CYBERJAYA, Aug 19 — The only way for Malaysia to become a high-income nation is to become a high-tech country, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said.
He said history has proven that military and economic might, and world superpowers are highly dependent on the mastery of technology.
To put it in context, the prime minister said some two decades after the Second World War, Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) was still far higher than of South Korea’s and Taiwan’s, but just two years on, Taiwan overtook, followed by South Korea in 1977. He attributed their success to mastery of technology.
Launching the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) here today, Muhyiddin said the (NTIS) initiative will help support and intensify the government’s efforts to develop technological fields and commercialise local technologies.
NTIS, an initiative under the National Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA), can accelerate economic growth opportunities through the use of disruptive technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, drone technology, sensory technology and 5G infrastructure in the mission to overcome domestic issues.
“These include foreign labour dependence, food security risk, healthcare and issues concerning the digital divide,” he said.
Muhyiddin said NTIS can drive Malaysia into becoming a high-tech and high-income country through innovative solutions, particularly through breakthroughs and local expertise.
Through this initiative, start-up companies, technological development, researchers and innovators can implement innovative projects in a sandbox or controlled environment, he said.
“By reviewing regulations capable of providing exemptions when it comes to strengthening, testing and trying out new technologies, I am confident technology and innovation-based solution development can be expedited,” he said.
The prime minister said the government, through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), has allocated RM100 million to promote technological development, innovation and creativity in the commercialisation of local innovation and services as well as to enhance new Research and Development (R&D).
This, he added, can help the nation be less reliant on foreign technology and innovation, besides boosting productivity and quality of life.
Muhyiddin said innovation-based economies will produce active societies, ones that are resilient and competitive and capable of pushing the nation to greater heights and respected by the global community.
He cited AI-driven local drone services company, Aerodyne Group, which has been ranked third in the world by Drone Industry Insights (DII) in its ‘2019 Top 10 Drone Service Providers’ and also was named Frost & Sullivan’s ‘Asia Pacific UAV Services Company of 2019’, as an example.
He said several pioneer projects have been identified under NTIS including the Farm Assist Robot for Multi Operation (FARMO) used in the agricultural sector, rehabilitation robots in hospitals and linear robots in industries.
“As for the farmers out there, the use of innovation such as FARMO robots, for example, can prevent you from being exposed to danger while carrying out crop spraying.
“The use of FARMO can also enhance productivity with fast and efficient spraying while using lesser amounts of chemicals and labour compared to conventional methods,” he added.
From a commercial point of view, Muhyiddin said NTIS will also help catalyse innovative solutions development ranging from R&D to commercialisation with a projected return on investment (ROI) of almost RM300 million.
In the next five years, NTIS’ achievements and impact will be evident, Muhyiddin said, including contributions to the Gross National Income, GDP and higher social inclusivity as well as create a multiplier effect on the economy.
At the event, Muhyiddin also interacted with two NTIS pioneer project entrepreneurs, from Muar, Johor and Ijok, Selangor respectively, via video-conference
Also present were International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad and Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin.