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How has open source evolved to fit into Malaysia’s digital transformation journey?

  • The Malaysian government has announced the launch of GovTech and MyGovCloud, which are intended to encourage digital adoption among businesses and citizens nationwide.
  • Open source has helped organizations from various sectors transform and modernize, including healthcare and automotive.

Open source has revolutionized technology by enabling users to understand how code operates and accelerating the creation of the most cutting-edge software. Instead of attempting to handle everything alone, it allows the reuse and recycling of code, making it simpler to collaborate and achieve goals.

Open source is nothing new in Malaysia; their government was intrigued by the concept of open-source software in the early 2000s because they thought it would encourage innovation in the public sector.

The government has made several announcements this year regarding the nation’s digitalization goals. Along with other programs aimed at promoting digital adoption for organizations and people across the country, they include the introduction of GovTech and MyGovCloud.

As Malaysia moves toward becoming a digital economy, businesses must consider the best ways to establish IT infrastructure that is cutting-edge, scalable, and reliable enough to innovate when necessary.

Considering this, Tech Wire Asia had the opportunity to speak with Albert Chai, General Manager of Red Hat RoSEA, on how open source has helped Malaysian organizations in the public sector advance their transformation strategy.

What is the state of Malaysia’s current digital economy?

Albert Chai, General Manager of Red Hat RoSEA

Albert Chai, General Manager of Red Hat RoSEA

Malaysia has undergone tremendous change in the last two years, with the accelerated use of digital tools and the growth of the digital economy. According to a Google study on the Southeast Asia region, Malaysia’s digital economy grew last year due to a 68% surge in e-commerce, indicating that organizations, businesses, and individuals have adopted more digital approaches as well as become more digitally-savvy to keep up with the rapid pace of disruption in the country.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), through its national strategic initiative with the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia, also recently announced a national initiative named Malaysia Digital to further encourage digital adoption, and opportunities in the digital economy.

This comes at an opportune time as the country has always had an advantage, with many industry experts seeing Malaysia as an ideal location to become a digital hub. Global tech players and data center providers seemingly agree with their recent announcements on the launch of their infrastructure regions here.

With this competitive edge, Malaysia has pushed forward with several moves throughout this year and plans that will contribute towards developing a digital society and economy. Amid the upcoming 5G rollout, the launch of MyGovCloud, cashless payments, and reskilling and upskilling for the IT industry, the MyDigital blueprint to transform Malaysia into a digitally driven, high-income nation, is well on its way.

As a leader in open source technology, our role is to help organizations and public sectors embark on their digital transformation journeys accordingly while also helping to reduce their IT costs and downtime, and modernizing their legacy IT infrastructures. Through the adoption of open source, they can innovate at a rapid pace, in line with evolving industry demands. This is aligned with the pace that Malaysia is going on in, in terms of digital transformation and achieving a digital economy, and we’re excited to be part of this journey as well. We’ve seen tremendous work with our customers and partners of different industries such as telco, public sector, and even FSI, which signals that Malaysia is accelerating its efforts fast.

What strategy should businesses adopt to become modern, scalable, and flexible enough to innovate when needed?

The good thing about digital transformation is that there’s no single solution for every organization. Still, the universal principles that underpin DX are, as you say, adapting practices that mean a business is scalable and flexible to changes as needed.

In response to the need to digitize, many enterprises are embarking on a digital strategy which calls for transformation of IT projects to drive revenue growth, enhance customer experience, improve productivity, and manage risk. For example, we are seeing customers such as Bank Islam automate their IT service delivery to accelerate business operations with reduced risk, addressing their user experience, downtime, and resource challenges. They leveraged a variety of open source solutions to automate key IT service operations and to strengthen their system’s overall resilience. Automation here is not displacing jobs. Rather, the implementation of Red Hat’s automation solutions has reduced system downtimes, improved customer retention, and freed up Bank Islam’s IT teams to focus on producing new and innovative products for customers.

Ultimately, businesses should aim to get comfortable with change before the market demands it. No matter what industry your business is in, the threat of disruption can come anytime, so preparedness and agility are key. For example, AmBank engaged Red Hat Open Innovation Labs to learn how to adopt DevOps and agile development processes in 2020, and we had to pivot this to fully digital when the pandemic hit. But after the five-week immersive program, the bank created standard operating procedures for managing upcoming agile application projects. Red Hat also enabled AmBank to embrace a culture of collaboration across teams, which will help reduce requirements mismanagements and coding defects. This ultimately helps improve its speed-to-market and overall business agility.

Our “open source” culture, and the way we work with our partners at Red Hat is all about encouraging organizations to transform their business models quickly through close collaboration both from a cultural perspective (DevOps) and practically (working with the open source developer network, drawing from the knowledge economy). This means businesses are better placed to tap into incredible new opportunities in less time.

How has open source evolved to fit into Malaysia’s digital transformation journey?

Source – Red Hat

How has open source helped Malaysian public sector organizations in advancing their transformation strategy?

We work with our partners and customers in bringing forward the understanding of the need to be equipped to service customers and stay agile to be able to pivot changing business needs. Our work with them is not just to provide open source solutions, but it’s about supporting customers with the right capabilities to drive their digital transformation, and better meet the demands of MYDigital.

One example is our work with PERKESO, who needed to modernize its claims platform to better serve its customers. Using Red Hat solutions, it created new digital business workflows and replaced its legacy architecture with a custom application running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and integrated using Red Hat Fuse.

With its new custom application running on RHEL, 400,000+ of Malaysia’s employers can now use PERKESO’s digital channels to submit payments and contributions, and employees can now access their social security information online. This has boosted online engagement by 90 percent and reduced service time to market from months to days. This has also resulted in about 75 percent fewer manual processes, allowing PERKESO to offer more efficient, accessible online services to their users.

Could you share a case study or case studies where firms from diverse industries have used open source and experienced a significant improvement in their business operations?

Today’s businesses operate in a world of increasing complexity characterized by higher data volumes, faster business cycles, and ever more demanding customers. Some examples of how Red Hat globally has helped organizations to transform and modernize are:

In healthtech, Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) in Singapore used open source solution Red Hat OpenShift Service on AWS (ROSA) to build their Common Consumer Digital Platform on a commercial cloud environment. This reduced the platform’s operational costs and ensured its flexibility to handle fluctuating demands. The scalability of OpenShift on AWS was foundational for IHiS as this platform was used nationwide in Singapore’s vaccine effort and during Singapore’s Covid response and continues to be key as IHiS scales its backend and consumer-facing applications.

In automotive, The BMW Group (Germany) needed to access, analyze, and apply large amounts of data collected from sensors used during road tests to support its automated vehicle initiatives. BMW Group built a new data platform with Red Hat software, which helped the group reduce development time with faster, more accurate driving simulations and data analytics. The platform also provides scalable data collection, processing, and storage capabilities – with the computer power to simulate up to 240 million kilometers of test data.

In urban planning and smart cities, Korea Land and Housing (LH) Corporation created COMPAS, a platform that applied data insights to solve challenges like traffic congestion and bus service times. Using Red Hat OpenShift running in a managed public cloud, COMPAS performs robust data analysis to help Korea LH and local governments collaboratively address citizen needs. In its first two years of operation, more than ten local governments have used COMPAS, and Korea LH has achieved reductions in both infrastructure operating costs and management time.

All are great examples with relevance in Malaysia as well, given our ongoing trends of continued urbanization and rapid digitalization.

What lessons and notable patterns have Red Hat learned from helping other public sector organizations in the ASEAN region?

ASEAN, I would say, is in the early to mid-stages of shifting from digitalization to true govtech. Govtech is defined by the World Bank as a whole of government approach to public sector modernization which emphasizes universally accessible tech, citizen-centric public services, and a government-wide digital transformation effort.

Singapore is a leader in this respect, with IHiS being one example of rapidly scalable, transparent and reliable services. Not to mention that Singapore has had a dedicated GovTech agency since 2016. We are seeing shifts regionally too, with another health agency in Indonesia, BPJS, offering an example of an organization that pivoted quickly during Covid with open source as the foundation for their technology platform.

With Red Hat’s help, BPJS implemented an e-queue service on its mobile app and physical kiosks at the hospital. Patient experience was enhanced by reducing the time patients needed to wait before seeing a doctor. Red Hat solutions also enabled BPJS Kesehatan to be faster to market with feature rollouts on its mobile app, reducing the agency’s development and deployment time.

Public sector organizations traditionally have a “wait and see” approach to new technology for good reason, because they need to see proven results as well as cost-effectiveness. The emerging cases we have seen in ASEAN to-date show that open source can deliver positive impact and underscore critical services while remaining secure. I hope we can help more public sector organizations with their public service mandates through our iterative, intelligent and open source software.

Could you give us an overview of the region’s tech market right now, focusing on trends that are specific to Malaysia?

Today, we are living in constant change, especially when it comes to accelerating the digital economy and newer technologies and solutions. This is why at Red Hat, we are always encouraging the “open source way”, and pushing our customers and partners to be constantly prepared and agile. With the rate of Malaysia’s digital transformation journey, we foresee a few trends here around automation and cybersecurity.

We are seeing continued automation of public services. With the public sector currently ramping up its efforts towards Malaysia’s digital economy goals, a lot of Chatbots and AI will be crucial tools as governments look to increase efficiency, improve agility and employee productivity. This will be interesting to see, as Gartner, an IT research and consultancy entity, predicts that 75% of governments will have at least three enterprise-wide hyper automation initiatives by 2024. As more organizations and the public sector realize their digital transformation goals, they will also begin identifying and automating repetitive tasks, allowing them to save time, deliver more value, and streamline workflows by applying AI, automation, and self-service to these tasks.

Another key aspect would be cybersecurity. With hybrid work here to stay, more connected devices than ever, and continued adoption of 5G technologies, cybersecurity will continue to be a priority for government organizations. AI can be leveraged to anticipate potential threats and attacks, while also utilizing it for data analytics and identifying anomalies. Enterprise open source has security baked into the foundation as our security teams are constantly working and testing our technology to ensure it meets industry-wide security standards as well as regulatory requirements. So I would say “open source” and “cybersecurity” are not mutually exclusive, in fact, security is a critical point that we all are cognizant of and want to support our customers with.