Penang Aims for Broad and Deep Digital Adoption

DIGITAL PENANG (DP) WAS formed by the Penang State Government in the early throes of the Covid-19 pandemic last year. Its mandate was clear: to capture opportunities in the digital economy, and to promote a digitally engaged society.

Aspirations for Penang as a Smart State have never been stronger. Its digitalisation ambitions, in support of the four pillars of vision Penang2030, are now being realised in the meta Digital Transformation Master Plan (DTMP) in the areas of Digital Governance, Digital Economy, Digital Community and Digital Infrastructure.

“The Digital Transformation agenda was developed as the enabler to work in tandem with the development of the physical environment, and Digital Penang is the lead agency to drive this crucial agenda,” says Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, during the launch of the DTMP last month.

“Never before has Penang, and Malaysia for that matter, faced such great odds on multiple fronts. A global pandemic threatens to undo a generation of economic progress, while the confidence of foreign investors is shaken in view of how our country’s political direction is unfolding. How Penang leverages technology to achieve the vision Penang2030 is our concern.”

Understanding the Digital Transformation Master Plan

The DTMP examines each pillar in three parts: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? and How do we get there? and outlines strategic initiatives for the first three years (2021-2023) to set the foundation for digital transformation.

Digital Governance

Multiple agencies and the different tiers of governments, legacy systems and processes, organisational maturity and local culture all play a role in achieving a holistic adoption of digital tools. The onus lies in changing processes, rather than disrupting their pace; and this can be done through data integration, upskilling; formulation of strategies and architectural designs.

Digital Economy

Penang’s manufacturing industry remains in robust health, but domestic direct investment still trails behind foreign direct investment. Seizing opportunities requires local enterprises to adopt digital technology and manufacturing automation, deep technology start-ups, and finding solutions for engineering-oriented problems to attracting anchors in software and venture capital. Extending into adjacent sectors through the strength of Penang’s high-tech manufacturing is also vital.

Tony Yeoh, CEO of Digital Penang.

Digital Community

Resistance among certain segments of society and passive public involvement in policy-making are but two of a myriad of issues preventing state-wide technological adoption. DP is attempting to dispel technophobia and raise digital literacy through its #DahDigital programme; chief on its list of initiatives is the guidance of Penangites on the use of e-wallet / online banking, social media, and online security and privacy. This is conducted through free physical and online classes.

Qualified volunteers are also recruited under its Digital Outreach Network to contribute their skills in finding and co-creating technological solutions to address community issues.

Digital Infrastructure

The obvious need for improved internet service, connectivity and speed is overlaid with issues of digital divide and challenges in legacy estates and underserved areas. DP is focusing on aligning the Penang Connectivity Masterplan (PCMP), developed by the Local Government Department and PDC Telecommunications, with the JENDELA plan from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to maximise existing 4G infrastructure, expand fibre network and to roll out 5G.

Similarly, DP seeks to digitalise geospatial data of utilities and infrastructure onto the built environment to improve decision-making and streamline the deployment process.

Digital Journey of Stakeholders

DP adopts an outside-in approach to cultivate relationships at touchpoints of the digital journey. Five key stakeholders have been identified for Penang’s economy. These are:

  1. The visitor – Tourists (domestic and foreign) having touchpoints to interact digitally, from the time they dream of Penang as a destination to when they arrive to experience and then share on social media;

  2. The resident – Any person, young and old, citizen or not, residing in Penang, experiencing the physical environment where he or she can live, work and play in engagement with digital services;

  3. The administrator – Staff in government having accurate data and efficient processes by which they can interact with the public and deliver services, as well as engage with their Federal counterparts;

  4. The entrepreneur – A start-up or SME being aided in their journey from idea to validation in the market and eventually growing in scale through buyout or stock market IPO;

  5. The investor – Someone with capital or intellectual property experiencing a seamless easy-to- do business process with minimal red-tape, and having strong confidence in choosing Penang for his or her investment.

Visit to learn more about the Digital Transformation Master Plan.  

Regina Hoo is the deputy editor of Penang Monthly.

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