Malaysia’s National 4IR Policy and How Students can Prepare for Jobs of the Future
The world is changing swiftly as uncertainty surrounding trade, economic growth, health, regulations and geopolitics looms. At the same time, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has finally come of age. We can see this in various forms, through the digitally connected products and services we consume, to advancements in smart cities and factories and increasingly common automation of tasks and services in our homes and at work.
To stay relevant in a digital world where stakeholder demands and expectations are evolving, businesses across every industry will have to reevaluate their strategies, looking into how technology can be implemented to unlock opportunities. The more businesses in Malaysia intensify their digital transformation, the greater the growth of the country’s digital economy – a key contributor to our GDP.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is already upon us. The global economy is being fundamentally transformed as we speak, by breakthroughs in technology, cutting across the physical, digital and biological worlds. Emerging technologies such as automation, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine to machine (M2M) and the internet of things (IoT), are changing the way the world operates.
Most recently, these technologies have assisted in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The possibilities are endless.
When students understand and realise the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon Malaysia’s future, then they can prepare themselves for the advancements in the workplace and choose the relevant courses that will ensure job security and not be replaced by automation.
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The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and Malaysia
It’s long been Malaysia’s goal to become a more digitalised nation, as this would not only boost the country’s attractiveness in terms of doing business, but also improve the standard of living amongst the Rakyat.
To get there, the government has launched the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, which outlines specific strategies where the public and private sectors can play a role in making this a reality. The strategies are varied, encompassing areas such as developing infrastructure, creating an inclusive digital society, and building a future-ready workforce equipped with the right mix of skills.
The National 4IR Policy to be launched, is the guiding principle for Malaysia to stay ahead of the 4IR curve. It
should be utilised to harness the power of science and knowledge as the most important drivers for development, progress and prosperity, now, and in the foreseeable future. Malaysia needs to take advantage of this window of transformational opportunity, to uplift its people, businesses and government.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is a fusion of technology, which cuts across the physical, digital and
biological worlds. It evolves exponentially as a result of the multifaceted, deeply interconnected world we live in. Emerging fields of knowledge continue to produce newer and ever more capable technology.
As Malaysia embarks on its journey towards greater digitalisation and sustainable development, more efforts
need to be done to ensure we keep abreast with current trends to stay competitive in the future. We are witnessing profound shifts across all aspects of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought about numerous challenges.
The pandemic has led to a major realignment of the Malaysian economy, particularly in the form of new
business models and the reshaping of production patterns as well as consumption preferences. To ensure that
Malaysia receives optimum benefits from 4IR, the Government has developed the National 4IR Policy in
anticipation of emerging developments. This Policy provides an overarching direction that gears the country for the 4IR. It provides guidance and promotes coherence in achieving the 4IR agenda, besides managing potential risks that could arise from 4IR.
The 4IR involves the transformation of the entire ecosystem, across and within companies, industries, society and countries. It emphasises and shapes the way technology and society co-exists and contributes to one
another. The National 4IR Policy serves to assist in leveraging innovation and ethical use of 4IR technologies
for the country’s strategic socioeconomic transformation.
By harnessing this technological revolution, we are taking the opportunity to provide transformation that will ensure industries and society work better, smarter and more seamlessly with each other, while protecting the
environment and leading society towards a better future.
The National 4IR Policy will be supported by the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint, which was launched on 19 February 2021. The Policy and the Blueprint will act as guiding documents for the rakyat to leverage the potential of 4IR. A governance structure, led by the National Digital Economy and 4IR Council has also been established to drive and ensure effective implementation of initiatives, which cut across various ministries and agencies.
The Government recognises the benefits we could enjoy in harnessing 4IR towards achieving Malaysia’s long term goals outlined in our national policies. The emergence of 4IR is estimated to increase productivity
by 30% across all sectors by the year 2030. This contribution will ensure Malaysia provides better services in the future, besides increasing the number of skilled workers and producing higher value added products.
Five foundational technologies
Resources will be focused on building technological capabilities in 5 foundational 4IR technologies, which
are able to support the deployment and optimisation of other 4IR technologies.
The government had identified five core technologies to build local capabilities. The five core technologies are Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT), advanced materials supported by cloud computing and big data analytics (BDA).
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT)
- Cloud computing
- Big data analytics (BDA)
The National 4IR Policy is aligned with the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTIN)
2021-2030, that aims to develop Malaysia as a high-tech nation by 2030. In this regard, the National 4IR Policy will further drive the aspirations of DSTIN 2021-2030 in creating a science, technology, innovation and economy (STIE) led ecosystem. It will also facilitate local technology development by creating more opportunities within 4IR technologies like AI, IoT and blockchain.
Four Thrusts in the National 4IR Policy
The National 4IR Policy has four thrusts for society, business, and the government. The four thrusts would guide the relevant ministries and agencies in formulating 4IR-related programs. The thrusts would be implemented based on 16 strategies, 32 national initiatives, and 60 sectoral initiatives that had been identified by the government.
The policy did not only involve improvements to existing initiatives but also several new ones covering four focus areas of human capital, infrastructure, regulation, and innovation. Whilst 4IR might be seen as challenging the workforce due to automation, the use of robots and artificial intelligence; new job opportunities will be created to increase income and quality of life.
- First, to equip the people with 4IR related knowledge and skillsets.
- Second, to form a nation with connectivity through the development of digital infrastructure.
- Third, to provide appropriate rules for future needs, so that they are flexible according to technological changes.
- Fourth, to accelerate innovation and adoption of 4IR technology.
What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)?
4IR refers to the disruptive transformation of industries through the application of emerging technology. It is
characterised by new technology that is fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, industries and the economy.
For instance, bioprinting uses digital file (digital) to print an object such as organs (physical) with cells and biomaterials (biological). Digital economy¹ and 4IR are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.
Digitalisation enables more sophisticated technology applications, innovations and the emergence of new business models across all sectors. The wide adoption of 4IR technologies will accelerate the growth of digital economy.
What is the National 4IR Policy
The National 4IR Policy is a broad, overarching national policy that drives coherence in transforming the socioeconomic development of the country through ethical use of 4IR technologies. It supports national development policies such as the Twelfth Malaysia Plan (RMKe-12) and Wawasan Kemakmuran Bersama 2030 (WKB 2030).
It is also complementing the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint in driving the growth of digital economy. The policy outlines the key focus areas which impact the rakyat, business and government, in order to seize growth opportunities and to address potential risks arising from 4IR.
Why National 4IR Policy?
4IR is inevitable. It is already changing the existing processes and systems affecting all aspects of human life.
4IR technologies has the potential to improve the wellbeing of society by raising income levels, increasing societal cohesion, improving efficiency, providing convenience, safety and security, and better protecting and conserving limited natural resources. It presents new and promising opportunities for Malaysia to attain a high-income nation status by elevating our strengths and advancing our existing competitive edge for the betterment of the society.
However, irresponsible use and manipulation of technology can also pose significant risks to the labour market, widening inequality and deterioration of value and ethics.
The National 4IR Policy is needed to provide:
- Key guiding principles and strategic direction to ministries and agencies in formulating policies and
action plans in order to optimise resource allocation and implementation coordination in matters related to emerging technologies.
- Guidelines to address risks from 4IR technologies whilst preserving values and culture.