Will Malaysia become a high technology nation? There is still hopes to it

By: Nur Aainaa Syafini binti Mohd Radzi, Senior Research Analyst, Institut Masa Depan Malaysia (Institut MASA)

YAB Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in a dialogue session with industries organised by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) on 15th April 2021 urged the private sector to embrace new technologies in order to accelerate the economic recovery for the country.

Malaysia previously was set to achieve a high technology nation status by 2030 in the National Policy on Science, Technology & Innovation 2021-2030 (NPSTI 2021-2030). However, looking at the current situation of Malaysia in comparison to other ASEAN countries, achieving the status only by 2030 might be deemed too late for us to bounce back in competing with the other ASEAN members.

According to a United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD) report, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam received more than 80% of the US$156 billion Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) pulled by ASEAN countries in 2020. Only 5% or just US$7.8 billion went to Malaysia. Singapore has been an attraction to many foreign investors mostly due to its advancement in infrastructure, skilled workers, a simple regulatory system, tax incentives, a high-quality industrial real estate park, political stability and the absence of corruption; while the rise of Vietnam and Indonesia was mostly due to the lower cost of operations (especially the labour), political stability as well as attractive investment packages, which is just about the same range with what Malaysia has been offering.

Malaysia could craft a strong competitive path by offering the best package in between. On top of the need for Malaysia to have better stability in politics and a unique package to attract investments, advancements in technology, infrastructure and a good supply of high-skilled workers at a lower cost than Singapore could be attractive offers to distinguish Malaysia from Vietnam and Indonesia. As reported in the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV2030) document, the country is still clustered in a low value-added category with low adoption of technology even in the two (2) most important sectors i.e. manufacturing and services with 37% and 20% respectively, in 2018. How about now? Is there still hope for Malaysia to catch up?

A country can be considered a high technology nation when the degree of which cutting edge technologies become a critical driver of productivity and competitiveness for the whole economy, not only in the tech sector.

How can we achieve the high technology nation status together?

In 2020, Malaysia was ranked 8th in Asia and 33rd in the world of Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020, 2nd in Asia and 26th in the world of IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2020, as well as 11th as emerging start-up ecosystem in the world by Startup Genome (2020). The status acknowledges Malaysia’s competitiveness, but of course, there is still a lot to be done to successfully bring Malaysia back on the right track as an Asian Tiger.

While pessimists would straight away jump to a conclusion that Malaysia could “NOT” achieve the status even in 2030, simply because of our current economic and political conditions, there are still a lot of optimists who believe that we can do something about it. A survey conducted through a public Facebook Group known as the “Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia” which has about 56.3k members indicates that there are a few crucial actions that need to be taken to spur a conducive ecosystem to attain the said target.

In Malaysia, 98.5% of business establishments are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which contribute about 38.9% to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and employed about 7.3million people (48.4% of the country’s employment) before COVID-19. The focus on SME for such a target is imperative as they are much more agile to adopt high technology and can be pushed to lead the economy in the desired direction. Continuous high dependency on commodities would lead us to a trap, especially in semiconductors, as we are going to fight an uphill battle to compete with nations that have a competitive advantage such as Indonesia and Vietnam, where the labour cost is much cheaper. However, in boosting the SMEs to take up the challenge, a proper guiding plan is necessary as many SMEs in Malaysia are family-owned businesses and led by those aged between 50-60 years old. A solely merit based business loans and grants could be one of the initiatives to encourage growth.

Transitioning to a higher skill service economy is equally important, and can be made possible by improving our innovation pipeline. We need to identify areas in which Malaysia could have an edge and drive towards the target. Limitation of data availability and access are among the challenges in our innovation pipeline that requires immediate attention by relevant stakeholders.

Furthermore, the talent pipeline also warrants scrutiny to support the initiatives. Hence, a revamp of our education system to ensure that the people (especially the young adult generation) get properly trained (with a mix of theory and practical) in specific technologies would be an instrumental step.

A comparative study on how other countries have implemented their strategies in high technology transformation would also be beneficial for Malaysia to learn from the successes and mistakes of other countries. Just like any other aspirations of our country, to attain the high technology nation status focuses on structural reforms highlighted in SPV2030 such as good governance, high integrity, and transparency between the government and the rakyat are not mutually exclusive. Bribery must be eradicated at all levels, and more engagements with the industry players should be conducted to ensure inclusive strategies in reaching this target.

In this regard, the establishment of the High-Tech Council which reports directly to the National Science Council, chaired by the Prime Minister is a good initiative by the government to address these issues. On top of that, with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals and follow through on the tracking, measuring and reviewing processes, Malaysia would come back stronger on its track to become a high technology nation sooner than 2030.

Ultimately, Malaysians must always support Malaysians at every step of the way to realise this achievable aspiration. Criticisms should be constructive instead of destructive. The spirit of “togetherness” in embracing technology by the government, industry players, academia and the Rakyat would be vital to remain competitive in the region and eventually become a high-income nation.



Arif has almost 10 years of experience in supporting office administration and management. He also plays an important role in facilitating the CEO’s office. Arif is among the pioneer staff members of Institut MASA.


Head, Program Management (Acting Head, Research)

Kamilah is a qualified lawyer with more than 13 years of progressive career in public policy formulation and delivery of public sector transformation initiatives, strategy & execution. During her significant stint with the Government, she has commandeered at least 20 public policy initiatives including the national transformation projects in agencies reporting directly to the Prime Minister’s Department of Malaysia and the President’s Delivery Bureau of Tanzania from the ideation stage to implementation which effected changes in government’s policies. Her wing-to-wing involvement in public policymaking covered diverse areas of policies such as Poverty Eradication, Gender Equality and Graduate Employability just to name a few. Beyond her professional capacities, Kamilah is also a changemaker in improving people’s lives. She is an active volunteer in community works locally and globally who has affected lives in different layers of the society, from the farmers of a remote village in Keningau Sabah to the street kids in a populous city of Mexico City. 

She holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (LL.B(Hons.)) from Universiti Teknologi MARA and has been admitted as an Advocate and Solicitor, High Court of Malaya since 2008. Kamilah is a polyglot who speaks multiple languages including Spanish, French and Swahili. Currently, on top of heading the Research Department, she is also leading our flagship project which is the Feasibility Studies of Shared Prosperity Vision as the New Direction of Malaysia 2021-2030 for the Government of Malaysia. 


Executive, Programme Management

Amirul recently graduated with a Bachelor of Economics (Hons.) (Majoring in Industrial and International Economy) from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. He joined Institut MASA as a Research Analyst Intern amidst the pandemic yet gained valuable experiences including the development of the 12th Malaysian Plan specifically on advancing women’s agenda in the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030. Following his aspiration to pursue his career as a project management specialist, Amirul continued his stint at Institut MASA as a Project Management Executive with the responsibility to facilitate the end-to-end implementation projects. He is currently assisting the Project Manager to manage key projects such as PEMACU, a project that aims to spread awareness to the Rakyat about Shared Prosperity 2030 (SPV2030) through townhall, seminars, boot camps and focus group discussions.

Farrah Ezrina

Manager, Programme Management

Farrah comes from the entertainment and F&B background and has over 9 years of experience in event planning, sales and business development. Recently, she was a part of the project management team for one of the leading utility company in Asia.  In joining MASA, Farrah’s interest is to serve the organization in managing more programs for the benefit of the people. She hopes to enhance her people skills and strengthen her abilities to explore new areas especially in the business environment.



Hamza is the lead of our Economics Cluster. His primary research interests include economic growth and development and socioeconomic development. Some of Hamza’s recent work has focused on industry development on endemic, Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 Strategic Plan, and Bumiputera economy development program. He was part of the core pioneer team responsible to develop the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 for the Government of Malaysia. He holds a degree in Economics with a focus on Human Resources from Universiti Malaysia Sabah and a Master’s degree in Economics majoring in Econometrics from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Prior to joining us, Hamza was a research assistant at a public university.



A distinguished graduate of MMU, ‘Aamil is the economic research analyst at Institut MASA. He is a highly analytical development economist. Passionate in research involving cause and effect of poverty, inequalities in education, as well as the potential power of labour unions in Malaysia. ‘Aamil has written opinion pieces for online news sites. Currently involved in the planning and improvements of the 12th Malaysian Plan as well as the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.

Mohd Noor Musa

Research Analyst

Mohd Noor holds a master’s degree of science (MSc) in science, technology and sustainability from the University of Malaya (UM), Malaysia. Prior joining Institut MASA, he worked at University of Malaya and Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia (IKIM) on a wide range of research projects and programmes including science and technology (S&T) policy, governance, bioethics and ecotheology in collaboration with various institutions, such as Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, Institute of Future Studies Sweden, Kyoto University, Waseda University and UNESCO Paris. He is also in charge of stakeholder engagements and appointed members in various committees such as Member of Science & Technology Department Curriculum Review Committee, Affiliate Member of National Bioethics Council of Malaysia, Affiliate Member of the Centre for Civilisational Dialogue (CCD), Advisor for UNESCO University of Malaya, Member of Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UM Chapter) and Research Associate of Asia-Core Program Malaysia-Japan. He had presented his research/papers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Sweden, Turkey, South Korea, and United Arab Emirates on the topic of ethics, S&T governance and environmental sustainability.


Head, Corporate Services

Azmi comes from a corporate background and has over 12 years of experience in project management, corporate compliance, and project financial planning/management. He has worked with various organizations such as the Centre for Civilisational Dialogue, University of Malaya, Malaysian Orphan Foundation (YATIM), and Sime Darby Foundation. He is also active in humanitarian and NGO works and currently sits at the Board of Malaysian Orphan Foundation.



Tunku Azela brings with her over 23 years of experience in entrepreneurship development, strategic planning, government relations and program management. She served the Digital Malaysia Economy Corporation (MDEC) for over 10 years where she was involved in various policy and strategic planning e.g. PEMANDU’s Strategic Reform Initiative (SRI) ‘Narrowing Disparities of Bumiputera SMEs’; MDEC’s Digital Malaysia ‘Telecenters’; MIGHT’s ‘Smart Village’; amongst others. She was also instrumental in the implementation of various developmental programs impacting over 8,000 entrepreneurs in particular rural and women entrepreneurs in digital adoption. She had also previously worked as a communications and oil & gas engineer for Maxis Communications Berhad and Esso Production Malaysia Incorporated respectively.

In addition to her accomplished professional experience, Azela was also active in humanitarian work. She served MERCY Malaysia and Yayasan SALAM in fundraising and international relief roles for humanitarian missions to Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq and Indonesia (Acheh & Pulau Nias). Azela holds an MPhil in Technology Policy from the University of Cambridge and a BEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the Imperial College of London. She is currently the Interim Chief Executive Officer in Institut Masa Depan Malaysia, a think tank that focuses on strategies and policies to make Malaysia achieve efficient use of resources especially wealth distribution and nation-building.

Mr. Mohd Hashrizal Zainol Haris


Mohd Hashrizal is the Founder & Group Chief Executive Officer of Aexis Group of Companies with an interest in information technology and agriculture industries. Equipped with sound technical and commercial skills acquired throughout the years and practiced across a wide range of demanding roles in various fields (namely healthcare, telecommunication, public safety, education & agriculture) with more than 19 years of experience.

He is former President TGOC (Alumni for MARA Science College Trolak / 2016-2019). Helmed the alumni members through various CSR Programmes ranging from a flood assistance programme, unity programmes such as Hari Raya & Chinese New Year festive programme, aid for underprivileged community and motivational program for SPM candidates 2019. 

Datuk Seri Haji Mohd Nardin Bin Haji Awang


Datuk Seri Haji Mohd. Nardin received his education in Accounting from Institut Teknologi Mara in 1984. He started his career in Nadi Holdings as an Admin Executive moving on to Sky Courier International and Pro-Active Solutions Sdn. Bhd. as a Commercial and Operation Manager.

In 1999, he became a facilitator and trainer in Biro Tata Negara (BTN) under the Prime Minister’s Department. He went on to become the Special Officer to YAB Deputy Prime Minister in 2009, Political Secretary to the Education Minister in 2011, Deputy Prime Minister in 2013 and Home Affairs Minister in 2018.  He also held the position of Secretary General of Gabungan Pelajar-Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung Kebangsaan and Vice President of Gagasan Pendidikan Melayu Malaysia.

Datuk Dr. Marzuki Mohamad


Datuk Dr. Marzuki Mohamad holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Australian National University, a Master from the National University of Malaysia, and an LL.B with Honors from the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). His decorative career is in the academic and governmental arenas holding positions as Special Tasks Officer to the Minister of Home Affairs, Head of the Department of Political Science from IIUM, and Political Secretary to the Minister of Education.

He has written for journals, book reviews, news articles, and magazines in the field of Law, Civil Rights, in both Bahasa Malaysia and English. He has also written many speeches and papers presented at seminars and conferences engaging with the young generation, students, professionals, and leaders; teaching them how to communicate their message while stimulating high participation from the audience. The majority of speeches have been written for YAB Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Muhyiddin Hj Mohd Yassin, our current Prime Minister of Malaysia. As a dynamic speaker and seminar leader, Datuk Dr. Marzuki has contributed both locally and internationally in the field of promoting stability through good governance, transformation, engagement in Industry and Education.

A few of his important contributions included speaking at the 184th UNESCO in Paris, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies in “Islam and Critical Challenges in Multireligious Malaysia”, and Transformation in Malaysia in Canberra, Australia. He has also appeared in numerous Television shows commenting on Malaysian politics and current issues. He often lends his opinions as a consultant including providing inputs in drafting research questionnaires, analysing research findings, and reports for clients.

Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Sulaiman Mahbob


Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Sulaiman was a prominent career public servant and his last designation was the Director-General of the Economic Planning Unit, Prime Minister’s Department (2006 – 2009). He also served in the Ministry of Finance (Economics and Budget Divisions) and the Ministry of Domestic Trade & Consumer Affairs.

After three decades of public service, he was appointed as the Group Chairman of Telekom Berhad and by virtue of that position he is also the Chairman of Multimedia University. He also serves as the Chairman of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), an independent think tank on economic policy. 

Currently, he is an Adjunct Professor at the International Institute of Public Policy and Management (INPUMA), Universiti Malaya and University Tun Razak, where he teaches Economics and Public Policy. Tan Sri Sulaiman frequently contributes articles on Economic Policy and Development to the local press, in particular, the New Straits Times. He is trained in economics, first at the University of Malaya, and then at the University of London. He completed his Ph.D. study at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University in the United States of America in early 1986.

YB Senator Datuk Dr. Mohd. Radzi Md. Jidin


YB Datuk Dr. Mohd. Radzi holds a Ph.D. specialising in Auditing from the Australian National University, a Master in Business Administration from Universiti Utara Malaysia and a Bachelor of Commerce from the La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. He has dedicated time in the academic fields as a lecturer in Economics, Accounting, and Auditing. 

YB Datuk Dr. Radzi’s writings have been published in journals, book chapters, and multiple conferences mainly in Australia and New Zealand. His research projects have included cultural reflections, Professional Scepticism Traits on Auditing, and Auditors. His accolades include the Best Paper Award, High Distinction in Reporting, Assurance Services, and Auditing Segments just to name a few. He continues to be an Ad-hoc reviewer for academic journals for local and international publications.


Patron & Founder


“No one should have extra influence on an organization. We should always regard ourselves as equals in the organization, and we should be concerned about each other’s problems.” 

“To be a great leader, one needs to have good strategies, be knowledgeable, and able to predict the future.”

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad served as the fourth and seventh Prime Minister of Malaysia. His first term was from 1981 to 2003 and his second was between 2018 to 2020. With a career spanning over seven decades, he is one of the most respected political figures in Malaysia. 

He was granted the title of ‘The Father of Modernization’ by the Malaysian people for his work in economic development. He has published over 16 books and continues to be an active contributor to journals and other printed materials as well as keeping a blog that has amassed over a million subscribers. 


Honorary Chairman & Founder


“An integrated and comprehensive explanation of the essence of the Government’s policies and strategies needs to be disseminated to strategic partners, GDP experts and the community through various mediums and forums.” – Resolving Issues

“Our role, especially as a citizen of the country, is very important not only as an enforcement agency but also as an important role in providing understanding to the people not to spread false information.” – The 3R Issue (Religion, Race, Royalty)

YAB Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Mahiaddin Bin Haji Md Yasin is the eighth Prime Minister of Malaysia since March 2020. He is a man of vast experience and has served three different governments in the modern Malaysian political era.

Within the governance of the nation, YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin has held as many as six positions in various ministries including the Deputy Prime Minister in 2009: 

  • Ministry of Youth and Sports (1995-1999)
  • Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumerism (1999-2004)
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Industry (2004-2008)
  • Ministry of International Trade and Industry (2008-2009)
  • Ministry of Education (2009-2015)
  • Ministry of Home Affairs (2018-2020)

Now the leadership of YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin is becoming more prominent by guiding Malaysia through the COVID-19 pandemic. He is seen as a calm leader, of calibre, and most suitable for Malaysia in the face of economic, health, and social uncertainty due to this pandemic as well as the country to a new era.