GEORGE TOWN: Malaysia needs to rapidly embrace emerging technologies and loosen regulations that hinder innovations for its economy to grow, a local technology leader said.
For instance, the government needs to relax aviation regulations to allow the drone industry to grow and incentivise the development of full stack companies so that Malaysia can have its own Teslas and Huaweis, said K Kathirgugan, who co-created the world’s first salad-making robot.
He said the nation should embrace new technologies, including robotics, and create an atmosphere where companies riding the wave of new technologies and innovations can thrive.
One area was the drone industry which could flourish if the government were to loosen aviation regulations and allow it to take off in a big way.
Kathirgugan, who is with a US-based food-robotics firm, said strict regulations would hinder the growth of start-ups and emergent industries such as the drone industry.
“We need to expand our drone technology capability. The technology is already there (in Malaysia), but the problem is strict regulation. What Malaysia needs to do is relax the aviation regulations so that we can have delivery drones,” he said at a webinar organised by the Hong Kong-based Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce yesterday.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity. So, let’s capitalise on it and conquer the world drone market. Then we can export the (drone) expertise overseas,” added the FMT columnist.
Go for full stack companies
Kathirgugan also urged Malaysia to learn from the way China incentivised technology companies from various countries to manufacture goods there and then created its own technology infrastructure and giant technology firms.
“China ‘sucked up’ manufacturing expertise and skills from American companies and built its own tech infrastructure. They saw the technology that the United States has, and (then) created their own.
“For example, China created Tencent and WeChat (social media app), established Huawei – which is the second-biggest smartphone maker in the world – created AliBaba (e-commerce company) and Geely (multinational automotive company).”
He said Malaysia should also similarly “suck up” the skills and technology of foreign firms to create its own Teslas and Huaweis and Tencents.
“Malaysia needs to build full stack companies,” he said. A full stack company is one that builds a complete, end-to-end product or service and which bypasses competitors.
Use tech to attract youths into agriculture
Kathirgugan also spoke of the need for Malaysia to capitalise on agricultural technology.
“The average age of farmers in Malaysia is 53, and young people don’t want to do agriculture,” he said, adding that by introducing more technology into agriculture, the country could not only increase output but also attract youths to the sector.
He said precision agriculture – where technologies such as robotics, sensor technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) are integrated into agriculture – was the future, and the sooner Malaysia adopted it the better.