malaysia needs rebooting and it has to come from the people.

Malaysian diaspora, safety, and rebooting Malaysia

“And since I made it here,
I can make it anywhere
(Yeah they love me everywhere)”

– Empire State of Mind, Jay-Z & Alicia Keys

There are more than a million Malaysians working abroad. Malaysia’s population stands at about 29 million now.

Generally it is safe to assume that the million living overseas are all educated. Countries gaining from the loss toMalaysia: Australia, Brunei, United States, Britain, Canada and Singapore. I’m willing to believe that most are moving for a better future.

Better futures include but are not limited to: fair working hours, fair wages, fair maternity rules, great public school education for children, freedom to practice religion, social security, safety, better healthcare, a level playing field (meritocracy).

Out of these one million Malaysians (net loss of great minds), apparently 680 have applied to come home with TalentCorp (I think TalentCorp is missing out the fact that many left on their own accord and don’t exactly want to come back & people should focus on the talent that stayed back, but thats a point for another post). That’s 0.68% success rate. How many will leave to go back to their new adoptive countries?

Malaysians are resilient. The vast diaspora proves that. As I listen to Empire State of Mind, I see how all the countries above benefit from having Malaysians. Malaysians work hard, and if you can make it in Malaysia, you’ll work hard to make it in your new adoptive land. And you will succeed. The level playing field ensures this.

I speak as someone who spent years living abroad and coming home. I came back on the premise that I will use nothing that isn’t private (hospitals, international schools, etc.). There is however something that I can’t quite control and that is safety/security. (see totally cop-out response from home ministry about perception issues.)

The recent spate of attacks have gotten the Twitterverse at least talking about migrating. I think given the chance, many people just want to leave Malaysia. Anecdotally, many just say that Singapore is safer (and they have 46% of Malaysian migrants!). And this is truly sad because Malaysia is a beautiful country. There are so many pros of living in Malaysia. We also have one of the best passports in the world (in where we’re all Malaysian!).

I keep on thinking its time to change Malaysia. I’ve had this thought most of this year. We need better branding. We need better civic consciousness. We need to be Malaysian and united as one people. We need to be proud Malaysians. This change cannot come from the bickering politicians. It has to come from within. It has to be a people driven movement to reboot Malaysia.