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Talend’s Calvin Hoon on how Malaysia can become the big data hub of Asia

IN March this year, Malaysia’s Multimedia Development Corporation (MDEC) announced that it was aiming to make Malaysia the big data analytics hub for ASEAN by 2020.

MDEC’s director of innovation capital, Dr. Karl Ng, told reporters during the announcement: “One of our main goals is to increase awareness on big data analytics and encourage adoption among businesses in the country this year.

“We already have the leading ecosystem when it comes to technological infrastructure in ASEAN and the focus this year is adoption,” he was quoted saying in the New Straits Times.

In its endeavor to reach this goal within the next four years, MDEC teamed up with a number of organizations, including U.S.-based Talend, a software vendor that specializes in big data integration and open source software.

Tech Wire Asia sat down with Calvin Hoon, Talend’s regional vice president for sales in Asia, to talk about how Malaysia can achieve this goal and why it is necessary for governments and corporations alike to sit up and pay attention to big data.

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What does it mean to become the big data hub of Asia?

From my perspective, that means having the ability and workforce and skill set to handle any kind of end-to-end workload related to big data analytics.

With Malaysia’s brain drain problem, do we have that kind of capacity?


Calvin Hooi. Pic: Resonance Communication

To be frank, the skill set shortage in big data analytics is not just happening in Malaysia. It’s across the world, even the U.S. doesn’t have the sufficient skill set for that kind of demand. It’s not a surprise to anyone, because if you look at big data analytic technology, it only started about 10 years ago. It’s a brand new technology that no one has mastered yet, not ASEAN, not APAC, not the U.S., not Europe. Even people who graduated 10 years ago know nothing about the technology yet, even if they came from computer science backgrounds. So Malaysia isn’t the only country that needs to play catch up when it comes to big data analytics.

Is Malaysia’s goal to become the hub by 2020 achievable?

First, there needs to be education and an understanding what the value of big data is. The market has changed – the availability of broadband, the growth of the Internet and mobile, has made disruptive technology such as cloud or Internet of Things (IoT) available widely. It’s applicable in the real world, for instance, Grab, Uber – these companies use big data analytics to drive the business. It’s here, today. So through education, people start learning what it’s about.

Through organizations like MDEC, they do have the vision and the plan to achieve it. It’s subject to how these organizations work with all the ecosystems in the industry to provide the know-how and carry out the knowledge-transfer, as well as applying the technology in a Malaysian context so that enterprises and workforces can use it in their day-to-day business. That is how I believe MDEC can help this industry, by supporting both private and government organizations to get to that level.

How do you apply big data to everyday business?

There are a few ways. Talend and MDEC work closely together on a program called BASE – Big Data Analytic Skill Enablement. It’s an initiative that supports open source vendors led by Cloudera, Red Hat and Talend. We provide end-to-end skill set learning, and with BASE, MDEC is able to work with open source vendors to provide short-term and long-term training programs to undergraduate universities as a form of skill transfer.

Why is it important for Malaysia to embrace big data?

We are no longer able to avoid these technologies. Companies like Uber, Grab, Airbnb are rolling out all the data-driven technology globally, and Malaysia – like any other country – has to adopt it and accept it, because it’s already here. If you don’t, these companies will still be present and their technologies have brought many customer benefits. It’s all become possible thanks to big data, so if you do not adopt digitization, the market and the economy will be dominated by foreign companies with that technology. Local companies will no longer be able to compete. Digitization gives us a lot of new opportunities, while at the same time creating more competition due to the Internet being borderless, therefore opening up the market.

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