After an unusually long period that had many ecosystem leaders worried about whether the government was really serious about delivering a strong digital agenda for Malaysia, the government has finally picked Fabian Bigar (pic) from the Ministry of Health as the CEO of MyDigital, the agency that is tasked with delivering the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (MyDigital) from rhetoric to reality. However the agency has not yet been officially named and is currently known as SCMO (Strategic Change Management Office) for MyDigital.
There was unease as the blueprint was announced on 19 Feb and the list of four shortlisted candidates was presented around three weeks later to the Ministry of Finance and on to the Prime Minister.
With the choice made, Fabian has been entrusted with what quite a few tech ecosystem leaders believe, is the most important economic plan introduced by the government. It is much more an economic plan than a technology one. A plan to shape up, sharpen the competitiveness of the country, its companies and its people.
No surprise then that Raj Ridvan Singh, president of the Technopreneurs Association of Malaysia, says Fabian has, “a monumental task ahead of him” to deliver on the targets outlined in MyDigital.
Easing the path for Fabian, a Sarawakian from East Malaysia, is the fact that ecosystem players are more than willing to step up and lend him a hand. “ There are so many in our ecosystem willing to work with him to support him build this necessary and fundamental national agenda to turn the blueprint to reality and get at least some of the six thrusts identified to work and not allow this to be just another blueprint where nothing comes of it. We are here to support him and to engage with him.”
This is echoed by Aaron Sarma, principle at ScaleUp Malaysia who worked with Fabian during Aaron’s 6-month stint with Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) on a Ministry of Health digital plan. “I found him to be quite collaborative and affable,” says Aaron who also highlights that Fabian’s biggest immediate challenge will be to get alignment with the various stakeholders of the expansive MyDigital plan. “It’s going to be like trying to herd cats with entrenched interests and priorities.” Getting all parties on the same page will be a big challenge.
And like Raj, Aaron too wants to see Fabian engage more with the private sector. “I feel like with the first round of the plan, a lot of us in the private sector were caught off guard and I hope this is just the start and he engages more with us. We will all be happy to contribute and shape MyDigital together,” adds Aaron.
Big picture-wise the ecosystem is supportive of MyDigital but at the micro level Aaron feels, by working together, they can improve, modify and adjust some of the initiatives. “Big picture, run with mandate but let’s work together to make the change happen.” By working together, Aaron also feels that Fabian needs to engage with the relevant agencies already working on various digital initiatives to maximize the outcome of all parties.
Raj who has worked in Sabah is especially pleased that Fabian comes from East Malaysia, describing East Malaysians as having a lot to offer, believing that more talent from there needs to be in positions of influence. Beyond that, “He will also understand the on the ground massive infrastructure challenges and access to digital tools and programs and do something here.”
Fabian clearly has a massive challenge ahead of him but his previous experience with another massive transformation plan, the 2010 Economic Transformation Plan, where he distinguished himself, will stand him in good stead. And with ecosystem leaders already willing to work with him, perhaps the task ahead won’t be that monumental as he starts work tomorrow, April 19 reporting for duty at the Economic Planning Unit in Putrajaya. And as Fabian gets cracking (he is known to have a fierce work ethic), he will realise that there will be great attention on his moves. As Raj says, “We will all be watching MyDigital closely.”